Features Your Hotel Website Can’t Live Without
By Justin Gannon
Tuesday, 24th February 2015 - Source: www.4hoteliers.com
It's easy to be overwhelmed with all the decisions to make when planning or redesigning a hotel website;
Is a responsive website necessary? How can we best use photography to showcase the property? What pages do we need? What navigation design would provide the best conversion rate? How can we effectively integrate our social media content? Not to mention, how do you please all the internal stakeholders!
That is just a handful of the questions to answer and many of them come down to budget. First you should identify how each feature will get the most ROI and most critical is to optimize your website to convert more bookings. Unfortunately you may not always have access to continuously conduct testing on your website.
So then, what are those features your hotel website shouldn’t live without?
Professional & Modern Design – This can mean a number of things, but it begins with a responsive design that delivers a consistent brand experience to users on all devices. I can’t say this strongly enough: a responsive website is a must. Visitors expect a seamless experience across all the devices they use for their travel and booking journey. A professional and modern design also means:
- Limiting visual clutter
- Strong calls to actions
- All links, buttons and clickable areas have enough space for users to use their fingers
- Animation or movement in some form to draw the user’s eyes to critical areas.
Consistent Reservation Console – A prominent booking console should appear in the same location on all pages of the website. A study we conducted showed that 55% of website reservations occurred directly from a booking console. Therefore, it’s critical to make it easy for your website visitors to make a booking without searching too much or abandoning your site.
High Impact Photos/Photo Gallery – Photography is the easiest and most effective way for a user to understand the hotel’s offerings. Good photography can help a user place themselves at the property and begin an emotional connection with their potential experience. Photography should be used throughout the website, especially on the homepage and in a dedicated photo gallery. In our study we saw that 18% of reservations were made directly from the photo gallery. So make sure that you are also allowing visitors to book directly from your photo gallery.
Special Offers – A dedicated Special Offer section or page is critical to allow users a place to find deals. No matter the average daily rate (ADR) of your hotel, your website users are looking for savings. Our studies found that 18% of reservations are made directly from a Special Offers section.
Accommodations Section – Although you hope your guests will dine in your restaurant, play a round of golf or indulge in a spa treatment, the one place all guests will definitely experience is the accommodation. That’s why the Accommodations section of your website is so critical. It must clearly show what their in-room experience will be like. Use photos and descriptions of amenities to highlight that experience. We found that Accommodation pages are highly visited before booking and 9% of reservations come directly from this section.
Data Collection Forms – Don’t forget about the many needs of your visitors. Not all of your website visitors are looking to make an immediate reservation. Many are interested in hosting a meeting or wedding, getting on your e-mail list to receive special offers or just have a question. We recommend at least three forms: Contact Us, Special Offer Sign-up, RFP form.
Social Media Integration/Timely Content – It is critical to keep your users engaged when they visit your website and provide them with a way to connect with your brand. The most obvious way to do so is via social media networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc). If you are active on social media, make sure your website consumes those feeds. If you aren’t, find a way to keep your content relevant and timely through holiday specials, events or other news. Keeping your website content fresh will allow your guests to know you better and allow you to continue the dialogue with them when they are not on property.
Showcase Your Personality – Differentiate yourself from the competition by providing website visitors with something unique about your hotel. Photography helps, but is there something about the on-property experience that helps you stand out? Offer local insight to demonstrate how you will provide a complete experience for your guests. Find ways to bring your uniqueness to life on your website.
The key features mentioned above are critical for a hotel website to be successful. Other “cool” features to incorporate and impress guests and upper management can include videos, resort maps, behavioral targeting or custom booking engines.
Those can all be helpful to establish your brand and deliver a unique website experience. But be careful not to spend your valuable budget on extravagant features without making sure you have taken care of the foundational items mentioned above. Implement those key features first, then get to the flashy items if your budget allows.