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Make your website count

This week I have been asked by no fewer that 4 of the hotels that I work with, if I could give them advice on website design as they are about to go out to tender to develop and design new sites. So I felt this was a good opportunity to take a step back and look at what your website means to your customers and how you should start the process of good design which of course leads to better conversion

The first and most important thing to remember is that your website is your digital and online shop front.  A recent survey of customers (by the clever people who monitor customer behaviour) confirm that the experience your customer receives on your own brand site is more influential than word of mouth, OTA’s or even review sites, so hadn’t we better get it right?

Your goal before you start design is to a) bring people to your site b) engage them enough to make them want to stay on your site c) convert these buying-ready browsers to customers by ensuring you have the maximum opportunity to convert through every stage of their journey d) have a booking engine that is easy to navigate, secure and above all one that offers the very best rates and availability online.

This week lets stay with the design element, so where do we begin? Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Can I make my website engaging and does it tell a story – my story… Does it have the right mix of text, images, video and virtual tours that will instantly attract someone browsing and that will make them want to find out more
  2. Start from Point Zero and always approach your site from the perspective of a customer who has never heard of your hotel before; has never stayed in your area before and knows nothing at all about your product or things to do in the area.  I bet if you did that and looked at your current site, you might just do things differently.  What we all tend to forget (as we are all too close to our product), is that we should be designing our website from ‘point zero’ or for that guest that knows nothing. Does your current design or the plans for your new design reflect your product?
  3. Know your customer and know what they want.  Are you helping them visualise that experience? What are your rooms like?  Don’t just rhyme off the usual tea and coffee making facilities… make it emotive. Describe what it is actually like to stay in one of your rooms then only describe the features that matter, not those that every guest expects. Do your images reflect your bedrooms and the rest of your facilities? If not, then good photography is probably the best investment you can make
  4. What makes you different and what makes you stand out from the competition? Remember it is all about the experience…
  5. Why should they book direct? Have you actually given your guests a reason to ‘stick’ on your website and enough curiosity to progress to your booking engine and not off to costly OTA’s?
  6. Do your special offers motivate? Are you giving your customers engaging and relevant special offers? Do they actually meet your customer profile i.e. the guests you know stay. Are they easy to find from your homepage and are they engaging enough to make your guest want to find out more?
  7. Tell the truth.  Be open and honest and present customer reviews on your homepage that are accessible via a very visible link.  They are going to go to a review site anyway, so why not be open enough to allow access from your own site?
  8. Don’t distract by having an over-crowded menu or navigation. Keep in simple!
  9. Know your 3 most important pages – special offers / gallery and location – make them easy to find
  10. Make your call to action bold and straightforward. Have one very strong call to action – Book Now – visible from your homepage.  Don’t distract and make it clear.

We all have the goal of converting as much as possible through our own site and to do that we must make sure our brand sites are at the cutting edge of design; that they offer clear, emotive and beautiful images; that they have links to video and virtual tours.  But above all, they must be easy to navigate and reflect the wonderful product we have and the experience we will provide.

More next week but for now I hope these Top Ten Tips help

(and for all things revenue, just ask@rightrevenue.wpengine.com)