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There is little doubt that residential rental sites such as Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway are disrupting the multi-billion dollar hotel business.
There is still significant debate about the long-term impact of that disruption but if a new study conducted by Hitwise, a division of Connexity, is any indication, these sites are complicating hotels' online efforts.
Hotel stays can be incredibly frustrating.
So, how can digital tools be used to make them more convenient?
My aim with these articles is to cover some of the most important needs in hospitality and explore how brands can use digital touch points to deliver.
Spend enough time in hotels and you’ll realise that your needs are varied and many.
Unless you’re getting five-star treatment, living away from home can be a frustrating experience at the best of times. At the worst, it can be total hell.
Though 72% of people would book directly with hotel sites if the price is right, the user experience on offer is variable.
A new report from Triptease looks at user preferences when booking hotels online, and contains some useful tips.
Here's a selection from the report, and some I've added...
Google is ditching its carousel integration for the hotel vertical in favour of a new (more profitable) 'three-pack' SERP rendering and some new secondary page experiences.
What does this mean for marketers?
Consumer reviews are effective sales drivers, and a trusted source of information for users, but very few hotel brands seem to make use of them.
Here, I've looked at some of the UK's hotel chains to see who is using reviews and, if so, are they doing it well.
On a recent post reviewing user experience on hotel websites, one commenter observed that airline sites were much more task focused than their hotel counterparts, despite both being in the same industry.
I do think that travel sites, hotel or airlines, should be focusing on the main user goals when they arrive at the homepage, which is normally encouraging them to search for the product in question.
To this end, a clear and prominent search tool is needed, with a minimum of distractions from it.
While there is an obvious temptation to cram lots onto a homepage, resisting this urge helps more users to start their search.
I've been looking at some airline and hotel chain sites to see how they approach this issue.
According to a survey, the answer is Premier Inn and Travelodge, the best-known budget hotel brands.
Premier Inn narrowly nudged out its budget rival, with The Hilton a distant third.
So what are these hotels doing right online? Or are the results merely a reflection of the popularity of these two brands?
I've been looking at the survey results, as well as how the top ten hotel brands deal with the search and booking process.
Airbnb's business model has certainly been 'disruptive' for the hotel industry, but a major factor in its success is the user experience.
While some travel brands have yet to fully adapt to the web, Airbnb offers an excellent user experience backed up by great visual design.
I've picked out several lessons that other travel brands, and indeed any online business can learn from Airbnb...