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Premier Inn has topped the latest Multichannel Benchmark study from eDigitalResearch, which compared 17 online travel websites and their respective desktop sites, mobile sites and mobile apps.

According to the research, the UK hotel brand scored well across the board, but excelled in terms of booking process, design and usability.

It’s been a good year for Premier Inn’s digital transformation. Last April David Moth reviewed its new iPad app and found that its “stripped down design and simple usability” made it a useful tool for business travellers.

The owner of Premier Inn, Whitbread, has also attributed its use of social proof as part of the reason why profits rose much higher than analysts’ predictions last year.

Here’s a look at the eDigitalResearch benchmark, followed by our own thoughts on Premier Inn’s multichannel win.

Here’s the overall rankings from the study:

The hotel sector dominates the top five here. In fact there’s very little to separate LateRooms, Hotel.com and Booking.com. So nudges Premier Inn that little bit further in front?

Consistent branding throughout each channel certainly helps, giving customers a sense of continuity and security.

Here’s Premier Inn’s desktop homepage:

It’s an inviting, warm place to be. As well as it should be, as this is a brand pushing comfort and a good night’s sleep as its primary selling point.

There’s a single search field, which allows you to search by place, postcode or hotel name. 

It automatically suggests place names as you type, therefore spelling isn’t a priority and the postcode entry doesn’t require you to insert a space.

Room pages are highly detailed with description, large photos and contact details. 

The pricing options are clear and colourful. You can change your options at any time with the Your Booking side-menu that remains throughout the process. Trip Advisor integration also adds to the aforementioned ‘social proof’.

There are five steps to the booking process, but each one is pretty integral for an accommodation website. Customisation of meal preferences (which are thankfully opt in), customer details, card details and confirmation screen.

It’s a fluid, efficient experience, with clear call-to-actions and a solid identity.

84% of those surveyed said that Premier Inn had the best mobile site, with excellent search, booking process and usability.

This is the mobile homepage:

Completely fat-free. You’re presented immediately with the most important options for your stay. There’s no carousel. No multiple screens of options. No scrolling. Just the five key fields for your needs.

Search thankfully retains the functionality of the desktop site. Suggested keywords are a must for the tiny smartphone screen.

When you’re through to the hotel page, you’re given nice images to scroll through to make sure it looks okay and you’re given access to Trip Advisor reviews.

Scrolling down you’ll find the clearly laid-out price options along with a bold call-to-action.

Within the menu you’ll find other key features from the desktop site, including a ‘view or cancel a booking’ option. This is a brilliant feature for the traveller on the move who needs to easily change a booking while on the move.

Although there are just as many screens to negotiate when it comes to payment, each one is efficiently optimized for the mobile user. Options are simplified, text input fields are large and all call-to-actions are bright and clear.

The app retains the same functionality of both the desktop and mobile sites, it just adds a fancier design to the mix.

There are lots of tabs to pull down or swipe

Each part is well designed and perfectly intuitive. 

Call-to-actions and navigation is clear. I also like the way that pop-ups appear as opposed to completely new screens.

It also uses geo-location to immediately provide you with hotel choices within your area.

In conclusion...

Although there isn’t too much difference between the app and mobile site underneath the surface, Premier Inn has done well to provide both, being as there is a divide between those who prefer the unique usability of an app to those who prefer the practicality of a decent mobile site. Premier Inn pleases all of these people.

Premier Inn has proved itself a multichannel winner by transferring the simple and efficient functionality of the desktop suit to both of its mobile channels. Each channel has been tailored specifically to the likely user of that channel whilst also creating a unified sense of continuity between each one.

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 27 March, 2014 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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