Between big-brand hotels, independent properties, OTAs and Airbnbs, competition for bookings is fierce these days. Add to the equation the rapid development of hotel tech and consumer reliance on mobile, and you have an increasingly digital world in which your property needs to shine.
To win bookings, lodging operators must provide today’s travel consumers with an engaging website that not only looks great, but offers a memorable user experience too. Here’s how:
- Responsive Design
Google research has found that most travel consumers who research travel online move across different devices to do so, so it’s important to provide your customers with a seamless online experience on desktop/laptop and mobile.
Automatically detecting and adjusting content and functionality to the device it is being viewed on, a single responsive website ensures an optimized yet consistent user experience on all devices. Like consumers, search engines also favor responsive websites over sites that are not mobile friendly, making responsive design a key part of your SEO strategy too.
- Quality Photography
Did you know that the human brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than textual information? Considering our rapidly decreasing average attention span—which, thanks to technology, has dropped to just eight seconds from 12 seconds since the year 2000—avoid too much text on your website and make sure it features plenty of quality images to make an impression on consumers fast.
Invest in professional photography to show off your property in its best light, while conveying an accurate picture of the stay experience. Our recent post, Photo Tips for Hotel Websites, provides guidance on how to make the most of photos to maximize conversions.
Consumers tend to stay longer on websites with video, so include property videos and 360-degree tours to further increase engagement.
Don’t forget to add descriptive ALT tags for all images, icons and graphics, and captions for videos, as part of your site’s ADA compliance.
- Direct Online Bookings
Today’s hotel customers expect to be able to check availability and book direct online. If your property’s website doesn’t offer this standard convenience, you risk sending your customers to an OTA or losing them to a competitor.
A mobile-friendly, commission-free website booking engine not only provides your customers with a convenience they want and expect, but it boosts your bottom line too by reducing booking acquisition costs.
Our recent post, What to Look For in an Online Booking Engine, will help make sure you’ve got a good one.
Then, make sure your online booking engine is readily available on every page of your website, via appropriately placed CTA (call-to-action) buttons or in the page header.
Page load speed is critical to the user experience, with approximately 40 percent of users abandoning a website that takes five seconds to load. Ideally, web pages should load within three seconds to maximize conversions and SEO.
Simple design, compressing images and prioritizing above-the-fold content plays a big part in optimizing page load speed. If your website needs a tune up, run it through Google’s PageSpeed Insights to find out what’s slowing it down.
- Intuitive Navigation
In the quest to maximize conversions, the path to purchase must be clear. The harder customers have to hunt for information on your website, the less likely they will complete a booking. Information on your website must be well organized and easy to navigate via clear menu options and CTAs (calls to action).
Use a familiar menu style, stick to one topic per page, and place CTAs appropriately to lead customers effortlessly through your website—right to your “book now” button! Our blog post on the subject, Steer Customers in the Right Direction, offers further tips for intuitive hotel website navigation.
- Social Proof
Eighty-one percent of TripAdvisor users always or frequently read hotel reviews before choosing a place to stay. Do you? Thanks to social media, today’s consumers are heavily motivated and validated by the actions and choices of their peers.
Make sure your customers can find reassurance that your property is the right choice without having to leave your website. Positive reviews can be added to your homepage and other pages of your site via widgets and plugins that rotate through a selection of handpicked reviews. Just remember to keep them up to date as recent reviews are much more influential than old ones. Alternatively, latest reviews can be pulled automatically (also via widgets) from review sites like TripAdvisor.
The rampant spread of cybercrime means internet users have to be “street smart” when browsing the web to protect themselves from compromised websites. Making your customers feel confident about interacting with your property online is a top priority.
To protect both your business and your customers, make sure your property’s website and online booking engine are secured by an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate, which ensures that any data transmitted between the visitor’s computer and your website (for example when making a booking or signing up for your newsletter) is encrypted and sent via a secure connection. Secure sites display HTTPS (instead of HTTP) in the URL, reassuring visitors that the site is safe. Google now marks all sites without SSL certification as “not secure,” so adopting HTTPS will help your site gain credibility and your customers’ trust.
With 2020 just around the corner, make sure your property is getting these top priorities right to maximize bookings with a beautiful, user-friendly website. Our talented web design team is here to help!