The hospitality industry is one tough cookie, and having an attractive and intuitive website has become a critical element in getting hotel bookings. The customer experience now starts online before the guest ever sets foot within your doors. How can you create an on-brand user experience that drives traffic through your website?
Put yourself in the shoes of a potential guest
Hey, nice shoes! Now you're off to book a hotel in your destination city. You open up a search engine and type in: hotels and resorts in [insert destination]. You're flooded with options to choose from; which website are you likely to click on first?
The hotel brands whose marketing strategy included search engine optimization (SEO) are likely going to be the ones at the top of the list. After all, why would you bother scrolling or clicking the Page 2 button when there are so many options right there in front of you?
Using terms on your website that reflects what your guests are searching for is a good place to start employing SEO. While you're wearing your "guest shoes," make a list of things you might include in your search. Hotels near [insert attraction]. Hotels with [insert amenity]. Those attractions, amenities, etc. that made your list definitely should have a place on your website; these are your important keywords.
Great! As a potential guest, you've now clicked on a search result. It's for a hotel in your destination that is near the attraction you are hoping to visit. What is your impression?
At first sight
A hotel website must be more than informational. It must be beautiful and intuitive.
The only thing keeping you from pressing the back button on your browser to peruse other options is the inspiration. The online user experience needs to embody the brand of the hotel in an emotional way. The aesthetic must be consistent with the branding guidelines of the hotel and will fare best if it speaks to its target audience. If guests are seeking a luxury experience, they should feel immersed in that environment during their first impression of the hotel website.
Hotel website visitors aren't just looking for a place to sleep; they are looking for a brand that speaks to their unique sense of adventure. The visitor should feel compelled and excited to explore the website. To evoke this, the hotel website design must tell a story. Incorporate professional photographs and videos. Invite the visitor to envision themselves as a guest at the hotel. Inspire them to book a room.
Recall that you're playing the "potential guest" role right now? So far, you've searched for a hotel, clicked on a result, and you were pleased with the gut-feeling the website gave you. Now you feel invited to poke around a little bit. You want to be able to navigate with ease so that you may ogle at the amenities. You want to dream about the nearby attractions, view the room and pricing options, and get your eyes on some third-party reviews.
If it is difficult to find what you're looking for, that means your user experience is—for lack of a better term—a total bummer. The very best of hotel websites make it easy for their visitors to explore. We absolutely cannot overlook user experience when developing our digital marketing strategy.
On that note, the design must be responsive. The pages must load quickly and be optimized for use on any device—a computer, a tablet, or a phone.
You—the guest—have treated the hotel webpage as your playground for dreaming about your upcoming trip. You have seen every photo and watched every video with a mounting sense of "I can't wait to see that, do that, be there." Now you're ready to book.
"Oh, darn. Which page was booking on again?"
If a guest has to ask that, then we failed to prioritize an essential detail. Every successful hotel website must have a Book Now button visible on each landing page. If our visitor wants to fill a room, let's make that as easy as possible for them!
In addition to making the button as accessible as possible, strive to keep the process simple — the fewer steps in online booking, the better.
Put your hotelier hat back on.
The ability to step into the role of a website visitor is invaluable in creating a digital marketing strategy for your hotel. Now it's time to kick off those shoes and turn what you learned into beautiful web design for your hotel brand.
Let's review the basics:
- Be mindful of SEO
- Create visually appealing content and on-brand
- Tell a story and strike inspiration
- Build a website that is easy to navigate
- Optimize for speedy page loading that will fit every screen
- Make it easy for visitors to book online
Another pro-tip: don't be afraid to add creative design features. Some examples include dynamic weather icons, page animation, page background music, seasonal design changes, and other unique choices in layout or interactivity.
Digital marketing is an extension of the guest experience and should be treated with the same care as the front desk.
If web design isn't your strength, it may be worth investing in a hotel web design firm. They can help you attract and obtain guests online.
Take the guesswork out of hotel web design.