With hundreds of millions of global subscribers to the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+, Apple TV, Hulu or any other, the common features of the user interfaces for these streaming services are subtly influencing what the average customer expects when browsing through other digital platforms. As such, implementing design changes to your brand.com can not only provide a better path to booking direct but also increase total revenue (GOR).
I personally only use the first two of those mentioned above, but some of the shared elements they have include:
- Fast load times
- Image-first browsing
- Near endless content
- Short text snippets and descriptions
- Video previews or trailers
- Categories and subcategories
- Suggested films or shows
- Search functions that also contain AI driven suggestions
While obviously a hotel’s website won’t approximate anywhere near the volume of content as a streaming service – nor should it – what’s remarkable about these platforms is how easy it is for the user to both quickly find what they want to watch, or take pleasure from simply flipping through the plethora of options. As we know, time on site is a powerful metric that increases the likelihood of booking and overall brand loyalty, now should be the time to bolster your hotel’s digital presence.
With the pandemic forcing travelers around the world to look domestically rather than internationally, this means that they will also be on the hunt for the most interesting and engaging accommodations in their own backyards. Every hotel is already setting up programs related to improved sanitization, guest privacy and contactless service delivery; you need to present something different to stand out. Curating great packages, F&B, onsite amenities, activities, nearby attractions and all other manner of experiences in a fun and digestible format on your website will give your marketing team more toys to play with and ultimately help seal the deal.
Then there’s the ability to optimize GOR. As a customer moves through the booking engine, if the teachings from streaming services are followed then any ancillary revenue streams could be presented in a manner that encourages more spend per guest at the prearrival stage. As an example, you should be able to prompt guests about dining reservations immediately after they’ve confirmed their dates and desired room. For the time being, you may also want to emphasize that spots are limited due to social distancing constraints so booking now is important to guarantee a preferred time.
Likewise, displaying your room products on your brand.com in an appropriately tiered manner to guide viewers through broad then more narrowly defined category features will help to reduce decision fatigue so that customers can better see the value of your suites or top-level rooms. Finally, simply updating your website frequently with news, local events and activities, service offerings, blog posts and more information on area attractions will help to turn your site into a hub for later reference by guests.
Recognizing that some design features may be out of your control if you are part of a chain or group with corporate control, the bottom line is that websites are living, breathing entities that need constant updating. Thinking in terms of a streaming service will therefore help guide your approach to the next phase of upgrades that you make.
To help give you some direction, here are a few words of wisdom for getting started:
- Content is king. Just as your owners have a property improvement plan (PIP), so too must you have a process in place for allocating regular blocks of time to updating your website for the course of a given year. This means not only resources set aside for loading new rates and packages but also the nice-to-have projects like the aforementioned nearby activities.
- You need a content curator. Managing a website is a full-time job, and you really need a jack of all trades who can do a bit of copywriting, front-end design, website development, photography, SEO and social media to ensure your site has the best possible content. The larger the hotel, the more budget there is for task specialization.
- Create a frictionless experience. Netflix is able to load a high-resolution movie within seconds, so why is your website struggling with a series of thumbnail images? Obviously, there are numerous reasons for slow page loads but, as noted in the intro, the expectation increasingly favors speed. Moreover, frictionless in this sense can also mean more intuitive ways to access content or complete transactions.
- Recommendations. Where I see the gold standard of hotel websites evolving over the next couple years is in catering bespoke content and upsell opportunities to customers based upon their search and purchase history. This need not be some fancy AI-driven software either, but certainly data-driven. For example, why offer a discount on a spa treatment to a customer who is in the process of buying a golf package? Instead, serve up some F&B options at the clubhouse for after their round or reframe the spa offer in terms of a post-game massage.
The world’s most published writer in hospitality, Larry Mogelonsky is the principal of Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited, a Toronto-based consulting practice. His experience encompasses hotel properties around the world, both branded and independent, and ranging from luxury and boutique to select-service. Larry is also on several boards for companies focused on hotel technology. His work includes five books “Are You an Ostrich or a Llama?” (2012), “Llamas Rule” (2013), “Hotel Llama” (2015), “The Llama is Inn” (2017), “The Hotel Mogel” (2018) and “More Hotel Mogel” (2020). You can reach Larry at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss hotel business challenges or to book speaking engagements.
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