It’s 2014. Do you know where your website is? Redesigning a website takes a huge investment in time and money. The question is: how often do you do it? And how do you respond to the way people use the Internet?
That was the situation faced by Noise, a digital marketing company that usually targets Millennials. In this case their client was Thompson Hotels, a hip, but upscale hotel brand that copes of course cater to Millennials but whose clientele skews older.
Dhiren Khemlani, senior vice president of accounts for Noise, said his team surveyed the landscape of hotel sites and, like others, concluded that hotel companies are late adaptors. That’s not always their fault. A large brand’s site has to make a brand statement while not being able to focus on individual properties. A smaller company like Thompson can do both – if it’s done right. In either case, it makes for a tough balancing act.
One thing in Noise’s favor is that scrolling is no longer taboo among web surfers, a situation that has emerged with the use of tablets where scrolling is a necessity. Using a vintage newspaper term, Khemlani, said, “We’re no longer limited to what’s above the fold. We can now serve up all the necessary visuals but still have the copy we need.”
With that in mind, Noise came up with a three-pronged strategy:
1) While they wanted the site to be heavily visual, SEO demands required more text. The decision was made to create a site that allows daily changes to keep current and to remain a higher SEO factor.
2) Social media was integrated rather than simply being connected by a link. Rather than lose potential guests to social media sites, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter are built into the site — also allowing for the natural photos inherent in those platforms; and providing for different perspectives as far as content.
3) An easy-to-fill-out form for meeting and event planners was designed so that the first communication from a planner is more than an e-mail address and, thus, weeded out those less serious about actually holding an event at a Thompson hotel.
While image and SEO were crucial, ease of navigation remains paramount and is consistent throughout the site.
As for the Millennials, said Khemlani, “For them, searching the web is like window shopping. And it’s crucial to capture them now because, within three years, 30% of purchasing power in the U.S. will be driven by the Millennials.”
The results: three weeks after the site relaunch (and it was a dramatic, overnight change from the old to the new), Thompson is seeing more page views, more pages per session and more time spent on the site. Most importantly, conversions are up as well – and that’s what a website is all about.
Khemlani concedes that this overhaul was probably overdue because a site can become stale as consumers evolve.
At a time when the number one question for many hoteliers is reclaiming direct bookings, the website is the place to focus. Should you do a complete redo every five years? Every year? Of course, it’s easy to tweak a website but even those changes have to be thought out to insure they work. But grass should not be allowed to grow under any website if a hotel company has any hope of driving customers to it.