Digital Consultation is a big part of what we do at Hammerhead, however, we rarely advertise this as a standalone service. Digital Consultation includes many of the services we offer, like Website Audit, Digital Strategy, UI/UX Design, Conversion Rate Optimization and Content Management & eCommerce Systems, but we also go much deep into topics like Discovery, API & Integration Research, Feature Design and Technical Specifications

The Challange

While considering their next website, Coast Hotels was deadlocked between a traditional open-source website and a Software as a Service (SaaS) platform. We consulted on a high-performance, integration-ready system that was to be delivered as a fully-managed model.

Tourism images from the west coast used for the digital consultation project.

Project Objectives

Drive Growth in RevPAR

Revenue per available room (RevPAR) is a metric used in the hospitality industry to measure hotel performance. It is used to assess a hotel’s ability to fill its available rooms at an average rate. The measurement is calculated by multiplying a hotel’s average daily room rate (ADR) by its occupancy rate. If a property’s RevPAR increases, it means that the average room rate or occupancy rate is increasing. RevPAR is important because it helps hoteliers measure the overall success of their hotel.

Reduced Maintenance and IT Costs to Operate

Coast reported high costs to maintain the existing system. We noted several deficiencies with the current platform and introduced our high-performance hosting & security maintenance package to deliver a modern hosting system at an affordable and predictable cost.

Increase Mobile & Tablet Conversion Rates

Conversion rates were reported as low on mobile & tablet devices. Our initial research indicated that low-performance scores and long page loading times are a likely culprit for abandonment. We outlined goals for mobile conversion, a plan for minimum-viable experience and a plan to monitor and increase conversion rates.

Growth in Engagement

Low-Engagement was also a problem with the old system. We designed several “community” elements that would increase engagement on the new website. These included: loyalty programs, adaptive user-focused content, “Gift an Experience”, a travel journal and gamification elements we dubbed the “Coast Hotel Bucket List”.

Digital statistics for the tourism industry; it's a good time to be a hotel chain!

Our Approach

We set out to understand what modern users’ expectations are of accommodation booking services and to provide an outline for a future-friendly digital service capable of capturing repeat business and bringing users back from services like Airbnb.

Services Rendered

When it comes to UI/UX: Users demand an easy, friction-free experience

Digital Consultation

Digital Consultation is a service we rarely advertise but is the foundation for all of our website redevelopment projects. Over the past few months, we have explored offering this service as a standalone service. This allows our clients to build out a theoretical solution and review their alternatives.

Discovery

Discovery consisted of a review of Coast’s branding, business strategy & goals and marketing strategy & goals. This discovery provided us with a clear picture of the who, what and why.

Website Audit

Website Audits provide our team with an understanding of what is performing well with a website, and what can be improved in order to achieve better results.

Digital Strategy

A Digital Strategy outlines a set of marketing tactics to drive traffic to your website and determines how you will convert leads into customers. 

Coast Hotels utilize a content marketing strategy, a social strategy, and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) campaigns to drive traffic to the website. Landing pages and a booking engine are used to capture conversions. A loyalty program, supported by email marketing, is in place to capture repeat business. Coast Hotels also uses traditional media to drive users to the website.

What is the future for Coast Hotels' digital brand?

UI/UX Design Strategy

We interviewed key stakeholders, reviewed user search & website analytic data, heat map data & video snippets of user interactions. Next, we determined how we could more efficiently and effectively lead users to conversion. Our UI & UX team used this information out outline a UI/UX strategy that was poised to increase conversion rates. A study on mobile & tablet user-ship was scheduled to precede mobile-first design to improve mobile & tablet conversion rates.

We use an agile project management methodology to deliver better websites

API & Integration Research

As businesses scale, tools are implemented to capture & interpret data and perform business & marketing functions. In order to automate processes and reduce rework, websites & web apps have developed to communicate with other systems. Plugins and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are used to connect these systems. APIs are a standardized set of commands and functions that are used to pass information between systems. Learn more about our Integration Services here.

Coast Rewards & Loyalty

Loyalty and Client Relationship Management (CRM) is currently running through TravelClick GMS. This system handles all guest information, login credentials, and email communication with guests. This system also powers the Coast Rewards loyalty program containing point balances for each member.

Property Management System (PMS)

The Property Management System (PMS) Coast had implemented was a mature, on-premise legacy system that offered little in the way of flexibility. This system was responsible for availability, rates, business intelligence and served as the central reservation system. Upon review of documentation, we discovered that the system was being modernized with a cloud-based system and open API. This system provided the flexibility to create a modern web-based design and simply pass information to the cloud-based PMS.

Social Integrations & Miscellaneous 

A handful of social integrations and miscellaneous integrations were requested to increase engagement and improve user experience.

Website optimization for mobile, desktop and voice search

Content Management & eCommerce Systems

As the system was primarily a marketing system, offered no traditional products and needed only a booking form to simply capture conversions, we decided against implementing a complex eCommerce system.

We explored two potential solutions for content management: a headless system that sent content to a lightweight javascript-based system and a high-performance system created with a traditional content management system (CMS). As the performance goals and technical requirements could be achieved with a traditional content management system, and fit the client’s budget, we outlined a system built with a traditional CMS.

GDPR Compliance

GDPR Compliance sets a standard for marketers and is a big step towards privacy online. A requirement for this project was GDPR Compliance.

WCAG 2.0 Accessibility

Accessibility provides equality for users with disabilities and is a critical factor for search engines. Compliance is important for search engine optimization (SEO) and could provide a critical bump to your rankings.

Compliance and accessibility requirements for the Coast Hotels Digital Consulting project

Feature Design

In order to achieve the project objectives, we designed a number of features with measurable goals.

Gamification Elements

In order to increase engagement, we outlined several gamification elements. These elements would tie into customer profiles with the Coast Rewards program.

Coast Hotels Bucket List
The Coast Hotels Bucket List keeps track of which locations guests have visited and which local landmarks the guest has checked off during their visit. The feature also allowed for the creation of a bucket list of locations to visit in the future. We envisioned the visited list to be similar to the Spotify “Review of the Year” feature.

Travel Journal
Tying in further to the customer profile and Gamification aspects, we outlined an optional Travel Blog/Travel Journal feature on the user profile. This is a place where a member can add in all of the information from their stay, where they ate, what they did. This could be displayed similar to the New York Times’ Website’s featured Story functionality. This data could also be useful to segment and further target specific users.

Website features identified in the Coast Hotels Digital Consultation project

Reviews & Social Integrations at the Hotel Level
Users are encouraged to leave a review with additional Coast Rewards incentives and points. We explored how we could use single sign-on to post rewards on the website (under specific hotel locations) and on social profiles and Google MyBusiness. This feature helps grow social marketing initiatives while supporting the user journey on the website.

Efficient Booking System

A high-performance website, streamlined with reduced clicks to conversion, an improved booking system design and advanced API tying in PMS, reservation, marketing and loyalty systems summarize our vision for the improved booking system.

Features identified in the Coast Hotels Digital Consultation project

Conversion Rate Optimization

Conversion Rate Optimization is the process of website enhancement which leads to an increased proportion of users taking a desired action on the website.

We determined bookings for future accommodations are highly influenced by past guest experiences. We designed systems for attracting users to the website and plans for improving service over time.

  • Define marketing goals: Attract more top-of-the-funnel users, attract more ready to book users.
  • Build a digital strategy: Social strategy for influencers/affiliates to drive users to landing pages. Marketing event-driven campaigns to online booking forms. Implementing content marketing strategies to encourage new customers to stay with Coast Hotels. Capture repeat business through loyalty programs. Creating supporting advertisement campaigns and directing traffic to online promotions.
  • Optimize the new website for conversion: Affiliate tracking & rewards. easy-to-build campaign landing pages. High-performance website and booking system. On-going support and monitoring.
  • Track & measure goals: Good marketers measure. We track goals, measure success, create roadmaps and iterate to help our clients grow.
Website support: Your website should be constantly evolving. We support our client's websites with on-going services.

Presentation & Research Documentation

We conclude our digital consultation services with a detailed presentation and question & answer period. Upon project completion we handover our research documentation.

Let's travel together!

Summary

This project implemented an extended research period to allow us to see around corners and plan a complex build. While we highly recommend this process, it is not always possible due to budgetary constraints and limited access to data. In the past, we have been asked to cut discovery and research budgets for increased production budgets. It is important to remember the old adage: Measure twice, cut once. Proper planning will often save you in the long run!