Luxury hotel and resort websites come in many shapes and forms. Sadly things like navigation, loading speed, ease of use, conversion design, and information architecture are often neglected in favor of aesthetics, brand policies or CMS templates.  Is it possible to find balance between design and functionality and what are the benchmarks that you should apply to your own web development or CRO project if you are a luxury hotel or resort marketer? In this article we are going to highlight some essential web design and CRO basics and a simple step by step approach you can follow if you want to drive more conversions in the form of MICE leads, F&B bookings or direct room bookings through your website. Let’s start with definitions.

What is CRO?

 

Conversion rate optimization is a very technical and complex modern marketing discipline that sits at the crossroads between marketing analytics, web design, and consumer psychology. Think about it like this: good luxury web design should take care of functionality and aesthetics on your hotel or resort website, so much is clear. Consumer psychology, on the other hand, tells you what your affluent customers are really thinking, what they want, and what they need from your website. Last but not least, marketing analytics helps you to measure, record, and analyze anything that happens in real-time on your website. So far so good. But once you start combining different criteria and best practice from all these three areas you can start making decisions on what elements you should focus on when it comes to re-designs, how visitors might interact with those new website elements and what methodology you should apply when changing things. While having a CRO team  is not affordable for small businesses in most cases, having a dedicated CRO function (either in-house or as an external partner) that works with IT, web and marketing on several experiments at any given time, can mean the difference between a quickly thrown together failed non-functionable embarrassment in the form of a crappy website or a high-performing revenue generation machine that supports a multi-national enterprise with a steady stream of bookings. Which one would you like to have?

Important elements of web design

 

Web design for luxury brands is always a bit more complex due to the fuzzy requirement to make the whole site look and feel artistic, aesthetically pleasing, and sleek while at the same time ensuring functionality and operational efficiency. Some of the most important elements we can list here that are involved in luxury web-design are:

  • The underlying content management system (CMS)
  • Design theme and CSS stylesheets
  • Logos, colors, fonts, font sizes, font hierarchy
  • Main menus and navigation
  • Buttons, pop-ups, and CTAs
  • Copywriting, web content, and keywords
  • Forms and checkout features
  • Plugins, pixels, analytics tools
  • Animations, sliders, images, video, audio
  • Information architecture (where to say what)
  • Visual hierarchy (what you want to drive attention to first)
  • URL structure and SEO meta data
  • Legal disclaimers, privacy policy, footers

Now the good and the bad news are that each and every single element I listed here can be switched out and A/B tested with a decent CRO approach. Let’s look at some pitfalls in reviewing these elements individually.

 

increase conversions for luxury hotel websites

The luxury design factor

 

What makes something look luxurious? This will most often depend on your industry, brand heritage, history, and target market. For some people Victorian England or French renaissance type interiors and architecture are the epitome of European, old-money luxury. For others it is an Asian minimalistic new money aesthetic.  So a lot of people use these types of influences to decide on major design factors like your theme, colors, logos, and visual elements. But ultimately, this part of your website is an integral part of your luxury brand nowadays and needs to be developed with brand specialists before you get into CRO and technical execution. Your luxury design should also extend from your website to all your marketing and sales collateral, as well as social, email, and advertising. If you are a new or small business you will most likely still struggle with this part, that is only natural. Taking time to make your luxury aesthetic look original and sleek is worth the effort though. The most basic question luxury branding on your website needs to answer for affluent guests is: “Is this hotel or resort a beautiful, elegant place with excellent service and high standards?”. If your branding cannot generate a yes in the mind of your potential guest, then everything else won’t matter in the first place. This is also the reason why OTAs are ultimately poison for luxury brand value when it comes to hospitality since they reduce all that brand work and rich context to couple room pictures, a price, a bullet list of amnesties, the location, and a short blurb of generic copy nobody reads.

When is it worth investing in CRO?

 

Let’s say you have covered all the essential web design elements we listed above, you are getting traffic, and a certain measure of results. When is it time to get into CRO and A/B experiments? As a rule of thumb that you can find on a lot of CRO blogs and in a lot of courses, until you have at least 500-1,000 conversion events per month (this can be opt-ins, form submissions, or bookings) getting into CRO is just not worth the time and money that experiments can cost. So for most independent boutique properties or resorts CRO  is non-starter, sadly. But if you are looking at franchise properties where you might have a templated website that is rolled out across hundreds or properties (Marriott systems, anyone?) making smart CRO experiments can generate millions if not hundreds of millions in additional revenue if successful! In that scenario spending on CRO becomes a must if nothing else.

Common opportunities for optimization

 

Now that we listed the most important web design elements, gave basic guidance on how aesthetics play into it, and established the threshold of conversion events that is necessary to make CRO work lucrative, let’s list out some elements we at Jadewolf have seen time and time neglected on luxury hospitality websites. These couple points alone lead to a majority of missed conversions and if fixed across the luxury hospitality industry, would reduce dependency on OTAs immensely by boosting direct bookings and increasing MICE lead generation. Ironically, it is these factors that are often low priority for most expensive rebrand exercises of big hotel websites:

  • The main navigation
    (Can people find the info they need easily?)

 

  • Information architecture
    (Is all the necessary information there?)

 

  • Visual architecture
    (Are we driving attention to what makes this property or brand special?)

 

  • The booking process and checkout
    (Is it easy, simple, safe, secure, and generates trust?)

 

  • Loading speeds and functionality on mobile devices
    (Can somebody book a room from their smartphone if they want to without losing their mind?)

 

  • Lack of conversion points
    (Are you offering people something worthwhile for opting into communications if they are not ready to book yet?)

 

  • Copywriting
    (Is your content generic, corporate, and bland or emotionally rich, written with a human being in mind, and focused on capturing the desire for luxury experiences?)

 

  • Generic luxury aesthetics
    (If I remove your logo from all your marketing materials, will somebody be able to tell your brand apart from your competitors?)

 

If you need to have a chat about any of these don’t hesitate to reach out. If your website is big enough, chances are a lack of excellence in these areas will kill your conversions.

increase conversions for luxury hotel websites

A simple 3-step method for running A/B experiments and measuring results

 

How do you go about doing the actual CRO work and fixing flaws in these areas? Well, you need to start simple. By identifying single elements and binary changes you can target for experimentation in any of these areas, you might be able to statistically come up with sound winners that make a difference on your bottom line if you follow this 3-step method:

1. Identify a single element or binary change you can test and come up with a solid hypothesis why this would lead to more conversions or better outcomes. Do user research if necessary first to come up with good insights to base your hypothesis on. For example, if we make this change, our customers will likely spend more time reviewing our different suites which will ultimately lead to more bookings.

2. Use technology to implement the change on your website (after working with your marketing or dev team you can use tools like Optimizely or Google Optimize to split the traffic 50% 50% between your A and B version). The experiment should have a fixed flight date and a certain number of users you want to test it with. Make sure that you have a statistical sound sample sizes. Too little and the results won’t mean anything, too large and the experiment might take too long or be influenced by factors like season or other externalities.

3. Stop the experiment and analyze the results with the help of your A/B testing technology and marketing analytics tools. If you have a statistically sound winner then make the change permanent and move on to the next experiment. Run through several experiments and identify big wins that can fund the rest of your CRO work. Keep developing new hypothesis and make your web development and site maintenance purely data-driven over time.

So there you have it. This is how you squeeze more conversions out of luxury hotel and resort websites. CRO is not easy to get into but for larger businesses it can be one of the best investments they can ever make in making their website more lucrative.

Did you enjoy this article? Do you want more? We also have a free checklist for your next luxury travel or hospitality marketing campaign that you can download by clicking on the button below!

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