A hotel’s website is a key retailing channel. Without a strong presence, a hotel can never be effective in capturing more direct bookings and taking greater control over its distribution and guest relationships. A lackluster website also signals to potential guests that a hotel may be a bit behind the times — which doesn’t bode well for a potential stay.
To ensure that your hotel is putting its best foot forward online, consider these hotel website design best practices when building or updating your online presence.
Design for best practices
When designing or updating your website, follow these best practices to build trust with potential guests. Remember that these visitors have broad experience with a variety of sites — including those of OTAs.
- Images. Captivating images demand attention. Don’t use stale stock imagery or low-resolution photos of your property. There’s no excuse anymore for this! Invest in professional photography that highlights all aspects of your property’s best features, and then pepper these images throughout your website. When selecting room types, users should have access to a photo gallery that shows all aspects of each room type. Transparency is key, and vibrant, bold photos show guests precisely what to expect.
- Video. While video should not be overused, as it can make a website load slower, consider where motion might have an outsized impact. Not all visitors can listen to the video (they may be at work, for example), so subtitle any videos that have a dialog. Alternatively, drop the dialog altogether and rely on videos with rich imagery to make that visual impact — drone footage does an amazing job at showcasing all that your property has to offer. Check out Lagun Hotel’s homepage experience, which uses captivating video to set the scene for visitors right from the start.
- Reviews. The theme of transparency extends from how you showcase your property visually to what you reveal about the actual guest experience. It’s not easy being vulnerable; however, highlighting reviews builds rapport and trust with potential guests.
When making decisions about your website, default to authenticity. Throughout your hotel’s website, be true to who you are. If you pretend otherwise, you are only setting yourself up for mismatched guest expectations.
Make it mobile friendly
This may go without saying, but it still deserves its own section. What good is a well-designed website if it loses functionality or displays poorly on mobile and tablets? That was a rhetorical question, but the answer is obviously: No good at all!
Rich Sanderson, Director of Design at Cloudbeds, gives this advice. “Your website is selling an experience. If a user’s first interaction with you is broken or confusing, it can set expectations of a sub-par experience. A well-designed mobile experience isn’t just a nice-to-have; tech savvy users will bounce at the first sign of trouble.”
A bad mobile experience is not only frustrating, but it may also damage your brand. It’s not a good thing when potential guests ask themselves: If they can’t even get their website right, how are they going to run an entire hotel? The appearance of being out of touch or not entirely focused on the customer experience will seriously jeopardize your brand’s standing in the eyes of consumers.
Speed is also a factor here. A Google study of users in South East Asia warns that more than half of users will abandon a mobile site that takes longer than three seconds to load. Respect that most users won’t wait long for a page to load, and optimize accordingly. A poor mobile experience reduces revenue — and pushes potential guests to your competitors.
Keep your content fresh and compelling
Spend enough time perusing hotel websites, and you’ll find a lot of stale content or lame stock imagery. Big mistake. Content is rarely a “set it and forget it” proposition. So do yourself — and your potential guests — a favor: Pull up your calendar and set dates for regular content reviews.
- Hotel property. Unless your property has undergone significant renovations, revisit your property and amenity imagery once per year. Each time that you schedule a shoot of the property, capture more images than you think you’ll need. These bonus images can feed into your social media strategy throughout the year — and will remain available for others on the team to use as the need arises.
- Packages and service offerings. When the marketing team comes up with new packages and promotions, avoid using stock imagery whenever possible. Try to capture the essence of the promotion through the lens of your property’s singular brand personality.
- Food and beverage. If your property features F&B outlets, you have a rich source for fresh content. Collaborate with your colleagues to schedule regular visits to capture the latest dish, cocktail, or special. This fresh content are great for social media, as well as your hotel’s website and email marketing efforts.
One of the great things about fresh content is that it can be repurposed. These are assets, not single-use throwaways. Collect these assets into a shared content library so they can be used on social media, in marketing materials, and in sales proposals. Fresh content belongs everywhere; it’s always a smart investment. And if a time crunch requires turning to stock photos, dig deeper to surface fresh takes that haven’t been overused by others!
Offer upsells in the booking path
Leverage your compelling content and feature it in your booking path to encourage upsells. Use bold imagery and clear, concise copy that intrigues and persuades. Upsells Shouldn’t be an afterthought — you’ve already pulled a customer into the booking flow, so it’s much more efficient to bring up that booking value wherever possible. Our next section goes deeper into the power of conversion optimization.
You’ll also need to have the global technology that simplifies the process of adding ancillaries and room upgrades to the mix. The right booking engine should suggest relevant add-ons, upsells, and upgrades, positively influencing the entire guest experience.
Consider conversion at each touch point
Once a potential guest has landed on your website, it’s up to you to convert them from the looker to a booker. Rich Sanderson adds: “Potential guests want to imagine themselves at your property. Make it easy on them and choose high-quality images that tell a story.”
There are several areas that hotels must optimize for conversion. Each of these is a powerful tool to increase the look-to-book ratio and grow your direct bookings.
- Integrate your hotel booking engine directly into your website. When you treat these as separate entities, you slow down the booking experience. This friction leads frustrated consumers to abandon bookings. A website with an integrated booking engine allows a seamless, synchronized flow that never requires consumers to enter information twice or discover that the room they wanted is not actually available.
- Cut to the chase and offer a rate checker. You already know that consumers shop around when evaluating hotels. Often, this involves switching devices: Google found that 50% of travelers double check prices on a desktop after shopping on mobile. So why not be transparent and offer a rate comparison widget? This strategy is especially powerful if you have a strong rate parity mindset that protects your website as the source of Best Available Rates.
- Be clear with your call to action. Throughout both the website and the booking engine, Be precise with your CTAs. Users should see clearly how to get to the next step and where to click. Rather than blinking the entire website with a single CTA, match the copy to the desired action. For example, don’t send a user reading about weddings to the consumer booking engine.
Conversion optimization is a new muscle for many hoteliers, so it can take some time and experimentation to find the sweet spot for codifying a conversion focus across a hotel’s staff. Keep at it, don’t give up, and always lean on the expertise of vendors to deliver a booking experience that competes well against OTAs.
Cloudbeds is your modern booking engine that reliably converts visitors into bookings — all without charging commissions.
Image: Cloudbeds’ customer The Oasis at Grace Bay featured in header image.