GlobeQ&A with Petr Palas, CEO of Kentico

What are the most common mistakes hoteliers make when it comes to developing their website?

Given the competitive market hoteliers operate in today, hotels simply cannot afford to get it wrong with their websites. Too often, you will see a hotel build a new site that seems to be at odds with a potential guests’ needs. Features like auto-start videos can actually turn guests away – in particular when website visitors are business travellers looking at the hotel at work and the auto-start video begins to broadcast in an open space office. Hoteliers need to understand their guests and online visitors better as well as build a website that reflects the unique personality of their property.

A common mistake many hoteliers make today is not delivering a consistent experience across all channels. What if a visitor starts their digital journey on their mobile device during the commute to work, yet finishes it at home on their PC? They need to see the same content delivered in a manner fitting the device they are using. If not, they may leave your site, never to return.

What is likely to turn a visitor away online?

The short answer is falling short of expectations. Web content that is not dynamic, for example, is likely to turn website visitors away. Hoteliers have a great opportunity to show website visitors an exhilirating experience that puts them first. Everybody has a different idea of what a hotel should be. They could be a businessperson interested in the conferencing facilities or how to unwind after a demanding day of presentations. They could be a young family that wants to see a child-friendly atmosphere. They could be a couple looking for a romantic break. Hoteliers must make sure that they present the website in a way that it meets or exceeds those expectations.

What helps or facilitates the online hotel booking experience?

When trying to convert website visitors into paying guests, the focus should be on ensuring that content on the site flows in a ‘reader-first’ order, leading them (through the use of filters) to the content (room type or holiday package) that they are most interested in quickly and easily. It is also vital that hotels have a visually attractive web presence that actively seeks to recreate the look and feel of a physical stay at their property in the digital world. It is important that webpages feature a lot of bold, captivating images and ways in which hotel guests can get a sense of the true hotel experience before stepping foot in the lobby.

How can hoteliers help turn their online visitors into customers?

In order to turn online visitors into actual paying customers, it is essential that the hotel’s booking process be made as simple as possible, but also that the actual website architecture delivers an enhanced customer experience. This could include user-friendly features that enable easy navigation, ease of booking, and offer as many payment options as possible.

A hotel’s website must also be informative and able to be viewed in multiple languages. Such multi-lingual capabilities cater to customers of different countries and nationalities. To further facilitate the booking process, hotel websites should reduce the number of steps it takes for visitors to book with the conditions and services they want.

Visitors to a hotel website want to be able to picture themselves staying at your property and they want to trust that the hotel portrayed online is an accurate reflection of the hotel in which they will be staying. To assist with this, hotels should incorporate peer review content from social media such as user ratings and comments. These reviews help to assure customers of the credibility and service standard of the hotel.

How important is it for a hotel to personalise their website for their audience? How can they do this?

In a competitive digital environment where the consumer is presented with an array of accommodation options for their desired location, personalised hotel website content is critical. Delivering personalised, dynamic content across all digital channels with advanced software platforms such as Kenticos EMS, means that a hotel is keeping visitors on its pages longer, which in turn increases their conversion rate.

To personalise their website for visitors, hotels need to consider who their visitors are first and build detailed personas around them. They should really get to know them; interview them, map their customer journeys, describe their typical behaviour, what they read, what types of activities they enjoy, what dining preferences they have, and more. Once detailed personas have been built, they need to be cross-referenced against actual online behaviour on the website to ensure that digital touchpoints and content are effective and engaging and the website is delivering a personalised experience to their interests. For example, if a hotel website visitor is investigating the property’s meeting room A/V equipment online, they are unlikely to be interested in the childrens’ swimming lesson program.

One of the key benefits of personalising a visitor’s online experience is that it will lead to increased website conversions and on-page time, which also helps with a hotel’s all-important Google ranking. Through this increased activity, Google gets a better understanding of the type of business your website is attracting, which will help increase organic traffic. Additionally, when visitors reach your hotel website and discover that there is new, tailored content available, such as special hotel website-only offers, they are more likely to return, generating even more traffic.

How can social media help support online sales growth? What are some tips for hoteliers in this area?

Peer reviewed social media posts and trip advisory reviews, present hoteliers with the ability to find out what guests are saying about their property. This feedback can relate to the service, brand, product or value-for-the-money and enables hoteliers to address any shortcomings, such as long waits for check-in during peak periods, to offer enhanced guest experiences in the future.

To improve a hotel’s online reputation – where peer reviews actively promote the property as a desirable location to stay; hoteliers need to enact a customer advocacy programme that motivates guests to share their experiences online by offering them rewards of discounts on future holidays, or the chance to win a weekend break. These incentives motivate guests with positive experiences to share their opinions of the hotel online and can help encourage online visitors to become actual future guests.

The bottom line is that hoteliers need to use digital marketing and website capabilities wisely and make changes and adjustments based on the feedback that they receive. In today’s digital world hoteliers need to listen to their guests, think creatively about how they engage with online visitors and be mindful that a first impression can make a lasting impression; so, make sure it is a good one.

About Petr Palas

Petr PalasPetr Palas is the Founder and CEO of Kentico Software, which has 1,000 digital solution partners and powers over 25,000 websites across 100 countries. With Kentico EMS, hotels can achieve real-time actionable insights to ensure they deliver exceptional customer experiences, that boost sales, and turns visitors into customers. With offices in the United States, United Kingdom and Czech Republic and more than 1,000 partners in 80 countries, Kentico is one of the industry leaders worldwide.