Technological advancement is one of the main factors that spur innovation (Goffin & Mitchell, 2010, p. 2). While this fact has been acknowledged by the hospitality industry, research shows that it is still not uncommon for modern companies to use the opportunities of technology ineffectively (Ergun, Cetin, & Yirik, 2015, p. 44).
Similarly, intensified competition is the reason for innovation, which appears to be the case with W Hotels Worldwide (Goffin & Mitchell, 2010, p. 2). The current situation in the hospitality market can be characterized by the threats of competition that, in part, comes from the booking websites that appear to be especially valued by modern consumers (Mourdoukoutas, 2015). In order to alleviate this threat, a project of enhancing the effectiveness of W Hotels website is suggested in the current proposal.
W Hotels (2015) are a hospitality organization that offers “iconic design and contemporary luxury” experiences to its customers (par. 1). One of the major concerns of W Hotels Worldwide is the increasing popularity of the online booking sites such as Expedia and Booking.com. These sites offer the opportunity of comparing hotels, which limits the pricing power of the industry (Mourdoukoutas, 2015, par. 3).
Apart from that, the sites take commissions for bringing the customers to the hotels, which makes their actions especially unprofitable for the hospitality industry. This business is obviously popular and profitable, which is reflected in the “exponential revenue growth” of the companies and in their increasing stocks performance (Mourdoukoutas, 2015, par. 6-7). It can be concluded that hotels have to take these sites into account and attempt to gain a competitive advantage before them.
Another concern of W Hotels is the growing popularity of Airbnb, a company that gives people all over the world the opportunity to rent out their accommodation to travelers (Mourdoukoutas, 2015, par. 5). Airbnb is a very fast-developing organization that is planning on expansion and growth, for example, through new markets; currently Africa market is targeted (Stone, 2015, para. 1-2).
W Hotels Response
It should be pointed out that Airbnb and W Hotels offer different experiences, and their target markets do not actually overlap at the moment (Newcomer, 2015, para. 2-4). Still, given the fact that Airbnb is expanding, it may become a major threat in the near future. Therefore, the company needs to maintain its image of a unique luxury hotel chain that offers unique and stylish experiences in order to stay differentiated.
As for the booking competition, best rate guarantees, loyalty points, and perks are the standard incentives that are used by hotels to encourage people to book at their own websites (Talty, 2015, par. 1-6). In this respect, W Hotels (2015) suggest the following perks of booking at the official site: the best rate guarantee, the lack of online booking fees, uniques offers, and “Starpoints” that can be used to improve one’s stay in the hotels of the chain (para. 1-4). At the same time, it should be pointed out that Booking.com (2015) also offers the lowest rates politics and no fees for the reservation (para. 8-9).
It is apparent that some of the perks of the W Hotels booking are not unique, and the unique ones are aimed at loyal customers. Apart from that, Booking.com (2015) also offers discounts for subscribers and considers its “informative, user-friendly” website as a competitive advantage (para. 6, 8-9). It is this fact that brings up the question of the W Hotels website potential.
In the current highly competitive environment, W Hotel needs to use every possible resource to the limit and come up with competitive advantages in case a possibility for one arises. Providing the customers with a positive website experience is important for their satisfaction, and the convenience of website booking is essential in the environment of booking sites competition. Apart from that, the website holds the possibility of communicating and maintaining the company’s image. Therefore, an evaluation and revision of the company’s website appears to be a decision that can help to address both threats described above.
The internet provides a number of opportunities that modern hospitality organizations attempt to use. The study by Verma Stock and McCarthy (2012) has provided some evidence to the supposition that technology is of particular appeal to people connected to the business sphere, people with higher income, and those who tend to travel often (p. 185). This provides scientific evidence to the idea that the target market of W Hotels is most likely to be attracted by a positive website experience. And yet, the websites of modern companies are often their weakness, and it is especially important that W Hotels Worldwide does not commit this mistake (Ergun et al., 2015, 44).
W Hotels (2015) has created a website that incorporates numerous features and demonstrates a unique design. It appears that the company already carries out the project of improving its website. For example, the website provides an opportunity of leaving feedback concerning the site that is available in any language. The survey is short, and it is a rather slow method of gaining information. Apart from that, the English version of the website is equipped with the survey created by W Hotels, Foresee and TRUSTe (2015). This survey addresses the questions of navigation effectiveness, satisfaction, goal completion, and being informed of Starwood’s Best Rate Guarantee (W Hotels et al., 2015, para. 1-28). The survey itself is not exactly appealing and does not seem to be accommodated for additional languages. Therefore, a revision of the survey can be suggested.
Suggestions and Features
Of the five dimensions of innovation we are going to consider, the service and business process innovations can be mentioned: the website can be viewed as a means of business conduct, but the services offered by it are also going to be evaluated and, if necessary, revised (Goffin & Mitchell, 2010, pp. 8-9). Of the three levels of innovation suggested by Goffin and Mitchell (2010) the one that we choose is that of a project (p. 20). We believe that addressing the question of website effectiveness is of primary importance for the company’s booking competition as well as image maintaining, which is why we are ready to define our innovation proposal as a separate project. At the same time, it should be mentioned that the scope of questions addressed by the project is going to be quite extensive.
The suggested innovation is currently incremental, that is, not significant. If the project proves to be successful, a framework of continuous incremental changes carried out by the suggested body can be considered, which would increase the sustainability of the innovation (Goffin & Mitchell, 2010, p. 13). Sustainability in its multiple expressions requires the sustainable use of all resources, and in this respect, a competitive advantage can be also regarded as a valuable resource (Kim & Mauborgne, 2015, p. 204; Friedman, 2011, p. 1-2). Sustainability relies on innovation and calls for it, and it is vital to ensure sustainability of one’s unique features which, hopefully, the company’s website can be turned into.
Websites can be assessed through a number of features that include: content quality (for instance, introduction of the business and the services; the timely update of the information), user friendliness (interaction, navigation, layout, registration and payment convenience, contact information and means, language options), effectiveness (financial results, website traffic, customer purchase intentions and satisfaction, website ranking), and aesthetical appeal (design, colors, gallery and images), and website management that can also be effective or ineffective (Ergun et al., 2015, pp. 44-52; Ip et al., 2010, pp. 235-253).
Other variants might include specific features for the disabled which could demonstrate the fact that the company values its customers and thinks about their special needs (Mills, Han & Clay, 2008, pp. 39-40). Neither of the components can be significantly underdeveloped which means that both evaluating the current website and reformatting are going to be extensive projects (Ip et al., 2010, pp. 238-261).
Therefore, the creation of a group that will be concerned with the evaluation and improvement of the website could be suggested. The group may and probably should include independent experts, but a number of the company’s employees, particularly PR managers would be expected to participate. This can be justified by the fact that innovation is unique, that is, it should be adapted to the context of every organization, its peculiarities, goals and challenges (Goffin & Mitchell, 2010, p. 1). The employees of the company are expected to understand its needs to a greater extent and have more significant experience with its peculiarities.
Currently, the specific suggestions for the innovation include creating the website evaluation body and tools, the latter including the improved surveys. We point out the importance of broadening the number of questions addressed by the survey (as defined above), increasing the number of languages available for surveying, and, especially, the importance of increasing the appeal of the survey.
Given the fact that the number of issues that are necessary to address is rather large, the creation of several surveys might be suggested. However, the tools can and most certainly will be modified by the project participants. This group would be encouraged to develop the culture of innovation as described by Goffin and Mitchell (2010), and the eventual product is expected to be an evaluation framework that can be used for future assessment of the company’s website effectiveness. The effectiveness of the framework will be evaluated through its implementation and assessment of the results.
In order to stay competitive in the continuously changing environment, companies need to use all the available resources and opportunities. The proposed innovation is concerned with the creation of a website assessment tool that can be used in order to continuously evaluate and improve the W Hotel website and its possibilities. With the help of this tool, the company will be able to assess and improve the effectiveness of modern technology implementation as well as address the current threats in the market to an extent.
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