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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Image: Cloudbeds’ customer The Oasis at Grace Bay featured in header image.