Protected: Booking a holiday cottage – the guest experience
It is extremely important that the guest experience when researching, selecting and booking a holiday cottage is uncomplicated and clear. They must feel well informed before making their decision, not be disappointed when they arrive and be looked after in the event of a problem arising during their stay. This encourages positive feedback as well as repeat business.
We have given this whole process our greatest attention to make the guest experience second to none in our sector. So, let’s take a look at how this comes together.
The first step in booking a holiday is research. They have probably chosen a destination, in our case the Whitby area, and that they wish to stay in a holiday property. What we must first do is ensure that they find Shoreline – normally on Google or Bing.
In order to be on the first page for key search phrases such as ‘Whitby Holiday Cottages’ takes a good deal of effort. Every word we use on our website is scrutinised by the search engines before giving us a ranking. Shoreline employs a professional copywriter to create all our property entries, a professional photographer is used to ensure all our property images are of high quality and we regularly add content on the website in the form of blogs to emphasise that we are knowledgeable and trustworthy.
Our website was designed by brand experts and has been optimised by specialists in what is known as search engine optimisation (SEO for short) to ensure we continue to retain and improve our search ranking. It would be unrealistic to believe we can be ahead of certain competitors such as Sykes, Holiday Lettings, or booking.com but we usually rank above our local competitors.
Our website is mobile optimised. In other words it has been designed specifically for a Smartphone or Tablet, not a desktop computer of laptop. This has encouraged less bounce rates, higher engagement levels and improved conversions.
We have been found – now what makes Shoreline so much better than our competitors?
We have all had experience of visiting a terrible website where it’s hard to find what you want and/or difficult to make a purchase. We set out to offer transparent information about the properties we are marketing and make the whole process from finding a holiday cottage to booking it, accurate and simple. How does this present itself on our website?
Finding a property to suit:
Our website has a very sophisticated filter system that allows users to request a list of properties that match their search criteria. Because of this, from our 30 or so properties only the properties that match their criteria will be listed, making the decision process so much easier. Some guests wish to be in a certain part of the town.
The search list can also be presented as a map to make it easy for guests to gauge the distance of each property from the local attractions, the beach etc. If they are unable to choose between several properties the guest can mark those they like as a ‘favourite’ and when ready, compare their key features. Their favourite list can be saved and returned to on a later date.
Making sure the property is in the style they are looking for:
To ensure guests are completely happy on arrival, we ensure that the website is information-rich. All websites have photographs, text and location maps but we go a step further:
- All photographs are taken professionally and are comprehensive. We ensure the important features of the property are visible.
- A 360 virtual tour is included with every property. There is nothing more comprehensive than this.
- Along with the 360 tour comes a ‘dolls house view’ – a 3 dimensional image of the entire property and also, complete floor plans showing furniture layout.
- We provide information on matters that are very important to some guests – for example the size of beds (king size, standard double, single etc), steepness of stairs and cobbled paths.
- Website users can build and download their own customised brochure.
- There’s a ‘share button’ for users to directly send the property details via Facebook, Twitter or email.
- We have some private parking bays and garages that we automatically offer to guests looking at properties without parking facilities. This can overcome a key booking objection for some people.
- We are planning on introducing drone footage onto the website in the coming months.
As soon as a guest selects a cottage, date and duration of stay, the website presents them with a price and details of all offers available. We always show the best price, taking into account all current offers. It is never possible to book the same property anywhere else at a lower price. This best price guarantee builds trust in our brand.
We have an online ‘chat tool’ called LiveChat that can be used by people wanting to make an enquiry without having to call us. This is a useful tool for those wanting to gain additional information promptly before placing a booking. This facility also helps build customer trust in our brand.
Blogs – what makes them important?
Simplistically, a blog is a news feed that is essential for a website to be successful for a number of reasons:
Firstly, they inform our guests in matters unrelated to the holiday properties. For example, on our website we talk about the history of the town, we inform guests about pet-friendly beaches, pubs and restaurants in Whitby, we tell them about where they can park, recommended restaurants, and local events that are taking place.
Secondly, and most importantly, Google and Bing love them because they demonstrate that the website is genuine and much more than just a commerce site. This gains trust – all important to the search engines. We aim to post at least one new blog every week. These blogs are also posted on social media with links to our website which in turn drives traffic to our website and helps to increase bookings.
A simple booking process
It is essential that when a holiday cottage is chosen the booking process is simple to follow and does not take longer than necessary.
We have refined the process so that the minimum number of clicks and actions are required to make a booking. Payments are taken using SagePay and we treat data security very seriously and do not retain any card details on our systems.
All booking confirmations, arrival instructions and follow up communications are automated including, when relevant, chasing balance payments and offering additional services such as private chef hire, parking and or a hot tub rental.
In the case of returning guests, the process is even easier as their address and contact details are saved on our database so there is no need to re-enter this data.