Five Tactics to Establish a Brand Affinity on the Web

By Cid Jenkins Vice President, ATG's eStara | January 27, 2012

In a 2008 study from Forrester Research, over 80 percent of survey respondents said that improving the usability, usefulness, and enjoyment of the online experience is more important now than ever before - further demonstrating the importance of a hotel's Web presence. Although we've seen a steady increase in the number of hotels striving to create easy-to-navigate Web sites over the past decade, consumers are still looking for a better experience. From questions about booking, to impromptu issues that may arise during an online session, consumers will stick around a particular hotel's Web site only if they have an established affinity for the given hotel.

With the Web serving as an extension of the hotel brand, delivering a positive experience online can make the difference between a browser and a booker. How can hotels maximize this opportunity to establish a brand affinity through their Web presence? Here, I've listed five best tactics:

Improve customer loyalty on the Web

More and more hotels are gaining a reputation for catering to the needs of travelers by providing excellent services and comfortable accommodations. But in order for hotels to establish a brand affinity on the Web, its amenities can't start at the hotel lobby. The hotel's brand promise must extend to its Web site, arguably a consumer's first experience of the brand.

The Web site must be compelling enough to capture a browser's attention within seconds, or he'll be gone. When a customer first approaches a hotel's Web site, he's looking for intuitive navigation, attractive design, accurate up-to-date rates and availability status, and most importantly, an easy way to find the answers to his specific questions without a lot of searching.

By catering to their guests on the Web, hotels will help travelers build a sense of loyalty that permeates every interaction and influences future travel decisions.

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.