There is a saying, “the same difference.” While some find it difficult to understand given the inherent contradiction between the two words, it is easily explained in visiting hotel websites. They all have the same differences. In short, they are identical except for the brand or logo on the site. In the eyes of a consumer, which I am one by the way, one question comes to mind when deciding on which hotel to book a stay, “what’s the diff?!”
Differentiation. It is a buzz word. I hear it all the time. I also hear, “but my hotel is different.” I was speaking with a corporate director of revenue management for a luxury hotel chain, and she even laughed when she said, “Yes, our hotels ARE different.” How many times have you said that line yourself when speaking to a prospect who is considering holding an event at your property.
Why then are all hotel marketing efforts so synoptic? “We’re not,” you say? Take a look at the following websites:
Take the logos off of these sites and there is absolutely nothing to distinguish to them from each other. Do they have the same web design company? Are the designers and programmers all locked in the same box? I could blame it on usability studies but hotel brand sites consistently rank low compared to OTA’s like Expedia and Orbitz (who are their competitors in a large sense.) And there are a variety of resources available to learn about how to make the UI more engaging and user-friendly. One of my favorites is Keynote.
One of my favorite hotel brand sites is Joie de Vivre Hotels. They know who they are, who their target audience is, and they engage with them on a very personal level. I view their site often since they are a client of mine for SEO and other online marketing tactics. And each time I say to myself, “this is a great site!”
A not so small items I have to mention about the JdV site. Notice how much on the page is about the visitor. In the bottom left hand corner, you have “Your California” as the name of their Vacation Planning tool. That is great! It gets the visitor excited even before a purchase is ever made. I think they are missing the same opportunity by calling the link for meeting planners “Meetings and Events” instead of personalizing it to “Your Meetings.” It sounds so much more inviting to me.
The title of this post is about booking more room nights. Redevelop your website, even if it is only a few years old. I’ll say that again. Redevelop your website! The ROI for redeveloping a website is well established. I have personally seen ROI as high as 800 percent in less than six months! DON’T DO IT, however, without following this checklist.
- Review your comp set’s websites.
- Note how similar they are.
- And note who developed the site for them.
- Survey your current guests and meeting professional clients about what they like and don’t like about your site (bonus tip: also ask them what hotel sites they like better than yours – hardly anyone does this!) Your web company can or should do this for you if they are truly an adviser who cares about your business.
- Ask several of your survey respondents to be a part of a committee that reviews the early stages of the design process. It is difficult for you to see your site through the eyes of your potential guests; you are too close to it.
- Push for innovation and advanced technology; it is surprising how few hotel sites utilize Google 3D for example. It dramatically improves conversion rates by allowing a realistic view and experience of the property – vital for meeting professionals by the way.
- Use a digital marketing company other than the one who does the majority of the hotel sites in your market. You will get more for your money, better customer service, and more innovation from a company that has little or no presence in your market. (DO use a firm who specializes or is at least extremely knowledgeable in with the hotel industry however.)
I am fond of over-delivering so I am giving you another tip. Invest as much as possible to redevelop your site. It will pay you back ten-fold at the very least. I see far too many Directors of Sales & Marketing squeeze web development budgets to the point that they end up with a site that looks and performs exactly like their competitors. Differentiate!
Note: Contact me if you want ROI data for redeveloping a hotel website.