Category Archives: Website Design

10 Do’s and Don’ts When Using Crowdsourcing

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Social media has become a vital channel for hoteliers to use when highlighting all of the unique aspects of your property.  Taking that idea a step further, some properties are now using crowdsourcing to create a visual-rich website experience with the help of these channels.

For those of you who are digging through the depths of your vocabulary attempting to put a definition to the word crowdsourcing, it means accomplishing a task with the help of a crowd of people on the internet.  Collectively working together and putting their ideas together online with hundreds or thousands of other people allows for an optimized result.

You have worked hard to cultivate a steady following across a variety of social media channels, and now it is time for that effort to pay off.  Use your online community to obtain endless amounts of unique and inspiring guest photos and videos by encouraging guests to tag your property in their social media posts, especially on Instagram.

Before you start posting pictures from each and every one of your social media followers to your brand.com website, here are a few helpful “Do’s and Don’ts” that will keep your visual content fresh and attractive to potential travelers.

Five Things You Should Do For a Successful Crowdsourcing Campaign

-Keep photos fresh and up-to-date by curating crowd-sourced images on a regular basis in addition to your professional content.  Choosing photos from a traveler’s trip three years ago likely will not help you tell a current visual story.

-Use crowdsourcing to monitor how customers view your hotel, and what they find interesting enough to share online.  It is important to find out what travelers find unique and important about your property.  What you find important and what customers find important may be two very separate things.

-Check the social media site’s terms of use and consult a lawyer before publishing your guest’s photos on your website in order to avoid any risk of copyright liability.  Just because these photos were taken at your property does not mean you own them.  Make sure you have rights to publish them on your site.

-Select the best and most compelling guest photos to host on your website to ensure a consistent story and message.  Take a look at one of our previous blog post that talked about the importance of quality images on your site.

-Encourage guests to post the photos on social media using a predetermined hashtag to make finding and selecting photos as easy as possible, and not to mention publicly available.  Hashtag campaigns are a great way to grow your social media following across a variety of channels.

Five Don’ts to Keep in Mind with Your Crowdsourcing Campaign

-Do not completely let go of your professional photography.  Travel shoppers do enjoy seeing amateur pictures from their peers, friends and family, but there still must be a mix of authentic and professional photos.

-Do not ignore the free feedback that guest photos are providing your hotel.  Use this feedback to make changes and leverage these social media channels as a two-way communication avenue.

-Do not confuse travel shoppers by using absolutely every photo that gets posted about your hotel.  There is such a thing as overloading potential buyers with information, and crowd-sourced images should be used proportionally with professional images.

-Do not use photos from a guest’s personal copyrighted website.  Make sure you have permission to use every photo that goes on your website.

-Do not leave guests without a reason to take photos of your property during their stay.  Be creative with designing visually compelling amenities and decorations in your hotel.  This encourages guests to take a photo and share it online.

Keep these 10 “Do’s and Don’ts” in mind, and you will easily be able to utilize crowdsourcing as a way to incorporate new images onto your brand.com website.

Your Brand.com Focus: Bookings and Data

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The growth of third-party intermediaries, including OTAs and meta-search sites, has cluttered the booking landscape in recent years, making it difficult for branded hotels and their websites to keep pace.

During the Hospitality Technology Europe show in London, a panel of experts discussed ways to increase conversion rates from brand.com websites by capturing not only bookings, but consumer data as well.

Capturing Bookings

RJ Friedlander, co-founder and CEO of ReviewPro, and online analytics and reputation management firm, explained that one of the best ways to increase bookings from your brand.com website is by providing quality content.  Friedlander’s example included relevant user-generate content, including social media postings and reviews from sites like TripAdvisor.

“Once you get people there (brand.com website) you need to provide the social content to help facilitate the decision-making process,” said Friedlander.

These are great content additions to make to your personally branded website, but without addressing the basics, the changes will be meaningless.  With many small- and medium-sized hotels, the path is inefficient or the information is incomplete.  “It is important to start with the basics to communicate the information I need to convince me this is where I want to go,” Friedlander adds.

Online channels are not the only place from which you should be driving bookings.  Hoteliers should aim to win guests over during their stays by getting the basics right on-site as well.  If a customer enjoys their experience, they are much more likely to book a brand.com in the future.

Capturing Data

Bookings are obviously important to hoteliers and property managers because they drive the revenue process.  However, acquiring accurate guest data is equally important for future marketing and promotions, as well as efforts to personalize the hotel stay.

Gathering information from intermediaries is difficult because the third party through which the transaction is made owns the information.

Companies like the Louvre Hotels Group are now trying to gather as much information as possible during the check-in process, but this has some drawbacks as well.  During peak periods, efficiency is the key, and there is not a lot of time for “data grabbing”.  With more companies moving towards check-in kiosks or mobile check-ins, the opportunities to obtain this information are dwindling.

Another way to acquire guest data utilized by Louvre is enticing travelers to sign up for its loyalty program as a means to collect information and stimulate future repeat bookings.  Chinmai Sharma, the company’s VP of revenue and distribution management, explained that the success of this measure is “hit or miss”.

Key Points

-Quality content, including review site and social media posts, is important for guests looking to book directly from your brand.com website.

-Acquiring guest data is important for a variety of reasons including providing a personalized travel experience and stimulating future repeat bookings.  However, third-party intermediaries make it difficult to get this information because once a booking is made through them, they own the data.

Your Website: An Online Dating Profile for Travelers

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With Valentine’s Day upon us and love in the air, it is time to talk about hearts and Cupid.  Well…maybe not Cupid, but we will talk about hearts, specifically the heartbeat of your eMarketing program:  your website.

Because travelers research hotels in a variety of ways, it is important to place the correct content in the correct medium, whether that is online through your website, on social media channels or on mobile devices.  To show customers and potential guests that you care and want their business, hotel marketers need to learn how to romance these potential travelers with appealing and relevant content.

A recent HotelMarketing article, written by DJ Vallauri, compares setting up a hotel website to setting up a dating profile.  This is the channel that will tell prospective guests everything you want them to know about you.  It is important to know what your potential “suitors” are looking for, so here is a list of five things your dating profile should include to help garner the most potential “dates”.

Make Sure Your Content is “Fresh”

Fresh content does not mean tweaking the copy you use for social media, and placing it on your website as well.  Your site needs to look its best in order to attract the most prospects.  Make sure your services and amenities are up to date, and give other tempting tidbits to keep travelers away from the generic OTA sites.

Widgets are Useful and Helpful Interactive Tools

Attaching widgets to your website that link to various social media outlets allows travelers to connect with other individuals who have already visited your property.  They also can add some additional interaction between your site and potential guests.  One recent trend is offering a live chat widget, which allows travelers to connect to your property in real-time, although social media channels can be used in the same capacity.

Make Sure Your Mobile Website is User-Friendly

Based on consumer demand and the prediction that there will be more mobile users accessing the internet this year than desktop users, extra attention needs to be placed on the mobile web.  The latest responsive design technologies adapt website content to a variety of screens making them easily viewable across whichever device travelers prefer to use.

Make Sure Your Social Media Content Matches the Social Media Channel

We have consistently discussed the importance of using social media channels to attract a greater following for your property, but truly reaching prospective customers requires hoteliers to respect the context of each platform.

Users of each social media platform are different, and they like to be communicated to in the context of their social media platform.  You will not be effective in communicating to Instagram or Pinterest (photo-based platforms) users with a lot of wordy content.  Effective online marketing is about using all the tools available to reach and engage with potential customers wherever they are online.

Storytelling is a Great Way to Connect

Build an experience for a guest, and you may be able to build loyalty and future business opportunities.  Use video resources to give potential travelers a tour of your property, or to showcase annual events that draw large numbers of visitors.  Give your potential guests a typical experience, whether overnight or extended, they can expect when they stay with you.

6 Reasons Consumers may not Like your Travel Images

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It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but what happens when your specific picture just does not measure up to rest?  Visual content represents some of the most effective marketing practices in nearly every industry, especially in the hospitality industry where travel images are powerful elements.

If you do not realize just how important images are to your property, take a look at your social media marketing campaign.  The sites you are using (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) have become image-driven with the advent of camera phones and increased technology.

Because of this push towards images across the board, it is not enough to just have photos on your website or business listing.  You must have the correct images that will capture the eye of potential customers and drive business to your site.

Do you think you may have an imaging issue on your website or online listings?  Here is a list of reasons why consumers may not like your travel images.

1. They Look Old or Small – As computer screens continue to grow in size and definition, your visuals need to do the same.  No one enjoys seeing a 300×300 image on a 2880×1800 computer screen.  Many travelers will click away from your site if photos are too small to see or enjoy.

2. They Are Outdated – It is important for hoteliers to renew their visuals approximately every two years in order to avoid discrepancies between what the guest sees online and upon arrival.  Updating your images also allows you to showcase recent renovations, changes in décor and allows viewers to know your property is under constant care.

3. Confusing Galleries – Many hotels do not allow their images to be expanded into a full-screen view.  This can be frustrating for potential customers if they want to see a close-up image but are unable.  Make sure your images can be displayed as large as your website allows.

Also, avoid making viewers jump around to different pages to view the different types of media you have.  Photos, virtual tours, floor plans and videos should all be included in a single media player.

4. The Color Is Not Right – Color and lighting make a tremendous difference when users look at images.  Many photographers use color calibration software when enhancing visuals, which may adjust how color appears on your user’s computer screen.

There could be a highlighting and shading issue, or the tint of the sky and grass may be just a little off.   Make sure to test the color and brightness of the visuals on different computers to make sure this does not happen.

5. Not Mobile-Friendly – Although smartphones make accessing websites on-the-go a simple task, “mobile-unfriendly” images can complicate the matter.  No one enjoys zooming in and out just to see a picture, and touchscreen sensitivity can send you to a whole different site with the unintended press of a button.

6. Few Images – Recent travel statistics show that properties with more than 20 photos get 150% more engagement than those with less than 20.  It is not enough to just take one photo of a bed and one of the front desk.  Guests are looking for something that sets you apart from the crowd.

Showcase various photos of your guest rooms, and views from the room.  Use images to point out unique amenities and features that will attract additional travelers to your website and eventually to your property.

It is important to understand that a guest’s final decision can be highly-defined by the hotel’s website visuals.  Take your time to plan and produce high-quality images in order to engage and convert viewers more effectively!

Raising the Bar in a Multi-Channel Travel World

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Customer experience in the hotel industry, as in any industry, is about consistency.  It’s not enough to have the newest self-service tools, mobile apps or improved services.  Individually, these initiatives can work, but there needs to be consistency across all touch points based on guest requirements to ensure satisfaction.

Hotels are currently attempting to generate solutions that address not only customer service issues, but user experience issues as well.  Creating an unambiguous cross-channel experience is of paramount importance.  Stan Kreydin, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer for Wyndham Exchange and Rentals explained his views on the subject:

 “Where possible, we want our customers to have a similar experience with our products via self-service channels such as the web as they do with our contact center agents for our assisted service channels.”

For most hotel guests, the experience enjoyed with the hotel staff is engaging in streamlined.  It must also be a top priority for consumers to feel the same way when interacting with a website or mobile app.  Some companies, including the Morgans Hotel Group, have made significant changes to websites including the ability to make reservations in a limited number of clicks, tour the city they’re visiting with a curated Google Map and access an Instagram feed populated with photos from guests staying at the property.

It’s always important to recognize your target demographic when utilizing new technologies.  Pullman Hotels and Resort focuses on delivering a cosmopolitan, vibrant and in-style experience for guests.  The company has worked on a unique guest technology ecosystem centered on synchronizing various screens – TV, smartphone and table – in order to create a unified network of entertainment services.

However, the multi-device phenomenon does not only affect the online experience offered by Pullman.  The hotels and resorts have multiplied IP addresses, which has allowed the company to increase the bandwidth at all Pullman properties.  Multiple power sockets placed near beds allows guests easy access to devices throughout their stay.

Hotels worldwide are currently all trying to match guests’ rising expectations.  Check-in and check-out is one area where guests do not like wasting time and expect immediate service.  The same goes for free WiFi which they expect to have access to as soon as they enter the property.  Amenities that were once considered luxuries have now become an expectation among travelers, and hotels need to adapt or will find themselves left behind.

7 Ways to Build Customer Loyalty

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Online hospitality is transforming into an industry defined by personalization, relevant content and the social experience travelers influence everyday. As this trend continues to unfold, it is becoming increasingly difficult to build brand loyalty. How do you win a customer over and keep them coming back time and time again, when the travel process starts earlier than it ever has, and is not over, even after booking and stay?

This is a dilemma that has been creeping up the alley of online hospitality marketers everywhere. Finding the right combination of social interaction, email marketing, promotional activities, etc. can be a fine line to walk. At the core of any successful business (or hotel in this case) is a loyal customer base. Customers are the primary factor in shaping the success of your hotel, resort, or lodge.

The question now becomes; how do we, as hotel marketers, build a customer base that is loyal, and remains that way for an amount of time that will prove to be profitable for our business? In a recent white paper released by Maxymiser, 7 primary ways to build a loyal customer base were revealed. Let’s take a look at each one, and explain the significance of each as it pertains to your business.

1. Ensure a Quality Experience – It is important to recognize that customers attitudes are shifting. What was once a market dominated by the best value, or lowest price, is (and really, already has) shifted to a market in which buyers are looking for an experience that will set one resort apart from another. When you are attempting to lay the foundation for a loyal customer base, keep in mind that travelers are looking for that once in a lifetime experience, that little something that makes their stay different from anywhere else.

2. Increased Ancillary Sales – Depending on the size of your hotel, ancillary revenue will obviously shift one way or the other. The tricky intersection of when and how to offer ancillary value to the traveler is one that hotel owners and GM’s have played with for years. When you are thinking of how to adopt a loyal customer base, think “Timing and Description.” It is important to offer an ancillary opportunity to the traveler at the right moment, as well as very clearly depict what exactly is being offered.

3. Personalization – According to data from Google, 83% of leisure travelers, and another 76% of business travelers now plan their travel online. The planning process includes anything from reviews, to price points, social media to video and visual assets. Because the road to selection is so clouted with variables, personalization becomes extremely important. The key to personalization is ensuring that the process begins in the earliest phases (research) and continues through the travel journey, concluding with personalized follow up, post trip.

4. Transform the Experience – Personalization can be thought of as points similar to what is explained above. However it can also be thought of as transforming an online experience to make the message more personal to the traveler, and enhancing the likelihood of purchasing. For example, a common message on several hotel sites is a “no availability” pop up of sorts, often times on the event calendar or booking engine. A simple way to improve this message, and make it a positive for the traveler is to add in something like “here are some other available dates that you may find helpful,” or something equating to a message of that nature in an attempt to squash any discouragement.

5. Ratings & Reviews – The always important and heavily relied on online reviews are a sure shot way to build a loyal customer base. Hotels with reviews are viewed as more credible in the eyes of the consumer. More credible sources typically have a higher rate of conversion and a more loyal customer base.

6. Leverage Social Media – According to independent research, one out of every four travelers uses social media to research and plan their vacation. Furthermore, a Forbes study of Facebook users revealed that 50% of travelers were “influenced” by seeing friends pictures of travel on Facebook. So what does this mean for your social media efforts? Billions of users scroll the pages of Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and more, everyday. It is important to have an understanding of your customer base and reach out to them in ways that connect to them on a personal level – if you are a family resort and your Facebook audience is comprised of families who have stayed with you before, put out relevant offers, offer special savings to your fans, etc.

7. The Mobile World – Development across the mobile platform has reached new heights in the previous months. Smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices have become more widely used than the everyday computer. Consumers are on the go. Plain and simple. In fact, tablet use is projected to spike by 180% in the next year alone. If you are a hotel marketer, this is big news. It is extremely important that your website is responsive – fits to exact screen sizes across multiple devices. Why is this so important? Failure to run a responsive site means that your messages, visuals and representation of your hotel are distorted when they are not viewed on a computer screen. The masses are moving to mobile and tablet. Your website must do the same!

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It is no secret that the days of multi-screen use are upon us. The big challenge facing marketers is how to address the reality that consumers are viewing products on multiple screens (smartphones, tablets, desktops, laptops, etc.) multiple times per day. How do you send the same message across an iPad screen that someone is also looking at on their 20″ monitor at the office?

A recent study conducted by Microsoft called Cross-Screen Engagement, lends a helping hand to help answer this daunting question. The study aims to help marketers understand how to engage consumers “in their moment” when they are viewing across multiple platforms. The two-phase study resulted in 4 separate kinds of consumer behavior:

1. Content Grazing

2. Investigative Spider Webbing

3. Quantum Journey

4. Social Spider-Webbing

To understand the meaning of these consumer categories, read the full article, here.

The Perfect Hotel Website

On route to creating the perfect hotel website, roadblocks are inevitable. The fast paced, do everything on the go marketplace  that has become customary makes it increasingly difficult to find, target and execute a marketing plan that truly reaches into the world of the traveler. More important than ever therfore is the optimization of your hotel website.

Maxymiser, a global firm specializing in website testing and personalization, has released a set of E-Books, highlighting the key points of creating the perfect hotel homepage, search experience and booking funnel. These books cover things from keeping consistency on your web-pages all the way to designing pages that flow easily and provide the customer with an easy, hassle free experience.

Article Found on HotelMarketing.com, To read the E-Books, download the PDF’s here.