Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Mobile Websites For Hotels

Website design decisions made by any hotel are ultimately going to be determined by the specific customer-driven requirements of the individual hotel or chain. Only hoteliers can truly know their guests and what their expectations are for hotel brand interaction via the web. The case has been made that the best web design option available to hotels is responsive design, meaning a website that detects what device a user is accessing the site from, and then conforms itself to that format seamlessly.

This option can be seen as “the best for most”, but responsive design may not be the one size fits all solution for every hotel. Perhaps, for example, your hotel has concluded an overwhelming majority of the hotel’s customer base only interacts with the brand via mobile and would benefit from a “mobile first” approach. Whatever the reason, hotels that choose to create a dedicated mobile website should follow some best practices in order to deliver their customers the most rewarding mobile experience possible.

 

Design To The End User

The question must be asked, what are the hotel mobile website user’s objectives when accessing the site? The simplicity of the design must be paramount. Since mobile users are on the go and usually seeking to accomplish a simple task, the amount of content presented must be drastically scaled down. This is best managed by limiting the choices available on the landing page. Due to screen size, a user will look at a few pages at most and move on to something else. Speed and ease of navigation are vital. If the pages offered don’t load quickly, or the user can’t rapidly find what they are looking for, they will leave and probably not come back. Therefore, it is absolutely essential to have a clear understanding of the hotel’s customer base and what they require of your mobile hotel website.

 

Design To The Platform’s Strengths

Always take into account the platform, with its inherent strengths and weaknesses, and design to those strong points. Mobile devices empower their users with touch screens and fingertips are how they will interface with your website. Make sure all of your content is user friendly in that regard. Everything must be easily swiped, buttons and links must be clearly discernible and functional. Offer easy to follow drop down boxes where appropriate. No matter the user’s end goal, be sure they are confidently guided through the process using plainly visible “Next” buttons. 

A major strength of the mobile website which should be effectively leveraged is the geo-location capabilities of mobile devices. The hotel’s location page should easily interface with maps and other location based apps the user has on their device. Another strength of the platform for smartphone users is their click to call feature. Phone users can be easily funneled into calling the hotel directly through strategic use of this feature.

 

Design To Generate Revenue

For those users who have found your mobile website and are ready to buy, ensure that their pathway is readily available, with unmistakable calls to action. The process of booking the hotel from your mobile website should be as simple and intuitive as possible, so as to conclusively leverage every mobile website user who is ready to book. There cannot be any dead ends or obstacles that lead the user away from your booking funnel. Be sure that if the hotel is presenting any special offers or promotions, the users gaze is naturally drawn to them on the page and that site navigation will lead them there as well.

All of these factors will help monetize the mobile hotel website, transforming it into an engine of revenue for your hotel.  


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Monday, December 15, 2014

Mobile Apps For Hotels

The best web design solution for any hotel or chain to the mobile technology explosion, and its impact on the hospitality industry, depends on a number of factors. Responsive web design is the solution which probably works best for most hotels, covering most issues encountered by mobile users of hotel websites. But may not be the best or only solution for all hoteliers. Creating a mobile specific website or a native mobile application may be great substitutes or supplements to the responsive design website. 

In the case of the mobile app, this is often a valuable addition to other solutions. A mobile hotel app can be used to build up customer relations and loyalty through improved delivery of services to hotel guests. The dedicated hotel app can also drive repeat direct bookings from already satisfied and loyal past guests.

 

Customer Service

Most hotel apps provide the functionality to search for and book a room, some even allow users to track and manage their rewards points. But a few hotels are now beginning to utilize native hotel apps in any number of creative ways to improve the guest experience on their properties. Apps can offer hotels a platform from which to transform the means of communication and interaction between the hotel and their guests, particularly while they are on-property, but off-property as well. 

The hotel guest experience can be truly enhanced going forward with app features such as hotel check-in and out from the guest’s smartphone, while also using it to access their room in place of an actual key. Hotel services, like room service, can be ordered on some apps, as can amenities such as spa services along with in-app bill paying. One of the most popular hotel app services being offered by some hotels is virtual concierge service. Travelers can not only view maps and get directions to points of interest in the surrounding area, but can be provided with tips and advice as well. Other possible future services on the horizon include controlling the room TV and syncing it and the guest’s smartphones with streaming services for movies and other entertainment.

 

Direct Bookings

All of these unique uses for hotel apps can greatly further hoteliers’ efforts to improve customer hotel brand loyalty. Hotel apps can become an important driver of hotel bookings, both directly and indirectly. The past guests who are both satisfied and loyal will leave positive reviews and feedback regarding their stays, which in turn will bring more prospects to consider booking the hotel. Those past guests, already having the app on their phone, will be that much more likely to book a return stay in the future. 

Native hotel mobile apps are just in the early stages of their development, with many more possibilities yet to be explored. Imaginatively created apps in the future will increasingly be an effective tool for driving up hotel revenues through better customer satisfaction. 


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Friday, December 12, 2014

Hotel Social Media Strategy - 4

Creating content for and engaging with your hotel brand’s fans and followers is the real business of social media marketing for hoteliers. This should never be considered a chore, and can be fun and enjoyable for the individual or staff members that manage the hotel’s various social media accounts.  

 

Creating Engaging Content

The whole point of posting information to the hotel’s social media pages is to stir up conversation about the hotel brand. By recalling the audience targeting information previously gathered regarding the hotel brand’s social media followers, posts could be specifically tailored to them. The emphasis should be on original content that uniquely invokes emotions in the audience because it is centered on what they find interesting. The tone of voice used in the text writing should be of a more friendly nature than found on the hotel website. Remember social media is conversational.

Social media has become increasingly visually oriented in recent years. The hotel’s posts need to reflect this reality. Both high quality images and compelling video will grab and hold the audience’s attention. Even when a certain post needs to be text oriented, be sure to include a picture whenever possible. Always make posts relevant to the present and future as well. Images selected for postings and all text should be a reflection of current events at the hotel. Talk about what guests will experience now when they choose to book a stay with you.

Remember that social media is not the proper place for blatant, in-your-face promotion. The hotel guest and what is important to them should always be the central theme of the hotel’s social media postings. This is why it is so essential to truly understand the people who come to stay at your establishment. The main objective of social media content is to get people who love your hotel to share their experiences and engage with not only you, but others as well. Sparking conversation with and between fans and followers of your hotel brand is the intended goal of a social post.

Ideas for hotel social media content are only limited by your imagination. A few suggestions that work well for stimulating engagement:

 

  • Contests, particularly photo contests which can provide valuable hotel/destination imagery.
  • Asking opinion questions of hotel fans and followers. For example, favorite restaurants, sightseeing, attractions, etc. in the local area.
  • Upcoming hotel or local event announcements.
  • Special offers and promotions for fans and followers.

 

There are many more ideas for hotel social media content that can respond to the likes, wants, needs, and interests of any hotel’s clientele as long as they are truly understood by hoteliers.

 

 


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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Hotel Social Media Strategy - 3

After first determining the specific relevance of various social media channels to a hotel’s overall marketing efforts, and choosing which ones to concentrate on, the real work of social media marketing begins. Targeting the hotel’s audience and listening for what is important to them, proper branding, creating content, and engaging with brand followers are all crucial pieces in any hotel social media campaign.

 

Targeting Audience

As stated earlier in this blog series, hotels cannot afford to have their marketing effort diluted in an attempt to be everywhere at once. In the process of selecting which social channels to build a presence, targeting to some degree should have been accomplished. Audience targeting must be refined even further.

The most important questions requiring answers are; just who the hotel’s guests are and why do they stay there. Past hotel guests must be broken down into increasingly smaller categories. Much smaller and more specific than say business, pleasure, or part of a group as in usual practice. Travelers must be divided up in order to reach them with the correctly relevant marketing messages in a timely fashion. Examples of such a breakdown may include such categories as, “male solo business”,” “young adventurous couple without kids,” “vacation couple with children,” etc. Additionally, keep track of their home address, income bracket, lifestyle, and any special needs or requests. All of this information will prove invaluable later.

 

Branding

Keeping hotel branding consistent across all marketing channels is vitally important. Hotel social media pages should have a look and feel in keeping with the hotel website and vice versa. Social media channel cover and profile photos should be updated in tandem with any changes made on the website. All online marketing for the hotel should be kept fresh with frequent updates and posts. Any comments left by customers, particularly remarks which put the brand in a negative light, should always receive a response from the hotel. This will be discussed further in the next part in this series.

 

Listening

It is always considered polite to listen first before joining a conversation already in progress. This applies as well to social media postings, especially from a business. Social media is not a soapbox from which to speak at people, like conventional advertising. Social media is rather an ongoing conversation that can be joined in progress. Listening first, before putting out extensive marketing information, is the best course of action for a hotel. In this way the hotel brand can better understand their customer base and become in-tune with what their wants, needs, and desires are. This is the best course of action before making assumptions, which result in posts that miss the mark.

The last part of this series will examine the process of creating relevant content for hotel brand followers and properly engaging with them.  


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Monday, December 8, 2014

Responsive Web Design For Hotels

The nature of travel itself, combined with the explosion in use of mobile devices, has made it completely necessary for any hotel’s website to be at least mobile-friendly. There was a push, for a time, for hotels to build a separate mobile version of their website. This is a concept which may still be an option for some hotels, however most likely not the best as we shall see. Some hotels have even created hotel apps which can only become a form of service offered to guests who are already customers. A dedicated, native app will not bring any new guests to stay at a hotel. The most effective choice for hoteliers, in terms of cost and functionality, is the responsive design website.

 

What Is Responsive Web Design?

 A website built with responsive design is capable of detecting and then responding to whatever device a user accesses the site from. The responsive website conforms itself to the screen size of the viewing platform whether desktop or laptop computer, smartphone or tablet, or even Internet TV. All data, both images and text, are correctly sized automatically for optimal viewing on the particular device the user is utilizing.

 

Why Is Responsive Design Important?

Statistics completely backup the necessity of hotel websites to be ready to book the stay for their customers no matter what device platform they choose. Research uncovered by Google, Sterling Research, and SmithGeiger found that 69 percent of all smartphone users are more likely to make a purchase on a mobile website. This is when compared to sites which are optimized, yet non-mobile. Furthermore, 48 percent of mobile users in Google’s study felt that companies, whose websites don’t perform well on their devices, really don’t care about them as customers. Hoteliers cannot afford to lose the revenue from mobile customers.

 

Advantages To Responsive Web Design

The initial investment in a responsive design hotel website may be somewhat higher at the start, however the cost is more than recouped in the form of increased direct hotel bookings. When customers and potential guests can plan and book their hotel seamlessly from any device during the different stages of travel planning, they are drastically more likely to book directly with confidence from the hotel website. 

The traveling public is increasingly making their travel arrangements on the fly and from virtually anywhere. Their expectation is to have the ability to easily navigate and use the websites of all the businesses they patronize, not just hotels, on all their devices. It is imperative for hoteliers to provide the user experience their customers have come to expect from all businesses. 


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