Favourite website: Four Seasons

As a guest blog for Favourite Websites story, I just had to bring attention to a beautiful site for the Four Seasons hotels group. Apparently the agency that delivered this project were able to use a budget of $18 million and developed a truly inspiring set of sites. As it was launched early in 2012 there are a number of other reviews online including this one form econsultancy.

As a non-technical member of our team I wanted to give an alternative view, what can we learn from this site an how can we apply it to more reasonable budgets.

Homepage - inspiring hero banner, easy booking option or go exploring!

I really like the fact that you have the choice to either book directly or go exploring through the destination pages. Although there are promotional packages, they aren’t pushed too hard which for a premium hotel group is exactly the right tone. The whole process feels like the start of your journey and it's probably going to the best one you’ve ever experienced.

Destination guide - the story behind the location

I would definitely advise any resort based travel site to push the destinations as well as the hotel/complex itself as it really helps a consumer understand what they can expect from their trip. By providing a resource of information on the destination itself really paints a picture and should include inside information and leads for services and experiences outside of the hotel resort. Every travel company should have this information as assets and it’s a simple job to convert into a digital resource for all to share and add to.

Integrated TripAdvisor/Facebook/Twitter reviews

The way social media is presented is very subtle and provides content when required without pushing you to login etc. The only issue is that the reviews presented are now nearly a year out of date and show that no-one has really touched this site since it was launched. By having your interface developed for you allows you to theme the plug in in tune with the theme of the site and it doesn't take more than 5 mins to pull the latest positive reviews into the page.

The World of Four Seasons – leading magazine content

The variety of markets that Four Seasons are active in means that they need to communicate, not only in different languages but also in different styles and to dedicated interest groups. The weddings, food, family sites all help customers feel as though there is something just for them and that the supporting content will help them make the choice to choose a Four Seasons destination. This level of content can continually be added to and improved and allows the marketing team to deliver an online travel guide/magazine which gets better and better over time. The magazine is a really fantastic resource and actually delivers an even more interesting environment than the main site. For a company like Four Seasons it is clearly cost effective to employ an editor to produce content that will be shared with media outlets and customers alike. For groups that don’t have the same funds starting a tumblr account or similar will allow you to pull content from across the web quickly and easily and present it to your customers as a resource.

The downside – what would improve things?

What would really help is if the marketing team actually were charged to keep updates happening across all destinations on the Main Site. It feels as though they have spent all the time and money on attracting you but aren’t then too bothered about asking you back. And it’s not as if they don’t have the content. The magazine sites are a rich resource and provide content for their Facebook and other social pages. What they aren’t doing is providing this resource on to the main site, there isn’t even a link to it, which leads me to think the magazine came sometime after the main site and no-one has noticed! As an example they have a promotion for a day’s hire of A Rolls Royce Phantom from their hotel in Paris. There is no mention of this on the main site so unless the strategy is to offer a different service to social/magazine followers then they are missing out on a trick.

Mobile site – needs more development

The initial interface is useable however there isn’t the destination option which is my personal favourite way of navigating this site. Select to make a reservation and you are provide with an API to choose your hotel however you have to manually enter the date your checking in and out and do it in the US format. There really should have a date selection option.  If alternatively you select a specific hotel then the site reverts to the main site so all the lovely inspiring information is presented without optimisation.

With $18 million spent, these issues are really easy to fix and shouldn’t still be an issue nearly a year after launch.

About the Author

John Williams avatar

John Williams, Sales and Marketing

John was once a client who joined the Gibe team for several years to help us with sales and marketing. He left Gibe to return to the world of freelance marketing and is once again a wonderful client for Gibe.