The process of booking holidays and hotels has come a long way since the days of travel brochures and Teletext from the 1990’s. However, there is still a lot to do. It’s ironic that you so often end up needing another holiday after trawling the internet for hours attempting to buy one.
Following our recent survey and my own experience of researching hotel sites from both a guest and hotel owner point of view (my parents bought a B&B in Devon and wanted some help in online marketing), here are some of the top usability mistakes made by hotel websites.
Not displaying images
Is there something your hotel is hiding – why aren’t there any images? For most of your customers, real-life images of the hotel room are the deciding factor. Travellers will want to know what the rooms look like before they book. Many hotels have a tendency of showing emotional pictures such as a happy couple in the foyer – whilst this can work, it doesn’t show the customer what the room looks like, and what they can expect to get if they book with you. Stock photos should always be your last resort. When it comes to holidays, a picture really is worth a thousand words.
Not displaying credentials and reviews
Although a number of factors come into play when a customer makes a decision to buy online, none other is more important than trust.
Despite the last few years’ growth in online shopping, a lot of people are still uncomfortable purchasing and reserving holidays online. Your customers will only buy from you if they feel safe and confident about your business. Therefore, it is imperative that you align your site with industry-accepted protocols and standards, such as SSL certificates. A SSL certificate creates an encrypted link between a web server and a web browser to ensure that all data transmitted remains private and secure.
You should also include reviews of your hotel on your site – your customers may not trust you but they will trust their peers! Make sure you provide full contact information for your customers to get in touch with you if they need it.
Slow loading sites
A slow website will almost definitely turn customers away – before you’ve even had the chance to talk to them. Anything longer than a few seconds, and your visitors will click that back button – and you’ll have lost a customer. Not only this, but it can have a serious impact on your SEO ranks as site speed is also favoured in Google’s search engine algorithms. Whilst it’s important to have images, if you’re site is too graphic-heavy or you’re using flash, it can seriously increase your load time. Make sure images are compressed and optimised for the best look and smallest fit. It’s also worth noting that no one appreciates videos and background music that automatically start playing!
Not having a strong call to action
The purpose of your site is to encourage customers to enquire about your hotel and ultimately make a booking through your website. A strong call to action leading your visitor to book, enquire or phone should be a prominent element on every one of your pages. A click-to-call option on a mobile site is also important for anyone using mobile devices.
Asking too many questions
What data do you actually need to collect from your customers? Do people have to sign up first, or can they complete an order without registering? First decide what information you can’t do without. Then, make it as easy as possible for the user to give their information.
The best forms will only ask for the information they absolutely need, splitting the process into manageable chunks. Technology such as address auto-fill can dramatically shorten the checkout process by preventing your customers manually typing out their address. Not only can this speed things up for time sensitive customers, but you can be confident you’ve got the correct customer data. It’s a win-win.
Are there ten pages to complete? Our survey revealed that one of the top turnoffs for hotel booking is overly long and complicated checkouts. It’s time to determine what’s absolutely necessarily and narrow that down to two pages or less to completion. The more you force your visitors to click around your site, the more likely they are to abandon it. To get users from Point A to that final confirmation page, the process needs to be as smooth as possible.
Learn how our international address auto-fill tool improves your direct booking rate and is proven to improve the customer booking experience.