Ms. Frank

Website / Online Mechandising / SEO

Is Changing Your Website Worth the Cost?

By Tema Frank, CEO, Frank Online Marketing, Web Mystery Shoppers International Inc.

There is no such thing as a perfect website. Even the companies that run the best, most successful websites in the world are constantly making changes and finding new, better ways to communicate and sell through their websites. But if you've got a limited budget (and who doesn't?) you need to think long and hard about whether it is worth the time and money needed to make changes to your site.

Let's take a look at what costs are typically involved. First, you need to do some research to determine what, if anything, needs to be changed. That entails a research cost. Then there are the costs involved in making the changes. And finally, there are costs to monitoring the results and checking to see if you are getting the expected return on your investment (ROI).

1. What needs to be changed?

You may have a gut feel that your website is not performing as effectively as it could be. You may have had some customer feedback about frustrations with your website. Or you may simply be hoping that by improving your website you'll get more bookings. None of these give you clear, reliable direction about where and how to make changes. Which means you can end up throwing out a lot of money by changing the wrong things, or changing the right things in the wrong way.

Instead, if you invest up front in some user testing, you'll be able to focus your efforts on changing what really needs to be changed. And with the right kind of testing, you'll know how to change it for maximum impact.

There are many ways to do user-testing, and they range in cost from a low of about $1,500 to upwards of $40,000. At the upper end, you will get a lot of usability expertise to help you design the right kinds of tests, an expert who will pore through tens of thousands of words of qualitative comments and possibly hours of video footage, interpret the results and make recommendations. The lower end will be much more basic, typically leaving it up to you to figure out what to test and to interpret the results. Depending on your levels of expertise and situation, either approach may work at certain stages of your website's life cycle.

Although there is a cost to testing, don't ignore the cost of not testing. There is the foregone income that results from making no changes to an under-performing website. If your website could increase the proportion of site visitors actually making a booking by even 5%, how much extra profit would that mean to you?

Alternatively, if you decide to make changes without testing, there may be money wasted in programming unnecessary or ineffective changes. These costs can range from hundreds to many thousands of dollars.

2. How to change it

Odds are that your testing will propose more changes than you'll have the staff or budget to implement immediately. So you have to look at each proposed change and cost it out.

If you do not have in-house web design staff and programmers, get quotes from more than one. The tricky part here is that the lowest quote may not be the best bet. Often people who bid low in the web design business are people with little experience and/or technical expertise.

Be sure you see samples of other work they have done that is similar to what you need done, and talk to companies they've worked with. Ideally, they'll give you a large enough client portfolio that you can randomly call on some of them, rather than restricting yourself to the reference names they've chosen to give you. One site designer we had considered working with, for instance, had great-looking samples, but when we called a couple of his clients they told us that working with him had been like pulling teeth.

Some website changes can cost virtually nothing, but have a huge impact. Things like replacing industry jargon with everyday language, or putting a toll-free number on every page. (The latter will, of course, have an impact on your customer service costs, but it will likely be justified by a higher rate of sales than you would have if people who couldn't find what they needed on the site just gave up and went to a competitor.)

Other changes will cost more, but still may be worth it. For example, one comment we hear consistently when we research hotel websites is that people want photographs of the rooms and amenities. There is an up-front cost to getting such photos onto the site (and doing so in a way that doesn't slow down your page opening speeds significantly), but given consumer reluctance to book online without having seen the rooms first it may well be worth the cost.

To decide if it is worth it, you not only have to look at the costs of implementing the change, but also at how your bookings currently come in, and what sort of customer you are targeting. If most of your business is from repeat customers, room photos may be less important than if you are running a vacation destination site that people will not likely come to over and over again.

3. Expected ROI from the changes

Even measuring success has a cost. That's why so many companies don't evaluate the effectiveness of their marketing efforts, particularly online ones. It is faster and easier to go by "gut feel". But one of the great strengths of the Internet is that it is so much more measurable than most other media. You can easily measure your online conversions (the number of your site visitors who end up booking online) before and after having made the changes. That will tell you whether or not the money was well spent, and give you clues as to which types of changes are likely to have the biggest future impact on sales. (See sidebar: Sample ROI calculation)

When you look at your own numbers, you may be surprised at how quickly website improvements will pay you back.

Tema Frank, Chief Instigator at Frank Reactions and Web Mystery Shoppers Inc., has been pioneering online success for hotels and other businesses since 2001. She has over 30 years’ experience in marketing, customer service, usability testing and business strategy. Her clients have ranged from small B&Bs in France to large organizations like Expedia, Travel Alberta, Sabre Holdings, Cruise Ship Centers and the Alberta Motor Association. Using social media techniques before social media existed, Ms. Frank built an international panel of 75,000 mystery shoppers using no paid advertising. Her company’s ground-breaking approach of having large numbers of prospective customers do usability testing of websites from their own computers changed the way websites are evaluated and gives clients great insight into how to increase web sales conversions. Ms. Frank can be contacted at 1-866-544-9262 or tema@frankreactions.com Please visit http://www.FrankReactions.com for more information. Extended Bio...

HotelExecutive.com retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by HotelExecutive.com.

Receive our daily newsletter with the latest breaking news and hotel management best practices.
Hotel Business Review on Facebook
RESOURCE CENTER - SEARCH ARCHIVES
General Search:

JUNE: Hotel Sales & Marketing: The Shift to Digital is Leading the Way

Lola  Roeh

While many industries are notorious for employee turnover, it is particularly painful for hospitality, where guest service is such a crucial part of the product. How painful? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the hospitality and leisure industry had the second largest number of employees voluntarily quit their jobs in 2014, with more than 6,000 people choosing to leave their current position. READ MORE

Tracey Anne Latkovic

Wellness is seemingly everywhere. Our shampoo comes from the corner of healthy and happy; our workstations allow for standing, sitting, and walking; fast food joints are now in the healthy choices game; and even our margaritas’ are skinny. The proliferation of health and wellness opportunities that have been thrust into our lives in the last few years have most of us wondering which end is up. Remember the 90’s? The low-fat, no fat, low-calorie, no calorie craze had our heads spinning and guess what? We ended up fatter than ever. We need to look beyond the hype to discover what’s best for our well-being. READ MORE

Mia Kyricos

Remember back in the day when the possibility of a hotel with a pool was enough to get customers excited about a pending stay? Fitness centers became the next “it” thing, followed by spas, which often began as “after thoughts,” thanks to a little extra basement space left on the construction drawings. Then for those hoteliers savvy enough to understand the appeal, spas were marketed as amenities, begrudgingly accepted as cost centers and widely misunderstood operationally. But guests sure did enjoy a good massage. My, have things changed. Or have they? READ MORE

Ann  Brown

The spa industry is constantly changing. Keeping up with evolving client mindsets, and of course, trends in the marketplace can be a challenge for any business. And to top it off hotel spas have to be flexible enough to incorporate changes into every part of the business - hospitality, spa and fitness, dining - it all has to come together perfectly to make guests have an experience that will make them come back. READ MORE

Coming Up In The July Online Hotel Business Review




Feature Focus
Hotel Spa: Branding Around the Concept of Wellness
According to a recent Spafinder Wellness survey, 85 percent of people have returned from a vacation less rejuvenated than when they left. Perhaps because of this, travelers also indicated that they now expect "wellness" programs to be provided by their travel destinations - 87 percent want healthier food, 82 percent expect spa/massage programs, 82 percent desire nature experiences, 73 percent prefer eco-conscious properties, 70 percent want gyms with cardio and weights, 54 percent would like healthy sleep programs and 47 percent are seeking meditation and mindfulness classes. To accommodate these travelers, hotel properties are branding around the concept of wellness. As a result, hotels are offering more spectacular gyms; more inspiring fitness classes; more expert-led, local runs and hikes; more free workout gear, bikes and pedometers; more in-room virtual training; and even personal trainers and nutritionists. For their part, hotel spas are also continuing to upgrade and innovate when it comes to providing expanded services to their guests. Some spas are offering more weightless flotation tanks, chambers and pools to combat the effects of gravity and others are incorporating new technologies like anti-gravity massage beds that simulate the experience of floating on a cloud. Some spas are offering Rest and Renew sleep programs, which include personal sleep consultations, sleep-inducing massages, total blackout rooms, extensive pillow menus and sleep-aiding snacks. Demand for natural, organic skin products is still very strong, and the same is true for aromatherapy products which can now being customized and personalized based on individual guest preferences. The July issue of the Hotel Business Review will report on these trends and developments and how hotel spas are integrating them into their operations.