technology, hospitality, and plumbing…

Hotel websites are all the same?

In General on June 18, 2010 at 09:54

Read an interesting post on Hotel Blogs — Most hotel websites look the same, try to be different — which comments on Seth Godin’s assertion that hotel websites all look the same.

Interesting point. Leaving aside the bigger point that hotels are struggling to innovate in their core product and brand offerings, innovation with travel sites is hard. In the early years of the internet, it could be argued that innovation was high — when the marketing department controlled the sites, and looked for the Wow! factor, often through Flash and lots of graphics. The result was a bit of a mess, and sites that didn’t necessarily generate a lot of revenue.

Since then, with hotels going onto their second or third generation websites, responsibility has passed to the Revenue, or in larger organisations, Ecommerce departments. These people are largely driven by stats and metrics, and have learned a lot from established ecommerce sites about usability, SEO and conversion. Most successful ecommerce sites seem to have Amazon as a model: even sites that are thought of as ‘innovative’ are more innovative in  business model or customer service — think Zappos.com — than the website itself. This metric-driven approach has led to less risk-taking, and therefore less innovation, but solid revenue, meaning that the sites are effective, but don’t contribute to brand.

Another reason, particularly from the big players, is the investment in a platform…sites like Starwood and Accor have a variety of brands served from the same web platform. This makes unique site concepts for individual brands more difficult. Both Starwood and Accor have made steps to differentiate the sites for each brand, but it’s a slow process.

It is possible to be innovative, and we can see the beginnings of this in the 2- and 3-star space. Often these properties don’t have beautiful buildings, and large, impressive spaces. This means less hero shots available for the web developers, but forces them to come up with something more innovative. I’ve been involved in 2 such projects recently, a 3-star chain based in Bangkok — Glow Hotels — and a 2-star chain based in Jakarta — Pop! With both of these, we tried to clearly explain the brand promise, and what the user can expect. Innovative? I’ll let you be the judge. But Seth, please be assured that some of us are still looking for innovative solutions in the hotel space.

Anthony Green – June 2010

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