Your hotel’s online presence is more important than ever—and this doesn’t just mean your website. It also includes your eCommerce setup. However, many hotels don’t consider their websites and booking engines as eCommerce sites. It may seem futile to mention the definition of eCommerce, after all, it’s a term that is thrown around so often. eCommerce is defined as “The use of the Internet to buy and sell goods and services.” As many hotels have the option of making direct bookings that are booked and paid for on their site, this makes their website an eCommerce platform.
Your website is often the first touchpoint that any interested guest would view to learn more about your hotel. Regardless of what, when or who your online visitors are, you must ensure that your website is constantly performing at its best and also consider what your ultimate goal is: to turn online browsers into active customers. By improving your eCommerce presence, you can move closer to this goal.
Here are 7 ways that your hotel can improve its eCommerce presence:
1. Use high-quality images and copy
This goes without saying. You need to have fantastic images and great writing on your hotel’s eCommerce site.
We live in a digital age and a lot of the content that we consume is through some form of visual platform. Whether a potential guest sees your images directly on your website’s gallery or on your social media platform (Instagram, Pinterest etc.) they need to be of high quality. Don’t confuse this with high-resolution as this will make them hard to load and will cause a longer loading time which will result in a lot of online users leaving your site as they will be too impatient to wait. Your website needs to load fast, even with high-quality images. Ensure that the images you use are up to date and accurately represent your hotel. If something has changed in your rooms in terms of layout or decor, you have to depict this in the most current images on your website.
Another tool to take advantage of is your copy. This is everything that is written on your hotel’s eCommerce site. It’s the best place to set yourself apart from your competition as you will be able to write in your hotel’s tone of voice. Be sure to use words that correctly reflect your brand image, that are inclusive and that have no grammatical errors.
2. Design for accessibility
Another thing that you have to think about when it comes to your website is its accessibility. There are 7.53 billion people in the world and 4.48 billion of them use the Internet. That means that 58% of the population has access to the internet. Of these, there are 1 billion people, around 22% of all online users, who have disabilities.
It’s important to make your website accessible to all online visitors. There are a number of ways you can make your website more accessible, including adding alt-text to your images, ensuring your website has an updated design that can easily be used by screenreaders and you can also use tools, like accessiBe to make your website accessible and compliant with certain regulations.
Another thing to ask yourself is if online visitors can access your website through different means. Is your website mobile and tablet friendly? It is important that your hotel’s eCommerce site is available across all kinds of technologies as you never know how someone is viewing your website or through which device.
3. Make your website easy to use
The easier it is for your online visitors to find the correct information they need, the more likely they will be to either email you with an enquiry or even make a direct booking through your website.
Make sure that you don’t clutter your website! You need to ensure that your website is as user-friendly as possible. Try not to include images or information that aren't really unnecessary. A good tip that we can offer is to start with your home landing page. This is the first impression that an online user will have of your website. Ensuring that your website is simple will truly pave the way to booking via an easily understandable and navigable website and online booking process.
A good idea is to start by asking yourself these types of questions:
- Do I need all of these sections?
- Are we highlighting our hotel’s strong points? (i.e. a phenomenal Spa offering you have)
- Is the information accurate and honest?
- Are the images we have up to date?
- Are all the links to our socials working?
If you answered no to any of these points, don’t worry, all you need to do is sit with your tech team and make some updates and changes. There is absolutely nothing wrong with needing to step in and tweak some things, that’s a sign of strength in any hotel or business for that matter. Being able to analyse oneself, see room for improvement and then take the time to actually implement necessary changes will lead to a successful eCommerce site.
4. Answer FAQs
Online visitors are more likely to book with you if they know more about your hotel and its offering. Ensure that you are doing all you can to support potential guests in making their purchasing decision. Guests have a lot of hotels to choose from. The competition within the hotel sector can seem stiff and it’s hard to set yourself apart without it costing your hotel an arm and a leg. An easy way of making your hotel’s eCommerce presence more unique is to tell guests exactly what they can expect from you.
Go into as much detail as you can. Go further than just the amenities. Outline the unique characteristics of your offering. Perhaps the room in which the guests dine has a special history or contains art from a specific period and was painted by an old local artist. Talk about that! Make the idea of them eating breakfast in your dining room an experience that they simply cannot miss. Maybe some of the rooms have a spectacular sea view that you can boast about. We’d suggest doing more than simply calling it ‘The Sea Room Suite’ and leaving it at that. Include information that guests have left about the room, saying that it was easy to work from there as the cool breeze that trickled in through the french verandah doors and that the quiet made it easy for them to concentrate.
Essentially, you need to answer their questions before they have even thought of asking them. Hotel guests can be demanding and they want to know all there is to know before making a booking. That is a fair request on their part, so be sure to cater to it properly. Ask your reception team to help you make a list of all FAQs and add it as a section to your website so that guests can peruse these and feel a sense of calm and trust before booking with you.
5. Incorporate social proof
A nifty way to get more out of your eCommerce site is by building it in a way that includes honest and objective feedback on your hotel from past guests. Yes, you know exactly what we are talking about. Those all-important client reviews.
Guests trust fellow guests. If they can read that someone has stayed with you and had a wonderful time, they will trust that more than if you as a hotel assure them of this. A healthy level of scepticism has developed amongst travellers and it’s fair for them to want to read honest reviews from someone like them, who has stayed with your hotel before.
Include testimonials on your home page or add a separate section where you can list all the previous guests' experiences. This will help you in your eCommerce endeavours as guests will be more likely to book with a hotel that is transparent and honest.
6. Offer secure payments
Something that cannot be denied is how important it is for your guests to have safe payment methods at their disposal. The great thing about today’s technology is that almost every single eCommerce platform automatically offers you payment options that include Visa, AMEX, PayPal MasterCard and the list goes on.
Make sure you’re working with a booking engine provider who offers a range of safe payment options. It is especially important to make sure that you choose a partner that offers the local payment methods that your guests are using. The power of offering local payment methods can be huge—Stripe analysed the sales of Hong Kong-based businesses that sell into the Netherlands. Once they added iDEAL, the most popular payment method for customers in the Netherlands, sales increased by 79%. Make it easy for your guests to book with you by offering their preferred payment options.
7. Have clear CTA’s
A CTA or call-to-action is incredibly important when focussing on conversion. For hotels, a CTA often comes in the form of a clickable button on your website that gives your online visitor the incentive to ‘Book now’ on your website.
For eCommerce hotels, it’s important to not overuse the CTA function. Be sure to not include it all over your website as it comes across as very ‘salesy’ and therefore can be off-putting. Use it carefully and well. The most beneficial way of incorporating it is having it appear once or twice on each of your landing pages.
In the area where you write about your rooms and give detailed descriptions, you could add a ‘Book Now’ below one of the rooms. Or if you have lovely offers on your Spa experiences for a Mother’s Day weekend, you could add a ‘Contact Now’ that will lead your online visitor directly to your email address. Try to include a call to action on the most prominent spot on each of your landing pages to really drive the desire to get in touch with your hotel’s eCommerce site as much as possible.
It is important to grasp just how important the eCommerce world is and how it is the way of the future. Online sales are at a record high and only gaining momentum. Jump on board and start to take a closer look at your own hotel’s eCommerce presence and see if you can begin to incorporate some changes to benefit your eCommerce standing.
Hotelchamp is the easy way to get your hotel online, attract highly converting traffic and encourage guests to book directly. With solutions that allow you to have full control of your online presence, Hotelchamp is here to help you take back control of the guest experience. With Hotelchamp, everybody wins.