Take action: Five tips to help travel brands convert lookers into bookers

It takes a lot to run a travel e-commerce website successfully but three companies are making some headway. Ritesh Gupta finds how

Improving a travel e-commerce website with an overhaul of design and functionality is generally a routine initiative that happens every few years. However, even though such projects are expected to play their part in stronger affiliation with the brand, and a stronger role in travellers’ booking funnel, it doesn’t mean work stops there. One thing is certain, not every action will garner higher than average booking values and conversion rates. That said, small tweaks and changes can help. For example, enhancements could include a new feature or taking action to address sudden spurts in visitors to a website. And daily monitoring can help ensure that both website design and functionality works the way it should.

Before embarking on assessing how tracking works let’s take a look at how established brands are changing the look of their websites. Take the case of Pullman Hotels & Resorts’ new website, www.pullmanhotels.com. A major aspect of working on such a global project is its international dimension, says Xavier Louyot, SVP Global Marketing, Pullman. This has an impact on several aspectsincluding:

1) languages,

2) geo-localisation

3) content

“Whether we are talking of design or functionalities, the pullmanhotels.com website aims to combine performance and pleasure,” says Louyot. He cites full screen and immersive imagery, engaging content, Le Club Accorhotels dedicated services and personalisation of the experience (from both a customer and property GM perspective) as examples of how to achieves this.

In the case of WorldHotels, the team says it has immensely improved the booking funnel by adding room and rate display prominently next to top selling points such as guest reviews and location. The team has also placed rate information earlier in the booking funnel. In addition price, location and guest reviews are next to each other in order to make all information available at first glance. “We have also optimised our booking process by implementing a new design, layout and structure as well as developed new CTA (call to action)-buttons,” says Kerstin Steinberg, global director e-marketing, WorldHotels.  

Running a successful site

As much asone would like it to be, running a site with desired results isnever truly a ‘hands-off’ approach, says Clint Gudenswager, general manager, Australian travel experience provider Experience Oz. “While people might think having an online business allows us to simply sit back and watch the money roll in, this is seldom the case,” says Gudenswager.

There are two sides to this which involves the sites that are handled internally and those that require involvement from third-party companies. “On the internal side of things, we need to ensure we have redundancies in place in case of outages,” says Gudenswager. From an external point of view, Experience Oz has engaged design or user interface consultants to ensure the site stays up to speed visually. They have started to employing a CDN(content delivery network)for faster distribution of graphics and other rich media. This has been necessary “as our eyes have moved towards foreign markets, and we have increased the scale of our off-site backups in accordance with the expansion of our sites,” he explains.

Website design and functionality needs to be constantly adjusted – and that means daily.

Here we explore five key aspects:

1.      Customer satisfaction - take it seriously: Customer satisfaction is very important to WorldHotels. To keep customers happy and keep them on our website, it constantly reviews the site. The group encourages customers to give their opinion and invites them to leave comments on the website itself. They can also call WorldHotels or make contact via web-based form or social media channels.“We get a lot of feedback and take each user’s comment and suggestions very seriously,” says Steinberg. If it is not possible to include a suggestion into an immediate enhancement, it is put on a list for long-term improvements.

2.      Analytics – keep tracking: Analytics of various kinds are, of course, a big part of the whole evaluation process; simple things like traffic, e-commerce tracking and conversion rates are important. However a lot of the most useful feedback comes directly from customer service teams in response to common pain points experienced. “These problems are then proposed to our development team for evaluation on how long a fix or enhancement may take to implement, which we then use to decide whether or not the return on investment is justified,” says Gudenswager.

3.      Customer experience – think ‘piles of gold’: According to Louyot their website is monitored permanently with the skilled support of in-house Accor e-commerce experts team. “The detail of marketing analytics we have access to enables us to permanently improve the overall marketing performance but more important for our organisation the overall customer experience - not just the online one,” he says. When revamping the website, Pullman clearly focused on a number of key KPIs such as conversion and bounce rates, to quote two examples. Considering multi-devices and channel usage, this clearly allowed them to revisit the way they manage the corresponding fast increasing volume of data. Louyout refers to this as: “piles of gold waiting for us in our log files”.  

4.      Real-time analysis and response: The team at WorldHotels is constantly reviewing and monitoring its website performance, including user behaviour, using real-time tracking of the user’s funnel. “Aside from that, we also interact with our users directly in order to identify and solve issues they might have with our web applications,” says Steinberg. WorldHotels takes all customer requests very seriously and always answers them within 24 hours. This policy has responded into higher usability rates as well as improved customer satisfaction.

5.      Engagement: Customer engagement on sites is generally measured around key factors such as repeat visits, repeat bookings, the average time spent on the site as well as the number of pages viewed during the visit. This information helps to better understand users – paving way for insights into what they are interested in and as a consequence can better cater to their preferences. As Steinbergpoints out, this helps to turn ‘lookers’ into ‘bookers’.

Kerstin Steinberg, global director e-marketing, WorldHotels is speaking at the Mobile World Congress in February where EyeforTravel will be representing the fast-moving travel vertical. 

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