What Makes a Successful Mobile Hotel Website?
A study involving an IFTM researcher indicates that the availability of information about promotions is crucial for mobile device versions of hotel websites.
Research Corner | A partnership between Macau Business and the Macao Institute for Tourism Studies (IFTM)
As access to smartphones increases around the world, more and more people are using them to connect. This trend in consumer behavior has brought a multitude of business opportunities for many industries, including tourism, one of which is the opening of new channels for hotels to connect with their customers. A study by an academic from the Macau Institute of Tourism Studies (IFTM) indicates that hotels can use their official websites as “a powerful and effective marketing tool for successful and sustainable customer relationship management.”
The study involved IFTM assistant professor Dr Simon Lei, who worked in partnership with Dr Rob Law from Hong Kong Polytechnic University. They conducted an evaluation of the mobile version of the official websites of a total of 121 hotels in Hong Kong.
The researchers used a number of criteria to test the functionality of the websites based on the results of three rounds of focus group discussions. The set of criteria they developed covered a total of 37 attributes, each with an assigned weight.
With this tool, the researchers investigated the existence on the mobile version of sample details of available hotel facilities, reservations, promotions and contacts. The study also looked at issues such as the availability of useful information for travelers – including weather conditions, public transport, and the existence of hotel shuttle services – and the number of language options offered by travelers. Web sites.
The study, titled â€œEvaluating the Functionality of Mobile Hotel Websites in the Age of Mobile Commerce,â€ was published last year in the Journal of Travel and Tourism Marketing.
Information on promotions rated as ‘crucial’ for users
The study found that focus group participants highlighted the availability of information about promotions on the mobile device version of a hotel’s official website as â€œcrucialâ€. â€œThey were particularly interested in seasonal discounts, long-stay packages and [loyaltyÂ programmes] membership rewards, â€the researchers wrote.
At the time of their study, Drs. Lei and Law noted that official hotel websites faced “strong competition” from the websites of hotel price aggregators. These allow users to quickly find the lowest price for the same type of hotel room among different accommodation choices in a particular location.
In the absence of information on promotions, “official mobile hotel websites can lose a lot of value,” the researchers said, citing the focus group results. In such circumstances, “third party booking sites (eg agoda.com) will be sufficient for the travel needs of participants,” they added.
The focus group also underlined the importance consumers place on certain specific features of hotel mobile websites. For example, the availability of a â€œlive chatâ€ option that allows website users to interact with hotel staff. â€œLive chat capabilitiesâ€¦ can help build customer confidence,â€ the researchers said. “This way, travelers are assured of receiving responses on time.”
The researchers said the websites run by the hotels serve as the official channel between the consumer and the hotel company. The hotel’s degree of “readiness” in terms of web content – and “completeness” in terms of information – can “help improve guest satisfaction and mitigate purchase risk,” added Drs Lei and Law.
Their evaluation of the mobile device versions of hotel websites showed that the functionality performance of these websites was positively correlated with the star rating of hotels: hotels with a higher rating – for example, five stars – were more likely to score high on functionality. performance of the mobile device version of their website. â€œLuxury hotels arguably have more financial and human resources for the ongoing development and maintenance of company-owned websites than other hotels,â€ the researchers suggested.
However, the results of the mobile website rating also showed that hotels under the same brand did not necessarily achieve similar functionality scores. Drs Lei and Law said this appeared to be related to the degree of standardization at the company level. Some brands within a hotel group have used similar website templates and booking engines in their properties; other brands have taken a slightly different approach, allowing more flexibility in presenting and highlighting the uniqueness and character of each member hotel through their mobile-friendly websites.
Dr Simon Lei is an assistant professor at the Macau Institute of Tourism Studies (IFTM). He holds a PhD in Hospitality and Tourism Management from Hong Kong Polytechnic University. His research interests include information systems management, hospitality management, and technology-based businesses. Before joining IFTM, he held positions in several multinational organizations related respectively to information technology, public services, hospitality and higher education.
Dr Rob Law has worked in Canada and Hong Kong in the industrial and academic sectors. He joined Hong Kong Polytechnic University in 1995 and is currently a professor at the School of Hotel and Tourism Management at this university. He holds a PhD in Computer Science from the University of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. Dr Law has received numerous research-related awards and honors, as well as several external and internal research grants.
Simon Lei and Rob Law: â€œEvaluating the Functionality of Mobile Hotel Websites in the Age of Mobile Commerce,â€ Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing, Volume 36, Issue 6, pages 665-678, 2019.