The Wired Hotel: Pleasing Your Higher Frequency Website Visitors
By Jerry Tarasofsky CEO, iPerceptions Inc. | January 27, 2012
Your website should be a source of comfort for your die-hard, higher frequency visitors. Typically, the word comfort, when used in the context of a hospitality article, denotes soft beds, immaculate sheets, and epic-sized couches. But I'd like to propose that the idea of comfort should be carried over to the online channel, as well. If a hotel stay can excel in comfort, such that even the most jaded and weathered travelers feel that your rooms are like second homes, then shouldn't that same commitment be carried through in your web presence? It absolutely should.
The voices of real online visitors are clear and consistent on this point. By focusing only on the spectacular, the flashy, or the eye-catching, many hospitality websites are set up to under-perform. Maximizing the value of the online channel means first considering how well all this sound and fury will cater to the needs of repeat visitors. Time and again, we see lower visitor satisfaction, represented by lower-than-average iPerceptions Satisfaction Index scores, among brands that neglect the die-hards.
Findings gleaned from iPerceptions' Hospitality Industry Customer Satisfaction Report for Q2 2007, which includes data for visitors to 30 different hospitality sites, indicate that 56% of visitors had been onsite at least twice in the six months prior to their taking the survey. Further, 15% of visitors had been onsite at least six times during that period. A hotel website should therefore be set up to capitalize on this higher degree of acquaintance and familiarity. Visitors should not be forced to meander around the site, struggling to find content that they had previously accessed. Rather, they should find a quick path to what they are looking for, with the end game being the conversion of lookers to bookers.
An effective hospitality website needs to be positioned to cater to the die-hards. Putting aside the irrepressible bargain hunters, who are always checking hotel sites week after week to ascertain whether promotional rates are in play, our research consistently suggests that visit frequency is directly correlated with both booking intent, loyalty program membership, and with the number of nights in one of your hotels a visitor will spend each year.
Let's dig deeper into the data. Some insightful numbers emerge from a study run on the website of a major upscale brand for Q2 2007. We found that 34% of users who had visited this site at least six times in the six months prior to taking the survey indicated that they were onsite to book a reservation. Among users who had visited less than six times, the share expressing intent to book was 29%. Statistical testing reveals that this is a significant differential. Moreover, 90% of higher frequency visitors indicated that they possessed some level of membership in this brand's hotel rewards program, while only 70% of lower frequency visitors indicated that they were members. Finally, 58% of higher frequency visitors indicated that they spend at least 21 nights per year in one of the brand's hotels. The related figure for lower frequency visitors was only 12%.
The importance of visit frequency as a critical metric is borne out in these numbers. The findings are certainly eye opening. It isn't simply that higher frequency visitors are substantially more likely to be higher frequency travelers with rewards program membership than lower frequency visitors. More critically, the fact that they are more likely to book than lower frequency visitors suggests that they are also more valuable in terms of accelerating ROI.