In the battle to secure direct bookings, your hotel website represents the front line, and the difference between getting it right, compared to getting it ever so slightly wrong, can easily amount to a 10-20% loss of bookings. In short, it’s worth going through a simple checklist to make sure your performance doesn’t fall short in any of these key areas.
- Poor design
A poorly designed website will frustrate customers and cause them to give up and look elsewhere. Research has shown that around half the people who first learn of your hotel through an OTA will subsequently visit your site, so you need to make the most of this opportunity. If people can’t easily find the information they’re looking for, you will miss out on bookings. One of the keys to good design is simplicity, with lots of high quality photos. Images stimulate the emotions better than text, so you need lots of professional pictures that present your hotel in the best possible light. Photo galleries are among the most visited pages after the booking page, so use it to your advantage. If many of your customers come from one or two particular countries, you should also provide foreign language versions of your site, and consider offering your rates in a selection of currencies to make it easier for customers to recognize the deal you’re offering.
- No call to action
How often do you find a hotel website, decide that you like the rooms and the price is great, but then you have to scour the website to find out how to actually book? And even if you succeed, the process becomes so horribly complicated that you wish you hadn’t tried at all. Learn from the OTAs when it comes to persuading customers to book, because they’re the experts. Every inch of their websites will be carefully designed to trigger a purchase, from the colours used in the background to the positioning of the “book now!” button. They know what works because they research and test it to achieve the best results. And when the customer doesn’t book, at least think about a call to action on exit. Don’t just let opportunities drift away.
- Lack of reassurance
When potential guests use your website to make a booking they have two main concerns. The first is that the price they see represents the best offer available to them, and the second is whether the reality of the hotel will match what is advertised. Using meta-search booking sites makes it easy to compare prices and gives customers the confidence that they have the best price. Your site should therefore incorporate some kind of “best price guarantee” to reassure clients. You should also include access to feedback from previous guests, ideally by linking to independent reviews so customers can believe that the reviews they see are not either faked, or simply a selection of only the most positive comments.
- Not mobile-friendly
Today’s customers are booking an increasing number of hotel stays via mobile devices, so your website absolutely has to be designed to display conveniently on smartphones. If it doesn’t, customers will quickly look elsewhere. Check the experience on offer when you access your website from a range of different devices, and make sure that the user experience is optimized for all types.
- Not your website
Who actually owns your website? Are you part of a chain, with certain restrictions imposed upon the way you utilize your online presence, or do you have full independence and the flexibility that goes with it? Some of the best ways to use your website involve the ability to make rapid changes in terms of pricing and promotions, to present the latest news and upcoming events, and to set links to other sites and social media. If brand restrictions are in place which prevent you from doing any of these things, your website will be less effective than it might otherwise be.
To get the best out of your website you must give it your full attention, ensuring that it is always fresh and up-to-date, and that it offers smooth and simple convenience to all users. Your website is your shop window display, your customer service department, and your sales and PR representation all rolled in to one, so you cannot afford any shortcomings at all in its operation.