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HSMAI Digital Strategy Conference Notes: Responsive Design Panel

This post is meant to summarize the discussion in New York last week.

I was invited to be part of a panel on Responsive Design for Hotels with Andy Kauffman, VP of Global eCommerce Marketing at Marriott International, and Brian Estep, VP Sales at buuteeq. The panel was led by Michael Bennett, VP Marketing at KSL Resorts, who did a great job of asking good questions and keeping the discussion moving.

Read the recap from Hotel News Now.

Off the bat, our panel was taken aback by feedback from a mobile survey of attendees suggesting that a very high percentage of the room had either implemented a responsive design solution already, or planned to this year. I guess hotels are more savvy than we agencies give them credit for.

Here’s a few thoughts we mulled over.

What does responsive mean to Wallop today?

We’ve said this many times, and it remains true today. The introduction of the mobile web and with it, responsive design is the biggest change to the digital space in recent memory. Over the past 2+ years, it has fundamentally changed both the design and development process and philosophy for most agencies. The ones that ignored it are struggling to catch up. The good news about responsive is two-fold – agencies are getting better at implementing it and clients are actually starting to see a positive return on their investment (not always a given for emerging trends in this industry).

For hospitality industry, I think we’re seeing a shift in how we understand the fragmented nature of the web (both in device and context), not simply as a challenge, but rather, more optimistically, as an expansion of opportunity for brands to connect with their clientele in more ways and offer a better brand experience overall.

How has “responsive” changed over the last 12 months and how will it change over the next 12?

We believe we’ll see more of the functional parts of the web start to catch up – e-commerce, third-parties, and plug-ins. In concert with that, the user experience will continue to evolve. An example would be a restaurant building a responsive website, but failing to integrate a way to book a table on a mobile device – their key conversion channel. Hotels are indeed guilty of similar mistakes. So, I think we’ll see the fine-tuning of the tools facilitating the key revenue channels for hospitality brands.

In the end, digital users are only as forgiving as they are interested in your product. Indeed, there are still a good number of fine hotels with terrible web experiences that continue to maintain high occupancy and solid ADR simply based on their reputation.

By the same token, if people are unfamiliar with your product, they will be less likely to forgive a bad user experience.

If you’re in a city with an HSMAI group, make sure you attend one of their events this year.