In the digital marketing world, we often talk about conversion rate as a critical metric. There are countless theories about how to maximize your chances of sales generated on your website, some are useful while others are plain stupid.
The formula is pretty simple: you need to get relevant, in-market people to your website and welcome them with the best online experience possible. While attracting quality traffic is a matter of advertising, in this article we will see how to create a winning online customer experience.
Beautiful brand experience
An unforgettable first impression is perhaps the most important. Your website will only have a few seconds to grab the attention of your customers and if it’s not done right, all your further efforts will be wasted.
A beautiful brand experience is the combination of visual and written content, photos, videos, typography and colors displaying what your brand and products are standing for. The goal of developing your brand identity is to make people understand what they can expect from you – in seconds. Be it a chic lifestyle brand, classic luxury or a laid-back resort experience, your potential customers need to understand it in a matter of seconds.
Going further with branding, you will need to understand what people in your key market segments want to be associated with. They will ask questions:
- Is this place good enough for me?
- Do I want to be seen here?
- Is this my style of place to stay?
- What kind of people stay here?
These and many more questions are best to be answered indirectly with branding, through imagery, videos and other forms of content.
All the above applies not only to your website but also for social media channels, email marketing communications and every other form of communication.
Clear product presentation & differentiation
Cut all the fluff and fantasy from your descriptions and use appropriate formats to describe the product. Anything visual should be communicated with photography and videos, while factual information that cannot be expressed on photos should be written in a simple, no-bullshit language.
Wordy product descriptions stuffed with jargon and cliches are very common in the hotel and resort world, it is not something you should copy. Your guests will appreciate your efforts in making it easy for them to understand your product clearly. Keep your sentences short, and use lists and bullet-points to improve readability.
Furthermore, learn how to use videos and photos appropriately. Photos are best used to display locations and items where details matter, therefore make your photography as detail rich as possible. Meanwhile, video is a lot better tool to demonstrate dynamic experiences where motion and action matters.
Your product presentation needs to reflect your differentiating features. Instead of writing paragraphs about how your hotel product differs from your competitors, let your photos and videos demonstrate it.
Offer multiple ways to connect with your sales team
Most people do not visit your website to make a booking, but to collect information before choosing either your or another hotel. When your potential guests cannot find answers on your website, or they would like to speak with someone in your company then they will want to get in touch.
Offering an effortless contact experience is mission critical to convert more lookers into leads. People from different genders, countries and age groups have different preferences regarding how they want to contact you. Old-fashioned people might want to send an email. Busy people will want to call you to get answers or make arrangements as quickly as possible. Younger ones might prefer an online chat. Some people do not like to use a booking engine and they might want to speak to someone “real” before making a payment.
Ideally your hotel website should offer the following ways to get in touch, all easily accessible with 1-2 clicks.
- Phone number
- Email address
- Contact form
- Website chat
- Request for proposal form
Don’t sound and look like a supermarket flyer
I know, most e-commerce gurus can’t stop talking about funnels, call to actions, free giveaways and other stuff to win sales. This will work for a discount online store but will make your brand look cheap. If you want your brand to be taken seriously then avoid all this, or do it in a way that your website does not look like a discount flyer.
Only offer discounts with specific criteria, such as minimum length of stay, booking for certain periods or reaching an unusually high reservation value, such as 10% discount on bookings over $5,000 – just an example.
Apply lead capture, social proof and urgency plugins very carefully. Do not ruin your website experience with an annoying number of pop-ups greeting your customers just seconds after landing on your website. That shit does not work, especially not in the high-end luxury travel niche.
Seamless booking experience
Similarly to the contact experience, the booking engine experience is a critical part of any hotel website conversion setup. To maximize your chances of generating sales, you need to understand that the less is more: prioritize simplicity during the selection process and clarity at the price breakdown. Ideally, your guests will not need to struggle to understand how your pricing works, what are the differences between different rooms or suites.
Utmost important is to maintain a clear differentiation between each kind of accommodation so your guests will find it easier to see the additional value of higher priced units. This means using different photos and descriptions rather than copying the same for all.
Needless to say, rate parity is essential. I always recommend doing daily checks as OTAs often manipulate prices. It is mission critical to match your direct rates to the LOWEST applicable OTA rates, that includes loyalty program discounts, membership rates and mobile app discounts. Regularly cross-check multiple dates on multiple devices to ensure that your website rates are not higher compared to OTA rates.
Providing exclusive direct booking benefits such as breakfast, early check-in, late check-out or upgrades are expected on the website. Over 80% of guests who prefer to book directly, are doing so for the additional benefits. If price matching and additional benefits are not available, then the guests have no reason to book on your website.
Throughout the booking process, it is important to maintain price clarity. It is advisable to highlight taxes and extra fees in room rates, and once again – ensure that the total price will not become more expensive compared to OTA prices.