Your property’s website has two very important purposes: to expand reach, which is achieved through good search engine optimization practices, and to increase revenue by converting lookers into bookers, which we will address in this article.
As the peak travel season heats up, your website will naturally be welcoming more visitors – make the most of this increased traffic by implementing the following design tips to convince customers to book!
Social proof, including online reviews, user-generated social media content, and third-party awards and certification, plays a crucial role in convincing today’s online travel consumers to buy. BrightLocal’s latest Local Consumer Review Survey found that 84 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations and 91 percent of consumers regularly or occasionally read online business reviews. Reviews for accommodations are the second most frequently searched for business category after restaurants.
From reviews to social media plugins to trust symbols such as TripAdvisor badges, lodging association membership and star ratings, adding social proof to your property’s website builds credibility – and prevents customers from leaving your site in search of reviews elsewhere.
Easy Online Bookings
With approximately 60 percent of travel bookings made on the Internet, most of today’s travel consumers expect the convenience of being able to book accommodation online, at any time. If your property’s website doesn’t offer online bookings, it’s hampering your conversion rate.
But it’s also important to make sure your online booking engine is user-friendly; travel consumers are likely to abandon a complicated or seemingly unsecure booking process – just as they are a website that doesn’t offer online bookings at all.
A user-friendly online booking process should only ask customers for the information you need, requiring minimal clicks and pages. It shouldn’t overwhelm with options, and should assure customers are getting the best rate and that the booking process is secure. It should also be mobile friendly, accessible from any page of your website via a prominent CTA (call to action) like a “book now” button, and directly integrate with your property management system for live rates and availability.
Recent Google research found that 94 percent of leisure travelers switch between devices as they plan a trip, and, according to eMarketer’s latest forecast, 40 percent of digital travel sales will be made on mobile devices in 2017. A mobile-friendly website is essential for accommodation providers striving to maximize conversions – and the best way to do it is with responsive design.
A responsive website automatically detects and adapts to the device accessing it (whether it be a desktop or laptop computer, tablet or smartphone), providing an optimal, consistent user experience across devices. Not only is a single responsive website more efficiently and more cost-effectively managed than maintaining separate desktop and mobile sites, but search engines prefer them too.
Your property’s USP (unique selling proposition) is defined by your property’s stay experience (which includes location, staff, amenities, services, activities and the reason behind your business) and by your guests – who are your most profitable guest personas and why do they choose your property?
Taking a close look at both can help you identify your property’s unique strengths, especially over your competition. Recent guest reviews are a good place to start looking for insight on what guests love most about your property. Whatever your USP is, whether it’s your celebrated dining experience, super convenient location, popular surfing lessons, or exceptional business guest services, promote it boldly on your website to make it clear to your target customers why they should choose you.
Fast Page Load Speed
The longer your webpages take to load, the more customers abandon your site. Every second counts, so much so that 40 percent of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load. Your website’s speed is critical to the user experience, and a good user experience is critical to conversions.
Check your website’s page load speeds on both desktop and mobile and if necessary, take steps to make it faster.
As consumers it’s hard for us to resist a good deal, so make sure your special offers are placed right under your customers’ noses. Special packages, discounts and other promotions are great for boosting sales, therefore, particularly relevant or timely offers should be advertised on your homepage as well as on a dedicated Specials/Packages page. Appropriately placed calls to action (CTAs) such as a “check out our summer special!” button can also be placed on other appropriate pages, for example, the room description page and wedding/events page. While they are sometimes considered intrusive, pop-ups advertising special deals can be effective too – as long as they are used strategically, at the right time, on the right page (which is not usually as soon as the customer lands on your website).
Don’t make customers hunt down special offers that could clinch the sale.
Images are the most effective way to convey your property’s stay experience and are incredibly important to consumers throughout the hotel-selection process. Images give customers visual reassurance of what to expect from your property, which helps convince them to book with you.
Use high-quality hero images (those big photos that stretch right across the page), in-content photos, slideshow galleries and videos to tell your property’s story, making sure images support the purpose or topic of the page.
Guestroom photos are the top-viewed images on hotel websites, and so it’s especially important to make sure quality room photos (including bathrooms) are included for every room type. Galleries can be organized into themes like “stay,” “play” and “eat” to help portray the experience of your property in a cohesive way.
Key to conversions, relevant, strategically placed calls to action (CTAs) – such as “book now,” “view availability,” “request event proposal,” “discover our specials” or “contact us” buttons – work like stepping stones leading the customer along the path to purchase.
The strongest CTAs convey their purpose concisely and clearly, provide customers with a useful action at the right time, are positioned prominently on the page, and stand out visually (for example, appropriately sized buttons using a contrasting color).
Intuitive Navigation Menu
The easier it is for your customers to navigate your website and get the information they need, the faster they can come to a booking decision. On the other hand, customers are prone to abandon a website that is confusing and takes too much effort to find their way around.
To make it easy for customers to find the information they need, use a familiar menu style such as a horizontal navigation bar along the top of the page (or a hamburger menu for mobile) that Internet users instinctively know how to use. Customers should be able to access critical information from any page of the website with a single click via the main menu. It’s also important to limit the primary options in your navigation menu so as not to overwhelm website visitors with choices. Simplicity is key!
Phone Number on Every Page
While online bookings are ever increasing, many travelers still prefer to call a property to book. Even savvy online bookers are sometimes inclined to call a property to ask a specific question or address any concerns.
Make sure you catch every call by displaying your property’s phone number (with click-to-call capability on mobile) and email address in the header of every page of your website – and on every page of your online booking process too. If you make customers hunt your phone number down, you risk losing a sale.
In today’s digital world, website design plays a critically important role in maximizing conversions. The design of a hotel website should provide visitors with an accurate representation of the experience they can expect at the property, seamlessly leading them along the path to purchase. Hotel websites that present the content customers want in a visually appealing and effortlessly accessible way convert website visitors into actual guests. If you need help boosting your property’s website conversions, we welcome you to get in touch.