A Visitor's Perspective of Your Online Brand
By Jerry Tarasofsky CEO, iPerceptions Inc. | March 21, 2012
If you are sensitive to and recognize that you must address the needs and wants of your web site users and create a user-friendly web site, you most certainly will also create a site that enhances your organizations traditional brand. Failing to recognize the unique challenges of building a hospitality property on the information superhighway means that in addition to failing online, you also run the risk of negatively impacting your traditional brand.
Think about it for a moment. A visitor comes to your site and has to wait what seems like hours for your home page to download. That same visitor then waits an additional 30 seconds or so to view photos of your rooms. If your site is poorly constructed, they will also have problems navigating through the site and will most likely get lost a few times. Finally there is the endless wait for the virtual tour to load and do its thing. When your visitors are finally ready to make a reservation, the "Confirm Your Reservation" feature crashes and they are faced with the prospect of having to start the process all over again - or even worse, they now have to contact a customer service rep to find out if the reservation they made was actually recorded somewhere in your system. How do you think this reflects on your brand? What does it say about your commitment to being a forward thinking proprietor or running a customer centric company? How will the user feel the next time they see an ad for your hotel on television or in a magazine. The answer is "probably not very good".
I would like to suggest that you view your online brand as a reflection of the heart and soul of your organization. The quality of your hotel and the level of service excellence that you deliver in the bricks and mortar world must likewise be mirrored online. I would guess your organization constantly monitors guest satisfaction as it relates to their stay or a visit to one of your restaurants. Can you say the same for your online initiatives? When was the last time you stopped and listened to what your online visitors were thinking? Do you have a way to track their level of satisfaction with your site? Do you know how well you stack up when it comes to delivering on your brand promise compared to other hotels in your sector? Online is no different than offline. You know everything there is to know about your guest's "in-hotel" experience, but I'll bet you don't know everything there to know about their "online experience".
Call these next few paragraphs Web Branding 101 but it's important for you to understand and recognize the impact your online branding and web site have on your overall traditional brand.
Online branding can be defined as "the sum of the expectations that users have when interacting with your site." In essence, your online brand is an expectation or a promise waiting to be fulfilled. Brands are shorthand for trust.
Inherent in your online branding is your online brand promise. This is a statement of assurance, and a perception of future excellence. Your goal in making this promise is to create a customer relationship. If you can build a successful relationship with your users, you will also generate user loyalty. Think of your web site and ask yourself how it contributes to the following three key areas tied to branding.