Less is more: What real guests told us about website messaging

At Triptease we’re committed to helping hoteliers drive direct bookings on their websites. There’s nothing we like more than speaking to our clients about what’s working well and what we could build next to make their lives easier. But there’s another group of people we’re just as focussed on - your guests.

There’s no point building an endless range of different sizes, shapes and colours of message to please clients if those messages are ruining the booking experience for their website visitors. There’s also no point wasting our engineers’ time building the kinds of widgets that guests don’t even notice, when they could be focusing their energy on new tools that will genuinely increase revenue for hotels.

Watching and learning from how guests interact

Our product design team runs regular user testing workshops where they observe how real guests actually book hotels online. Our latest round of testing focussed on all kinds of website messages - not just the ones we build here at Triptease but also those of our competitors. With more and more providers of website conversion tools entering the market, we wanted to understand which messages really worked and which were purely cosmetic with no real impact on the guest journey at all.

We asked participants to do three tasks:

  • Review four hotel websites featuring different types of messages (Full Screen messages, Notifications, Review Widgets, Live Chat, Nudge Messages and Price Comparison messages). Some were built by Triptease and some by other website messaging providers. The participants were not told that we were looking to see how they interacted with these specific products - they were simply asked to make a booking and review their overall experience. They also knew nothing about Triptease, our specific products or our goals.
  • Rank notification message categories in order of preference (Bookers, Viewers, Searchers, Availability, Location, Guest reviews, Pricing and Direct booking benefits)
  • Review some different notification layouts and designs

Here’s what we learned:

Too many messages reduces their impact

When it comes to website conversion messages, less is more. Most of our participants either didn’t notice or simply closed pop-up messages if too many appeared at once. Out of the four websites we tested, the participants noticed and reacted most positively to notifications on the website using Triptease tools. Sian King, from our product design team, believes that this is because we show fewer messages overall in the journey. We’re not bombarding visitors, so they are more likely to respond well to messages when they do appear.

Don’t show offers too early in the journey

Guests frequently reacted badly to messages that appeared too soon after they had landed on a website - particularly if they popped up immediately on the homepage or took over the full screen. In some instances they were very annoyed at the intrusion of a special offer while they were still making their up mind about booking the hotel. Additionally, Google actively penalises mobile sites with intrusive or obstructive pop-ups so it’s important to be really careful about what messages you choose to display on your mobile site. The only Triptease products that display on mobile are Price Check and Front Desk chat.

When a visitor has just landed on a website they don’t want to be presented with loads of offers while they’re still trying to digest information about the hotel. They become more interested in seeing offers once they have made the decision to book.

That’s why at Triptease we only have one message option that can appear as soon as a customer arrives on your homepage - a subtle Nudge Message. A Full Screen Message can only be used as a last resort if a customer is showing signs of leaving your website. Other message types won’t appear for 30 second on the homepage, and some only appear on the booking engine where we know they are more effective. If you need advice on the best combination of messages for your hotel, our Direct Booking Coaches are always here to help.

Guests don’t always trust the numbers

OTAs frequently use urgency and scarcity messaging to give website visitors the sense that if they don’t book now they might miss out. Many other website messaging providers have unquestioningly copied these notifications because hoteliers were keen to try the same approach. At Triptease we wanted to fully test whether or not these kinds of messages really do improve the guest experience and help them book before we added those options to our Message Builder.

This round of user testing made one thing clear - guests don’t always trust the numbers on these notifications. All our participants were suspicious of the numbers they were shown on Searcher and Booker notifications, precisely because OTAs use them. In fact the higher the number the more likely they were to assume it was fake. Most of the hoteliers we’ve spoken to about urgency messaging were concerned about the exact opposite - the effect of the number being too low. This is a really useful finding for our Message Porter team to consider as they continue to add more kinds of notifications to our platform.

Messages should be short and simple - but they can be interactive

From a design perspective short, simple messages worked much better than more complex options. Guests don’t want to spend too long reading content that pops up on your website. That said, they do seem happy to interact with the right messages by expanding them or clicking linked text. We saw this with our own soon-to-be-released Location Notification as well as messages that contained a link to find out more.

Visual cues - like icons and images - are vital

Another design learning was that icons have a positive impact on customers. They often gave participants helpful visual cues as to what the message was telling them, and what the hotel offered.

Building a great experience to help guests book

The Direct Booking Movement is all about making the digital hotel experience great, so that customers will pick the direct option over an OTA. We hope these key points from our recent tests help you make informed decisions about your own website messaging, and how customers might react.

At Triptease we do not build features without thoroughly checking that they make the journey to booking easier for potential guests. That’s why we spend just as much time learning about the people who use hotel websites as we do speaking to hoteliers themselves.

About The Author

Holly is Brand & Product Marketing Manager at Triptease.