Internet professionals looking to 'check out' what's needed to be successful online needn't look further than Best Western.
The global hotel chain continues to dominate the Web with many industry firsts - like being the first to allow guests to book rooms directly on its Facebook page in 2012 (see image at the end of the article).
More recently, Best Western will be the first hotel brand to offer Google Business Photos, 360-degree virtual tours, of all of its North American hotels powered by Google's Street View Technology.
"By the end of the year, guests will be able to virtually walk through the hotel and explore the lobby, rooms or restaurant of any Best Western location with just a few clicks," said Dorothy Dowling, senior vice president of marketing and sales.
Web workers know the value of photos when it comes to increasing conversion, but Best Western's virtual tours are specifically useful as consumers are growing tired of static images and demanding spin imagery, 3-D photos, videos and more to mimic in-store (or in this case, in-hotel) buying/booking experiences.
This isn't the only Best Western digital experience that is meeting consumers' changing demands.
"Our booking data shows a growing trend toward mobile and multi-screen purchase experiences," said Dowling. "As a result, we launched newly designed apps for iOS, iPad and Android last year. The Best Western To Go mobile apps were part of a comprehensive update to our overall online experience.
"With more than 100 million people worldwide using iPads, we knew we could leverage the larger tablet screen size to improve the experience for iPad users. In addition to a richer visual experience on the iPad app (pictured), all app users can manage their Best Western Rewards accounts and enjoy partner integration with TripIt, TripAdvisor and Bing."
Knowing the importance of reviews, Best Western also integrated TripAdvisor reviews when it completely redesigned bestwestern.com in 2012, while also creating a visual refresh and establishing a shorter booking process. A year later, the company introduced an 'Internet Only Rate' for booking on bestwestern.com that led to a substantial increase in traffic.
Dowling says Best Western is using many of the learnings from this increased site traffic to make further enhancements. The company is also very focused on mobile and content creation. In the next year, expect Best Western to integrate new technology and promotional layers that build on its past successes.
Head of analyst relations, public relations, customer advocacy (People Heroes), customer community, content marketing (full funnel/lifecycle), content operations and optimization, reputation management and social media. Leads a team of nine superstars to exceed our goals multi-fold.