From room descriptions to location information, amenities to rates, and everything in between–like guest reviews, videos, blog posts and booking policies–a hotel website covers a lot of content. But when choosing a hotel online, a traveler typically checks out numerous websites, and if they don’t quickly find what they’re looking for on one, they simply move on to the next. There is just so much information out there and it can be tedious for consumers to sift through it all to find what is truly relevant to them.
Furthermore, what’s most relevant to one customer might not be so relevant to another. So when it comes to website content, it’s important to include information that’s relevant to all your guests, whether they are leisure, business, group or family travelers. So, how do you keep things simple so that all your customers can find the information that matters most to them, fast? The key lies in how you organize your content. Our recent blog post about website navigation offers some tips for keeping your site simple and intuitive.
Research about how travelers choose hotels online can also help in planning website content. While every customer is different, the majority rule can help to determine the hierarchy of information on your hotel website.
A recent study conducted by Breffni Noone from Penn State’s School of Hospitality Management and Stephani K.A. Robson from the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration involved tracking 32 individuals’ eye movements as they browsed and selected hotels online to analyze how hotel consumers make online purchase decisions. This research found that during the initial browsing stage consumers primarily check hotel name, price, images, location and user rating to narrow options down to a “consideration set” for the deliberation stage. In the deliberation stage consumers review more detailed information about properties in the consideration set – primarily images, then descriptions, location information, price and room offers, and user-generated reviews.
While the majority of online hotel consumers use third-party distribution sites during the browsing stage, consumers often visit hotel websites during the deliberation stage. Here are the features of your hotel website that matter most to prospective guests:
The research mentioned above shows that images play a critical role throughout the hotel selection process, so high-quality photography is essential. Images say a lot about a property, instantly providing consumers with information like property condition, size, layout, personality, etc. Participants in the study said that old-looking images turned them off.
Use images throughout your site and include slideshow photo galleries that portray interior (guest rooms, bathrooms, common areas, amenities, meeting spaces) and exterior shots, and photogenic details (like a close-up of a romantic table setting in your restaurant) that help to show off your property’s personality.
Quality photos of each room type should also be included alongside room descriptions on your “rooms” page.
The eye-tracking study also confirms that well-written copy is important, with almost every participant in the study fixating on descriptive text multiple times for each hotel they considered in the deliberation stage.
Put some time and effort into crafting descriptions that convey the stay experience, highlight your selling points and portray your property’s personality.
In addition to a property introduction on your homepage, clear descriptions should be included for each room type, as well as event and business services, and spa and restaurant facilities. Make sure amenity lists are prominent and complete.
Travelers aren’t simply looking for a place to rest their head at night, they’re looking for an experience. Hotels are an intrinsic part of the travel experience and should promote their local connection to appeal to customers’ spirit of travel.
A mention about your location can be included in the main property description, but location information should also be presented on a dedicated “location” or “contact” page (or section) with a map that pinpoints the hotel (and perhaps main attractions), as well as a description of nearby points of interest and where they are in relation to the property. Show off your local knowledge!
Price & Offers
While website visitors are typically already aware of a property’s price range by the time they reach a hotel’s website, Noone and Robson’s research showed, unsurprisingly, that consumers frequently look at prices by room type and special offers during the deliberation stage.
Therefore, be transparent with your rates and don’t surprise would-be bookers with hidden fees during the reservation process. Be upfront with booking and cancellation policies too; we all want to know the fine print before spending our hard-earned money, so don’t make your customers hunt for it.
A lot of research has been done that proves reviews matter and Noone and Robson’s study also supports this with participants looking at four reviews on average during the deliberation stage of the online booking process. Do you check reviews before booking a hotel when you travel? I bet you do.
Including guest reviews on your hotel website provides the social proof customers desire without having to leave your site. Handpicked reviews can be added to your website manually, or widgets can be used to display a live feed from review sites like TripAdvisor or Yelp. TripAdvisor badges and rating widgets can also help to build trust.
Many Web-savvy travelers of today prefer booking hotels online to calling – in fact, well over half of all hotel reservations are now made online. To encourage customers to book direct rather than through an OTA (or to prevent them from booking another hotel) make sure you offer secure, user-friendly online bookings on your property’s own website.
Speed & Accessibility
These days most travelers hop from one screen to another (desktop / smartphone / tablet) as they research travel online, so it’s crucial for hotels to have a website that provides an optimal user experience on all devices. Whether viewed on a desktop computer, tablet or smartphone, if your website is difficult to navigate or is slow to load, you’ll lose most visitors within a few seconds. A responsive design website (a single website that is optimized for all devices) is now more essential than ever.
A hotel website that gives customers what they really want makes it easy to find information that matters to them. So putting some extra effort into the content and features that are most important to your prospective guests (as listed above) can dramatically increase conversions.