Best Practices: Website Homepage – Part 1
Author: Darlene Rondeau
When I’m at a networking event or industry conference, or even just having a call with a new contact, one of the first things people ask me is about my title – so, what does a VP of Best Practices actually do?
It took a lot of brainstorming to come up with a title that captured the essence of the job, because the truth is, my responsibilities are multi-faceted. A day in the life could include preparing for a keynote speech, hosting a webinar, attending an HSMAI event and often quiet time spent writing best practice blogs on a variety of digital marketing topics.
In my journey to help raise awareness of the importance of visual storytelling and its relative contribution to property marketing objectives, I have the pleasure of interacting with Hospitality Digital Marketing Professionals around the globe. We discuss today’s digital storytelling solutions, evolving online marketing techniques and its impact on guest engagement and bookings.
In the spirit of keeping the momentum moving forward, I’d like to devote this new blog series to sharing best practices for every aspect of a property’s website – because as we all know, stories happen at the property level so it’s a natural place for travel shoppers to go to learn about your unique story, what you can offer and anticipate the experience they can expect to have.
It’s also your most profitable channel so clearly worthy of more time and attention to improve your visual presence and lead travel shoppers directly down the purchase path.
There are some key elements that contribute to a successful website and today I’ll start by diving into best practices for your website homepage – the virtual front door travel shoppers use to “enter” your property in today’s digital age.
So what makes your hotel, B&B or vacation rental website compelling enough that it encourages travel shoppers to convert – i.e. make a booking?
It actually comes down to what triggers our emotions and what makes us want to click and share – the psychology behind a compelling website.
- We all have feelings
One of the reasons I’m such a fan of visual storytelling is because visuals can trigger an emotional connection with travel shoppers, in a way that text alone cannot. This interesting article about using the principles of neuroscience to improve conversion rate optimization explains that emotions often override our rational thought process, when it comes time to make a decision.
In our industry, that means conveying the experience travelers can expect to have – feeling the breeze off the water or the excitement of the city and the smell of fresh coffee in the morning– all through visual storytelling.
- Decisions – easy peasy
Contrary to popular belief (and the amount of things for sale on Amazon), by nature we don’t like to have a lot of choices. There’s a reason why Apple doesn’t sell ten different types of laptops and iPhones – they come out with one or two new models a year and make the decision a no-brainer.
Your website should do the same.
Make it easy for travel shoppers to:
- a) Find the information they’re looking for and
- b) Make a booking.
In this Wired article, writer Dan Ariely explains having default settings filled out (e.g. such as two adults per room) can improve conversions – because there’s less work for the consumer to do.
- No time like the present
I’m more likely to buy something if I know there are only a few remaining – and in that sense, I’m like millions of other consumers because adding a sense of urgency to your website compels travel shoppers to buy – and to buy right now.
I’ll dive more into this tactic when we talk about best practices for creating time sensitive special offers on your website.
- How do you stack up?
From the property owner’s perspective, the reason to benchmark against the competition is to evaluate key metrics that will help shape the marketing strategies striking the right balance to secure the booking.
From the shopper’s point of view, their evaluation of accommodations is all about value for their money.
To help tip the scales for consumers and property owners is the presence of social validation from others who have come before. Social proof can be integrated with user-generated content like photos, written guest reviews, or even a short add-on to your booking page like “2 travelers from New York just booked this room!” What others say about you is hugely more valuable than what you say about yourself and can mean the difference between them and you.
- The Dreaded Buyer’s Remorse
A potential guest may have gotten wrapped up in the thrill of the travel experience one day and question their judgement the next day.
A few ways you can reinforce the decision is by keeping the excitement going with a reminder of the great deal they snagged along with helpful information about what’s in and around the local area.
Ask them to share their purchase on social media (“Can’t wait for my winter escape at @YourHotel”) because once we go public with the choices we make, we’re less likely to cancel or feel regret.
Now you have a better understanding of the psychology behind successful websites, it’s time to focus on making your digital storefront more impactful to drive more conversions. Stay tuned to part two of this Best Practice piece, which will review the most effective way to implement best practices for your:
- Homepage gallery
- Homepage copy