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Making the most of your website in turbulent times

Head shot of SteveBy Steven Piper

As I’m writing this, we are at what will hopefully be the height of the Covid-19 outbreak in the UK. There is a sense of mild panic, but also of determination.

I thought it would be a good opportunity to give some ideas on what you can do to ensure your website is ready to transact when this eventually blows over.

Test your website

Get staff and friends to test it. Even better ask them to break it and give out chocolates to anyone who does!

Give them basic roles to complete and watch them try to do it (in industry parlance we call this UX or User experience testing). The secret to this is in how you phrase the question.

Asking your friend to “Find out how to contact us to ask a question” is a bit loaded. Saying to them “You want to ask whether dogs are welcome, how would you do it?” provides a better response.

Specifically with the Covid-19 outbreak, customers may have very specific questions around travel and accommodation, cleanliness and hygiene etc. Ask your staff what they would look for on another website that would encourage them to book in these circumstances.

As Tom, our Head of Design says though “When this all blows over, I would always recommend testing with customers over staff and friends as it removes further bias”

Check your transactions work as expected

At each stage of a checkout (whatever you determine to be a checkout process) a customer will, in the back of their mind, have reservations about committing to the purchase.

As a simple rule there are a few things to look out for:

1 Do you need to ask for all that data in order to purchase?

Imagine that for each field a customer has to fill in, you will lose 5% of your sales. Now, do you really need to know their shoe size in order for them to book?

Yes for your MI or future personalisation or targeting this data would be useful but I think it is far more sensible to gather that data slowly once they are emotionally invested with you – after the purchase.

2 How is the transaction weighted and balanced

Another to do with staff and friends.

I read in a business development book years ago the principle of Weight Blocks. In any transaction in life you can imaging a seesaw. On one side is the purchase / sale / transaction / investment and on the other is the reward.

For each sale people will look to make sure the seesaw at least balances and, ideally, is weighted in the reward side.

When we got a dog I mentally went through this process for months beforehand.

Investment = time walking her, cost of food, vets bills, occasional dog walker etc etc.

Reward = companionship, another member of the family, an excuse for family dog walks to the pub

At some point in my head I balanced the seesaw and decided to commit.

Any online purchase, and especially something like a holiday or experience, is a balancing act on this seesaw.

The cost of a family ticket to the average attraction in the UK is going to be somewhere around £100. Add in food, drink and travel costs and you’re probably looking at £200.

Does your website offer enough weight blocks on the customer purchase journey to make the average person want to buy this?

This is also leads nicely in to….

3 Trust signals

Now is a good time to review your Trustpilot or similar ratings and whether they feature on your website at the right times. If you’ve got a great rating are you prominently showing it near the point of sale. Do you have awards you could be featuring where your customer is about to put in their credit card?

Trustpilot reviews are one thing – they show the average of many / the wisdom of crowds. But they should be complemented with some choice testimonials where possible.

4 Can you make testimonials dynamic?

Let’s imagine I want to take my family away for a day out and I’ve been on your website and looked at information about family tickets and what to do as a family.

How much more appealing would it be if your website had tracked that I looked at the “What to do as a family” page on your website and therefore serves up a testimonial from another parent saying how much of a good time they had. Seeing a likeminded person’s positive review just as I’m about to book gives me that added bit of confidence.

So, look through the testimonials you currently have and use. Can you categorise them into different headings? For instance, dog walking, pubs and food, mid-week vs weekend, family, older people etc etc.

5 Booking confidence

In the back of everyone’s mind for the foreseeable future will be “what happens if I can’t travel?” or “what if the company I’m booking with goes bust?”. These are legitimate concerns your customer are likely to have. How can you answer them? What is your refund policy? What assurances can you provide to allay their fears?

Does your website REALLY work?

It is a good idea to randomly test your site from time to time. Changes can sometimes have unexpected knock-on effects. The implementation of the GDPR Cookie Consent is a prime example where adding some extra code site wide could cause unwanted changes elsewhere.

Go on to your site (and I especially recommend doing this on mobile) and try to buy. But as you’re doing it, think about how your customers may mess it up.

With mobile traffic accounting for over 50% of website visitors (and for some of our customers its closer to 70%) failing to test the hell out of your site on mobile is a missed opportunity.

Final thoughts

Off the back of a rather turgid year for the UK travel and tourism market, the last thing we needed was something to affect the travel plans of your customers.

However, when we get through this, I expect there to be an up-turn in staycations. UK customers will want to stay closer to home for a variety of reasons.

And when they are ready to book with you, don’t make it any harder than it needs to be.

If you have any questions about this or would like to make a comment please email me directly at or call me on 02393 190 2619. I am genuinely happy to offer advice for anyone who needs it.

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