Advertisement
10/27/2011

Don't Derail Your Website: Speed Should Trump Functionality

Online travel bookings worldwide are expected to reach a record $284 billion this year — up from $256 billion last year, according to the market research company PhoCusWright. As hotels compete for a piece of this revenue, the speed and availability of their websites is critical. According to Marriott, the company believes it could lose up to $800,000 every hour its website is not running.
 
Speed is just as important as availability because consumers are aware of competitive websites available for booking a hotel room and will quickly leave a slow or poor performing site. Forrester Research found that visitors are only willing to wait two seconds or less before growing frustrated, abandoning the site, and moving to a competitor. 
 
Hotels devote tremendous resources to attract con­sumers to their sites, but neglecting speed can render these efforts fruitless. Poor website performance impacts customer experiences resulting in increased page abandonment, a loss of revenue and customer loyalty, and driving them to more expensive customer contact channels or competitors.
 
While websites have evolved to engage with customers to drive sales, the fundamentals of providing fast and reliable site performance are becoming increasingly more difficult to manage. Today’s hotel websites and applications are more engaging, dynamic, and feature-rich, making them increasingly complex. 
 
More Features
It’s common for hotel websites to incorporate numerous services from third parties including flight reservations, car reservations, photos and tours of event settings and even budget calculators for event planning. While these features can enable a more satisfying online experience, they can also present a risk since external components comprise an overwhelmingly large portion of the time a consumer waits for a website or application to load.
 
For example, many hotel sites rely on content delivery networks (CDN) to provide faster downloads. But recently Akamai, a leading CDN provider, experienced an outage. Due to the feature-richness of its sites, hotel and resort sites were among the hardest impacted by outage. 

 
 
Poor web performance puts customer satisfaction, brand, and revenues on the line. With consumers scrutinizing every dollar spent on travel and leisure, online hotel sites can scarcely afford to give users a reason to switch to a competitor. According to Compuware benchmark research in August, the page load time of the US Hotels and Resorts home page (as measured from an end user’s desktop with the user’s real connection speed) averaged 6.4 seconds – which is far above Forrester’s two second threshold.
 
Mobile Impact
However, it’s not just the performance of the traditional “fixed” web that hotel companies need to be concerned about. With an estimated 25 million US mobile users researching travel information on their mobile devices before making a trip this year, mobile devices are expected to transform every phase in the travel process.
 
Today’s consumers want to be able to search for and book hotel accommodations on the mobile web in the time it takes to wait at a cross-walk or hail a cab. By giving consumers the “anytime, anywhere” convenience of searching for and booking hotel accommodations, there is an opportunity to leverage the mobile web to attract new customers and increase sales.
 
A consumer survey found that nearly 60% of global web users expect a website to load on their mobile phone in 3 seconds or less. Hotel sites that fail to manage mobile web performance may inadvertently trade a lucrative opportunity for a significant liability. According to Compuware benchmark research, of the five hotel sites measured in August, not one is providing mobile page load times of three seconds or less.
 
Secrets to Success
Delivering exceptional web and mobile experiences can be a complex challenge, but a key to ensuring performance is to proactively monitor speed and availability on a wide variety of computing devices and browsers from the only perspective that matters – your end-users. Monitoring performance can help hotel companies verify that their site is meeting user expectations while proactively detecting and quickly resolving web performance issues, often before users are aware an issue exists. 
 
Monitoring from your end-users perspective can help in proactively identifying performance degradations and root causes so you can take the steps needed to resolve a problem. For hotels whose business depends on web applications, quickly assessing the business impact of a web performance problem and rapidly determining where the issue originates to minimize end-user downtime can result in improved customer satisfaction, enhanced brand perception, and increased revenue.