Generally, two alternative approaches can be used for website evaluation: quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative approach, as the name suggests is closely associated with numbers and calculations such as the numbers of website visitors, visitor bounce rate, the numbers of countries the website is visited from etc. Qualitative approach, on the other hand, includes non-quantifiable criteria such as design, navigation, interactivity and others.
Qualitative approach has been adopted for Tophams Hotel website evaluation, and accordingly, non-quantifiable elements have been selected as evaluation criteria. The rationale for the choice of qualitative approach relates to the fact that factors impacting website visits and visitor experiences are qualitative as well. This argument is supported by findings of the literature review provided above.
The following table presents a set of website evaluation criteria selected to conduct Tophams Hotel website evaluation and briefly explains rationale for the choice of each criteria.
|Criteria||Rationale for the choice of criteria|
|First impression has direct and significant impact on the visitor bounce rate on the website. Factors impacting first impression include download time of the website, design features and capabilities, presentation of credential validations etc.|
|Navigation capabilities||Nowadays website visitors expect advanced level of navigation capabilities and absence of navigation capabilities at this level is most likely to have negative implications on brand image.|
|Quality of content||Importance of usefulness and relevance of the content can not be disputed. The literature review found factors impacting content quality to include information being up-to-date, availability of the content in several languages, FAQs and others.|
|Attractions are aimed at encouraging return visits to the website, and thus they play great role in achievement of website objectives.|
|Ease of finding information||This specific criterion can be marked as a critical success factor for any website and its importance is even greater in tourism and hospitality sector. This is because in tourism and hospitality the nature of customer decision-making depends on specific factors such as price, location, unique value proposition etc. Therefore, website needs to be able to provide relevant information with a high level of ease.|
|High level of interactivity has positive implications on the levels of visitor engagement and encourages commitment to make a purchase.|
|Browser compatibility||Different variations of browsers and monitors are available nowadays and their number is on the rise. It is important for businesses to ensure that their website functionality and performance does not depend on browser and monitor types.|
|User Satisfaction||User satisfaction is usually difficult to achieve due to the high level of subjectivity of the issue, nevertheless, high levels of user satisfaction is positively correlated with profit maximisation, hence the inclusion of this website evaluation criteria in this analysis.|
|Useful information||Inclusion of relevant useful information such as mission statement, company history, and career opportunities in website is going to have positive impact on company brand image.|
Criteria for website evaluation and rationale for their choice
1. Findings of Website Evaluation
1.1 First impression
Tophams Hotel website evaluation findings indicate that visitor first impression on the website is rather mixed. On the positive side, the website URL directly represents the hospitality company, download time of the website is within reasonable range, and there is no any software downloads requirements to enter the site.
However, on the negative side, Tophams Hotel unique selling point (UPS) is not made clear on the home page and font of the text on the home page is not very attractive.
1.2 Navigation capabilities
Navigation capabilities of Tophams Hotel website are far from being very effective. Specifically, the navigation system is not intuitive; there is no site map, and internal search engine does not exist. Moreover, there are no internal links within the site and name of the hotel at the top of the website is not clickable to return to the home page.
1.3 Quality of content
Tophams Hotel website contains up-to-date information about availability of rooms, prices, hotel features, and room facilities. Moreover, pictures of rooms and functions have been effectively presented in website gallery.
At the same time, the FAQ section contains only four questions and answers and there is no direct link to it from the home page. The absence of hotel blog, and additional information about local sightseeing sites for tourists and other useful information greatly compromises the results of content aspect of website evaluation.
A range of attractions in Tophams Hotel website is highly compromised and it is limited to discounts for booking multiple people. The literature review has found various competitions, special offers, and a wide range of freebies as tools to increase the levels of website attractions, however, these tools are not taken advantage of by Tophams Hotel.
1.5 Ease of finding information
Although, the most basic information is presentably displayed in Tophams Hotel website, there are no mega tags that could be used by site visitor to find information of interest in a timely and effective manner. Absence of site map, on-site search engine and only four questions and answers in FAQ section has further negative implications on the level of ease of finding relevant information.
Tophams Hotel website has basic interactivity tools such as contact form, address and telephone numbers details. Currently, the website does not have a set of effective interactive features such as calendar of events, online live chat, and hospitality-related interactive games and puzzles.
Additionally, Tophams Hotel website visitor experience can be greatly enhanced through the introduction of an online 2D navigation system of rooms that can be used by users to see rooms and facilities of the hotel in 2D system prior to booking.
1.7 Browser compatibility
Tophams Hotel website scores well in terms of browser and monitor compatibility. Specifically, the website is fully compatible with various browsers such as Safari, Opera, Firefox and Chrome, as well as, different screen sizes, including mobile devices such as IPad, IPhone etc and this fact is most likely to have positive contribution to the levels of revenues.
Findings of the literature review also support this point. Namely, William and Curtis (2008) stress the importance of compatibility with various browsers and screen sizes of the website, in order for the website to contribute to profit maximisation with an increased levels of effectiveness.
1.8 User knowledge
Implementation of assessment of user knowledge criteria of Tophams Hotel website is a difficult task to accomplish because businesses usually do not reveal this specific type of information to external parties for obvious reasons.
Nevertheless, obtaining user knowledge requires website to be highly adaptive, to be able to record visitor browsing patterns and buying history, and integration of effective data analysis software in order to turn this information into valuable marketing intelligence.
1.9 User satisfaction
Similar to the point above, attempts to assess Tophams Hotel website user satisfaction with high levels of validity and reliability is challenging due to the absence of relevant primary data.
Nevertheless, on the basis of findings of website evaluation conducted with the application of other criteria the level of user satisfaction of Tophams Hotel website can be assessed as moderate.
1.10 Useful information
The literature review has found a positive correlation between the amount of useful relevant information in the website and the numbers of visits to the website.
However, evaluation findings indicate that Tophams Hotel website does not contain information about mission or vision statement of the firm, or samples of its coverage by the press. Moreover, providing information about history of the hotel listing career opportunities with the firm could have positively impacted visitor experiences on the site.
2. Tophams Hotel and Social Media
Surprisingly, despite the fact that the literature review has found a consensus amongst authors regarding the role of social media in effective marketing practices, Tophams Hotel runs no official pages in social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Accordingly, it can be stated Tophams Hotel is currently missing great opportunities of profit maximisation to be achieved with minimum expenses.
Potential benefits to be gained by Tophams Hotel as a result of effective engagement in social media can be illustrated through the following points:
Firstly, social media can help Tophams Hotel to address target customer segment. Tophams Hotel is a four-star hotel and its target customer segment represents high-earning individuals visiting London for recreation and business purposes. Viral marketing messages focusing on Tophams Hotel value proposition can be developed so that they can be viewed and shared by representatives of target customer segment.
Viral marketing messages can be developed as marketing texts devised by hotel marketing management, video clips developed with assistance of a competent external agency or customer testimonials that emerge with minimum intervention of hotel staff.
Moreover, popular social networking sites as Facebook, Twitter and Google+ can serve as an effective marketing platform for Tophams Hotel in order to share important news about the firm and keep potential customers updated about special offers and promotions.
Secondly, social media can assist in facilitation of internal communication at Tophams Hotel. Communications via Skype or similar services through texts, calls, video calls and webinars have already confirmed important role of social media in terms of facilitating communication within organisations in an effective manner.
Additionally, the quality of internal communication can be increased by creation of a Facebook or Google+ group page that would update members of staff about important news at the same time promoting Tophams Hotel corporate culture.
Thirdly, social media can assist Tophams Hotel in terms of networking with other organisations in industry. Networking with other organisations in tourism and hospitality sector is important for Tophams Hotel in order to stay competitive. Social media offer possibilities of increasing quality of such networking at a significant extent. For example, a popular social networking site LinkedIn serves as a platform to eth formation of connections between businesses and professionals in wide range of industries.
However, Tophams Hotel management need to know about disadvantages of social media as well and address them in a proactive manner. These disadvantages include the possibilities of viral social disadvantage to damage the reputation as a result of ineffectively devised viral marketing campaign, and negative impact on the levels of employee productivity due to spending excessive time browsing social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and especially YouTube.
3. Additional Benefits offered by ICT
Tophams Hotel website evaluation and integration of evaluation findings with the findings of the literature review have shed a light into additional perspective benefits to be gained by the hotel though increasing the level of integration of ICT.
Electronic Point of Sale (EPOS) and Payment Management System (PMS) can be specified as massive advantages that ECT and internet offer to business entities. Although EPOS and PMS are integrated in Tophams Hotel website to a certain extent, benefits derived from these systems by the hotel are well below from their full potential.
In other words, currently, EPOS and PMS installed in Tophams Hotel website are limited to credit card payments as room booking deposits. Additional effective EPOS and PMS that are yet to be installed in Tophams Hotel website include PayPal, Sage Pay, Google Wallet, Dwolla and WePay.
Decision Support System (DSS) can be specified as another area where Tophams Hotel management can benefit through increasing the level of ICT integration. Findings of the literature review presented above indicate that inclusion of DSS capabilities can contribute to more informed decision-making with DSS software recording and analysing data related to various aspects of consumer preferences and ensuring that this valuable information is taken into account in decision-making.
4. Conclusions and Recommendations
Located in Belgravia, Central London, Tophams Hotel is in a good position to increase the level of its revenues through identifying and utilising additional sources of competitive advantages besides its location. This article has focused on a specific source of competitive advantage – increasing the level of revenues through achieving increased benefits from ICT.
Website evaluation results presented in this article indicate that there is a good potential for Tophams Hotel revenues to be significantly increased through introducing certain changes to its website.
On the basis of discussions and analyses provided above the following recommendations can be made for Tophams Hotel management in terms of achieving greater contribution of ICT on the level of profits:
Firstly, Tophams Hotel management is recommended to benefit from potential advantages offered by social media marketing. The first step towards the implementation of this recommendation would be opening corporate pages in most popular social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+ and adding social media buttons in official website of the hotel.
Secondly, the extent of website attractions need to be increased through introducing a set of competitions, special offers, and freebies. Tophams Hotel associates its competitive advantage with traditional English values and traditions such as English breakfast, afternoon tea, etc. Accordingly, interactive competitions can be offered via hotel website to test the knowledge of site visitors regarding these aspects of English culture with discounts to be offered to winners.
Thirdly, Tophams Hotel website needs to undergo an effective SEO process. Target terms are recommended to include ‘hotel Belgravia’, ‘hotel Ebury street’, and ‘hotel SW1 London’. Tophams Hotel management is recommended to ensure that SEO process is conducted by highly qualified professionals with the use of ‘white hat’ i.e. approved methods only. Implementation ‘black hat’ tools during the SEO process is most likely to produce counter-productive results.
Fourthly, interactivity of Tophams Hotel website needs to be increased through introducing a set of new functions and capabilities. These new features need to include calendar of events, online live chat, and hospitality-related interactive games and puzzles. Moreover, management is recommended to introduce 2D navigation system of rooms that can be used by users to see rooms and facilities of the hotel in 2D system prior to booking.
Fifthly, website navigation capabilities are recommended to be improved. Implementation of this recommendation is not highly difficult from technical viewpoint, yet it can generate great positive outcomes in terms of profit maximisation. Specifically, site map needs to be introduced and the name of the hotel at the top of the website needs to be made clickable to return to the home page.
Moreover, Tophams Hotel management need to acknowledge the fact that implementation of recommendations above can contribute to obtaining competitive edge through ICT on short and medium-term perspectives, but this competitive edge would not be sustainable. This is because the area of ICT is highly dynamic and benefiting from ICT on long-term perspective is associated with critical evaluation of website in a regular manner, and addressing identified issues in an efficient manner.
It is important for Tophams Hotel management to understand that recommendations provided above only relate to benefiting from potential contribution of ICT. Implementation of these recommendations may require certain amounts of financial investments, however this investment should not be made at the expense of quality of products and services offered by Tophams Hotel.
In other words, Tophams Hotel management should be focusing on core value offering at all times, and implementation of recommendations provided above may not generate positive outcomes on long-term perspective if there are substantial flaws associated with products and services offered by the firm.