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In my last article, I asked whether Booking.com is the most persuasive website in the world.
Now I want to provide more insights on how it is delivering content on a crucial page in the browsing journey: the hotel detail page.
If you’d like to read more about the persuasive techniques used on the search results page, take a look at my article titled Booking.com improving conversion with best practice persuasive design.
Big, bold, inviting image
Visit any one of the hotel detail pages on Booking.com and straight away you are hit with a big, bold image of the hotel.
I need to hold my hands up and say that I don’t know how well each hotel is being portrayed as there are far too many to look at and, based on a presentation I had the pleasure of witnessing at the annual company conference back in 2010, there will be some absolutely shockers hidden in the depth of the website.
But I digress. When you are booking a hotel, seeing large photos of the hotel, with easy to use navigation buttons and a wide range of alternative images to showcase the hotel, is a big tick in my book.
Don’t neglect the importance of utilising images to provide a richer and more emotive experience for your visitors.
Test out the impact on conversion of different types of images on your key landing page.
- Will a photo including real people help visitors to connect with what we offer?
- What type of image can we use to generate a more emotive response from visitors?
- If we are going to use photos of people, what type of body language being portrayed will help increase our conversion rate?
Property highlights section
When you first arrive on a hotel page you are presented with a Property Highlights section which immediately provides useful, relevant and potentially persuasive information about the hotel.
This includes what the popular facilities available are, what the hotel is highly rated for, and places of interest near to the hotel.
On your top three to five landing pages, and on your primary template page if you have one, provide an area near the top of the page which summarises the content and benefits of what visitors will find on this particular page.
Think to yourself, “If we could get every visitor to remember three things about this page, what would they be?”.
Prominent review insights placed on the image
Of course, customer ratings and reviews are a very influential and important part of any businesses persuasive strategy and ensuring visitors have access to the review score and a link to all reviews are fundamental elements to get right.
Booking.com chooses to include the review score out of 10, the description of what this score means (i.e. fabulous, good, excellent), the volume of reviews received and snippets of traveller reviews, all within a space which doesn’t detract too much from the main focus of the page (the large image).
Even just by including the review information on top of the image with a faded background to ensure it is readable is a small touch that I very rarely see online.
I feel this works really well to join visual impact with social proof.
If you have product or service ratings and reviews, evaluate two things:
- At what stages of your primary user journey do you provide these customer insights?
- How prominent (or not) do you make these customer review scores and quotes?
From our experience in testing, businesses shouldn’t be shy about letting visitors know what other existing customers think about their products and services.
Also consider opportunities to dynamically display short snippets from customer reviews without visitors having to go to your reviews page to read customer highlights.
Bonus tip: Provide the name and location of the person who has left the review and allow customers to view reviews from ‘people like them’.
Booking.com do this by grouping reviews by type of traveller e.g. families, couples, solo traveller and provide name and location of the reviewer to give better transparency for visitors.
A wide range of images to sell the hotel and overall experience
Not content with providing a huge primary image on the hotel detail page, from the hotels I have looked at previously, Booking.com goes to extreme lengths to provide visitors with a wide range of images.
The images are there to sell the actual hotel but also the experiences travellers could have and some of the local highlights. This focus on providing images which provide a richer browsing experience for visitors will I’m sure, help increase conversion rates particularly on those hotels which have a full library of photos.
To quote a recent participant in user research we conducted for a multichannel retailer:
When you are on the website you need lots of photos so that you can get a really good feel for the product, like when you are in-store and able to look at the product in detail.
Test the impact on conversion by providing a wider range of images to showcase your products and services. Think how best can we get visitors as close to what we provide, as they could if they were in-store.
Simple intuitive controls for scrolling through images
Booking.com recognises the importance of encouraging visitors to scroll through the library of images for the reasons already shared and ensures that visitors know almost immediately as they begin to view the hotel detail page how you can click through the gallery.
It’s a small but important touch. As your mouse cursor moves over the main image (which let’s be honest, it pretty much has to if you want to scroll down the page) the left and right scroll arrows appear in the bottom right corner of the image.
We see time and time again in user testing that when a website uses subtle animations like this, visitor’s attention is usually always grabbed as they wonder what has just changed.
In addition, notice there are none of those small little dots which many websites still use, particularly on the loveable homepage carousels.
If you provide multiple images on your website where it’s up to the visitor to choose to browse through them, look at ways of drawing their attention to the controls they need to use.
A simple animation or fade in/fade out can do the trick. Just please don’t just use a row of small dots. Please.
Repeating primary proposition messages between key content
As with the rationale for providing visitors with a sitewide USP bar so irrespective of where they land or navigate to, you are providing visibility of your key proposition messages, Booking.com recognises the opportunity to repeat key messages on the hotel detail page.
Notice how they are positioned after the pricing table but before the full breakdown of facilities for the hotel.
A small touch but one where the positioning could be the difference between getting visibility or not. Notice too how some of the messages are specific to the hotel you are booking. Plus the continued use of the tick icon to highlight that these are all positive messages.
Identify all the primary pages that visitors will typically see through your user journey. Taking your list of customer researched unique selling points that best resonate with your target audience, look at when and how you are communicating these messages to visitors.
Don’t worry about the possibility of making a few of your key pages a bit longer if it means you are able to test adding in content which promotes your unique selling points and value proposition.
Also test what is the most effective location on your key pages is to promote your USP’s.
Positive re-enforcement when you choose a room
Another small but very noticeable touch provided is when you choose a room you would like to book. Not only do you get a slightly Ling's Cars-esque animation of colour in the right hand panel, you also see the message “You got the best price!” (In red which I reckon will have been tested), plus some further supporting messages of the booking you are about to make.
Small touches but these types of messages help to make visitors feel like they will be completing this booking and that they are getting the best price which fits in with the perception they had when they started searching for hotels on this website.
During the process in which visitors are specifying their intent to interact with your website, look at ways of providing simple feedback to them which should be aimed at encouraging them to complete whatever process they have started with you.
Customers who viewed this also viewed
One of the most common social proof tactics used by retailers is the promotion of what other products visitors have been looking at.
Booking.com provides a section at the bottom of the hotel detail page, which in quite a small space manages to cram in some exceptional, persuasive content.
Think the star rating, hotel overview, most recent booking made, review score, review volume, and total price based on the selections you have already made. It makes for quite a compelling piece of content.
It all feels tailored to me and that Booking.com is really trying to help me find a great hotel deal. (I’d put a fiver on the site also using a clever recommendation system which ultimately helps increase value per visitor too).
If you aren’t doing so already, identify what buying or intent to buy data you collect which can be used to promote other products or services that you provide to customers.
Once you are doing this, conduct user research to understand what the most important and influential pieces of information about each product or service are, that resonate with your potential customers.
Once you know this you can start to be selective about what information you present to visitors in your “customers who viewed this also viewed....” section.
Questions for you...
- Which other websites do you feel could have the title of “the most persuasive selling page in the world?”
- How much is too much when it comes to using persuasion techniques? Do you feel that Booking.com is trying too hard to persuade people to book with them?
Thank you very much for taking the time to read this article, and please do add your comments.