Premier Inn

Which hotel sites offer the best user experience?

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. 

Premier Inn’s superior multichannel experience

Premier Inn has topped the latest Multichannel Benchmark study from eDigitalResearch, which compared 17 online travel websites and their respective desktop sites, mobile sites and mobile apps.

According to the research, the UK hotel brand scored well across the board, but excelled in terms of booking process, design and usability.

It’s been a good year for Premier Inn’s digital transformation. Last April David Moth reviewed its new iPad app and found that its “stripped down design and simple usability” made it a useful tool for business travellers.

The owner of Premier Inn, Whitbread, has also attributed its use of social proof as part of the reason why profits rose much higher than analysts’ predictions last year.

Here’s a look at the eDigitalResearch benchmark, followed by our own thoughts on Premier Inn’s multichannel win.

Are travel brands making it easy for mobile users to contact them?

More than half of the UK’s top 50 travel brands don’t have a mobile optimised site, according to research published last week by the IAB.

Furthermore, although 52% of the top travel brands have a mobile app only 56% of them are transactional, while a third of the businesses have no mobile presence at all.

This means they are failing to provide an important research channel for their customers, as a separate study from JiWire has shown that when looking for information on their next holiday or business trip consumers are just as likely to turn to their mobile device as they are to use a laptop.

Similarly, new data from ResponseTap that highlights a fairly typical purchase journey shows the importance of mobile for travel companies, as customers often browse the mobile web as well as calling travel operators while researching their holiday options.

Does customer experience matter when the price is right?

For budget brands like Travelodge and Premier Inn, do business goals matter more than than good UX and customer experience? Or are they risking poor retention rates by failing to pay attention to the latter? 

Last week I had to cancel a booking I’d made with Travelodge. On investigating my lack of refund today I discovered that, as I’d booked a ‘saver rate’ no refund was due, even though I’d cancelled within minutes of booking. 

While the mistake was mine (I’d selected the wrong dates and only realised my mistake once I’d paid), it does leave a sour taste in the mouth and makes it less likely that I will use them in future. 

I though I’d take a look at the booking process of Travelodge and competitor Premier Inn (both of which offer these non-refundable saver rates) to see how effectively the two companies convey this information to customers. 

If you are going to offer non-refundable rooms, it seems the least you can do is make this abundantly clear to customers, so is this the case? 

Mobile is almost as popular as desktop for travel research: report

When researching their next holiday or business trip consumers are just as likely to turn to their mobile device as they are to use a laptop, according to new research from JiWire.

However laptops are still by far the most popular device when it comes to actually making a purchase.

The new report into mobile’s role in the travel industry shows that 56% of consumers use their laptop to research travel options, compared to 49% on tablet and 48% on smartphone.

This underlines the fact that travel agents and hotels need to have a mobile optimised site or app to cater for changing consumer behaviours.

Premier Inn’s simple iPad app is a useful tool for business travellers

Premier Inn recently unveiled a new iPad app alongside a revamped iPhone version as it seeks to increase mobile sales and repeat bookings.

The hotel chain took more than 100,000 bookings through its iPhone app in 2012 and the updated version has already seen average daily sales conversions increase from 3% to 5.9%.

Designed by Grapple, the new apps feature improved navigation, redesigned booking function, Trip Advisor ratings, the ability to add extras such as breakfast, and a simplified process for booking repeat stays.

The iPhone app has been downloaded more than two million times since it was first launched in January 2011, so to find out what the fuss is about I tried out the new iPad version…

Q&A: Premier Inn’s Steve Conway on mobile apps

Budget hotel brand Premier Inn launched a mobile booking app last week, which is available on iPhone, Android, Nokia and BlackBerry devices.

I interviewed Steve Conway, Head of Marketing at Premier Inn, about the company’s new mobile apps and its approach to online marketing.