Recently iPerceptions conducted a study on website functionality titled “Online Satisfaction and Experience in the Hospitality Industry”. The study found that after price, website design and functionality were among the biggest stumbling blocks when visitors tried to complete the tasks they set out to (presumably booking).
A deeper look at the charts and data reveals what we at VFM Leonardo have always believed (and what many studies confirm). Travel shopping is a complex process that involves many stages across a number of different websites. This shopping typically spans an extended period of time. The study also underscores how important website functionality and content are to guiding consumers from one stage of shopping to another (and eventually to booking).
It confirms that consumers visit travel websites for different reasons. Although 26% indicated they visited to make a reservation, 40% indicated that their visit was prompted by a desire to find hotel information or compare rates – two activities that are performed during the travel shopping journey (see this Google infographic for a good description of the stages of travel).
Further, for those consumers who said they were visiting to make a reservation, 27% stated a reason for not completing their task. Reasons include “still looking/unsure” 24%; “could not find what looking for” 8%; “need more info” 5%. This data indicates that these consumers were actually still shopping and not ready to book.
This data tells us that hotels must ensure their website’s booking path and technology makes it easy for the consumer to book. But, what more can we gather from this?
1. There are many different stages to shopping online. When shopping for hotels, consumers most often do not book on their first visit to a site.
2. Booking is important but not always the reason for the visit. There may be a different need to satisfy in order to get the consumer to the next stage. Meeting online travel shopper needs at all stages of the travel shopping journey is critical to your hotel’s success.
3. Consumers need easy, intuitive and engaging website experiences. In order to move consumers effortlessly through a website, the experience must be easy and intuitive. Consumers also need to be provided with content that informs, inspires and engages them.
4. Hoteliers must be concerned with how their information is presented – this includes visual information. 40% of visits in this study were to gather information. If users cannot find what they are looking for and are not engaged with the content when they find it, it is not surprising that they will give up and look elsewhere. When they come to decision-making time, your hotel may not make their short-list.
A website that is simple to navigate and engaging for the user makes it far easier for shoppers to decide if your hotel is the right fit for their trip. We know that consumers are visiting Online Travel Agencies, Review and Planning Sites, Social Media Sites and others, so how your hotel is presented on these sites is equally important. Another study that addresses this topic is the Traveler’s Road to Decision (a Google/OTX study).
You need to ensure that consumers are satisfied with the experience on each and every site they visit – whether they visit them on their desktop computer, tablet or smartphone – the experience needs to be informative and engaging across the board.
How is your hotel’s online experience?