People rely on web resources from the beginning to the end of travel and leisure experiences. From researching, planning, making reservations, and exploring their destination, most modern customers access the information they need from the web.
To begin, 65% of leisure travelers surf the web to research before they have chosen their destination or travel method, and will visit around 22 different websites before finalizing their destination decision.
Throughout their experience, they will likely turn to the internet to research restaurants, attractions, lodging, and transportation.
By adopting these important elements into your business’s web presence, you can help improve brand recognition, increase customer engagement, and boost conversions from browsers to customers.
Responsive Web Design
A responsive web design means that the elements of a website adapt and conform to different screen resolutions and device types, through the use of fluid grids, fluid images, and media queries. With responsive design, the same website for a large desktop display is automatically reformatted for a tablet or smartphone screen, rather than the inefficiency of having individual sites for each device and screen size.
In the hospitality industry perhaps more than any other, it is essential to cater to the on-the-go mobile customer, as 85% of travelers use their smartphones while traveling.
Imagine sitting in a restaurant, trying to book a last-minute hotel room from your smartphone. If you have to wait for the hotel site to load, and then continuously resize it, rotate it, scroll left and right, and wait some more, how likely are you to get frustrated enough to book it on a more mobile-friendly site?
Social Media Integration
Having social media integration is key to increasing brand awareness and customer engagement. Include social media link buttons on your website, but only for as many social media accounts as your business can keep up-to-date. It is not impressive to click over to a Twitter account that has not been updated in months or years. Used effectively, social media offers many benefits to both businesses and customers:
- Promotions can be posted on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or Instagram. Reward followers with exclusive last-minute deals when occupancy is low or business is slow. Host hashtag or photo contests with awards to engage and attract followers.
- Social customer service is a natural fit on Facebook and Twitter. Customers’ specific questions and comments can be addressed online. Hyatt has been utilizing a Twitter Concierge account for several years to assist their customers.
- Storytelling to share your brand’s personality is especially effective on Instagram, but can be done on any social platform. Post original, high-quality photos of customers enjoying a new menu item, a hotel amenity, or whatever your destination has to offer. Tell a visual story that makes followers want to be a part of it. Four Seasons in Dallas effectively communicates their story on Instagram.
The User Experience should provide access to all the information relevant to the customer, while keeping it simple, clean, and navigable. Messaging and branding should be clearly and consistently communicated. For a frustration-free user experience, conduct usability tests before implementing live changes, and consider these components:
- A simple, clean layout is uncluttered by eliminating everything that is not necessary and functional. Use an open layout with plenty of whitespace, which can be optimized by making the background a full screen photo, or slideshow of full screen photos. Also use typography that reflects your brand’s style, but is also easy to read.
- Avoid annoyances like Flash animation and background music. They slow down your site, and may be unwelcome by users who are not browsing in a private location. Rather than over-sharing the ambience of your lobby, and leaving visitors fumbling to find the mute button, or leaving your site annoyed with these intrusions, keep them off your site completely.
- Keep it web-based. Do not post links to pdf or other format files that are not easily viewed within the web browser. This mistake is especially common among restaurants who post their menu in pdf format. Potential customers often come to a restaurant website looking for descriptions of the dishes offered and the prices. Requiring users to download the menu and open it in another app makes it less likely to be viewed.
- Fixed navigation bars, and/or menus with just a few headings that open to sub-headings, can make longer pages, or single page designs, easier to navigate.
- Making information accessible will keep visitors engaged with your site longer, as they will not have to search the web for more details. As an example, consumers of restaurants and lodging depend heavily on customer reviews.
70% of internet shoppers rate online reviews as the second most trusted source of information, with the first being opinions of friends and family.
- Include testimonials or embed reviews from sites like Yelp or Trip Advisor. (Unless your business does not have positive reviews!) Other information that is important to provide to potential customers includes: prices, hours, events, special offers, detailed amenities, current menus, contact information, and an interactive map.
- Functionality can convert visitors to customers. Tech savvy customers expect and appreciate more than information. Make it easy and convenient to do business on the website by having a link to make a reservation on every page. Allow customers to make lodging reservations, purchase event tickets, get on a restaurant wait list, order room service, and use mobile check-in and check-out. Ruby Tuesday does a good job with functionality. From their website, customers can place a custom take-out or catering order, see promotions and specials, reserve a table, view a complete menu divided into sub-sections, contact customer service, purchase a gift card, and more.
What information have you looked for online while planning or during travel? How do you find a place to eat or an event to attend when you are in unfamiliar territory? What functions and features do you appreciate on a hospitality industry website? Share your thoughts.