InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), foundedin 1946, has become the world’s largest hotel management group with a strongdistribution network. IHG has brands such as InterContinental Hotels &Resorts, Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts, Holiday Express,Indigo, Candlewood and Staybridge, and boasts over 55 years’ of experience in management ofinternational hotels. IHG is also the hotel group with the world’s highest numberof rooms (up to 540,000) in nearly 100 countries.
When localization becomes an issue ine-commerce
development in the hotel industry
TANG began its cooperation with IHG in 2011,when IHG’s U.S. headquarters initiated a re-design of their Chinese website andinvited TANG to carry out analysis and research on usability and localizationof the design. Over 6-months of qualitative research (3 rounds on 40 users in 5cities), TANG and IHG systematically analyzed the use cases of the new version ofthe website amongst Chinese users of different personas and provided a designproposal which visually presented some localization issues.
After about one year of efficientcooperation, IHG’s decision-makers realized that it might be better for a localteam to address localization issues, thus kicking off TANG’s customization ofIHG’s all-new Chinese website.
Research & Exploration
Customer-Hotel eXperience Journey
Since the very beginning of the project, TANGand IHG’s Chinese team have realized that an official website is only part ofthe process of a customer’s contact with the hotel’s several services. If therole of an official website is to be clearly defined, they should consider theservices and contents delivered through the channel based on an overall plan ofthe service system. Different from IHG’s previous methods for planning aservice system, TANG has closely focused on the target customers to develop anew service system model based on customer experience.
TANG, in cooperation with IHG’s Chinese team,has conducted a new round of the most in-depth customer research. Instead ofsimply focusing on exploring the forfunctions and designs, the research was targeted at the details of the contactbetween customers and hotels – the whole journeys that they had experienced. Toenable each interviewed customer to fully share their views and suggestionswith us, we assigned pre-interview work for them, to summarize their wonderfulstories and experiences during the journeys.
Through qualitative research amongst morethan ten target customers in two large regions in China, we’ve gained a largenumber of stories, information, views and suggestions. We further analyzed theextensive data to gradually form a clear definition of IHG’s target customers inChina and depicted the overall framework and all details of their experience journeys.
Strategy & Concept
Design strategy and core strengths
After a description of the complete customerexperience journey was finished, TANG had a concentrated strategy discussion withIHG China’s relevant departments. The two teams planned several core strategicdirections such as cross-channel experience and strengthening of the parentbrand regarding all parts in the experience journey based on core values thatthe website should deliver.
Layout of cross-channel eXperience
What IHG’s Chinese website delivers is notsimply functions, but a service package that corresponds to the customerexperience journey. The service package includes a series of cross-scenario andcross-channel services provided by the website, mobile devices and hotels whichhave been designed based on typical behaviors of target customers, and ensuresthat customers enjoy a complete, seamless experience in their journey.
Stronger brand construction
IHG’s Chinese website is more of an officialwebsite for a hotel group than a hotel’s. Each of IHG’s five brands in Chinahas a clear market positioning and an independently-operated promotion system;they are even more widely recognized than the parent brand. So, the issue thatneeds to be addressed urgently is how to enable customers to accuratelyunderstand the relationship between different brands through the website and tobuild up a strong parent brand awareness among the many sub-brands.
Through much trial and adjustment, we’vesummarized content resources and information frameworks of both the parentbrand & sub-brands and determined the content and interaction & visualsystems of the parent brand to help it enforce its strong position. Moreover,we’ve depicted cultural characteristics and visual differences related to the sub-brands.
Hotel eXperiences that touch hearts
IHG is a high-quality andwell-reputed hotel group. We want customers to enjoy the service package,experience and brand charm that IHG offers, rather than feel that they are simplychoosing a hotel. Therefore, we’ve reconsidered and redesigned IHG’s hotelcontents because guests are no longer content with basic information such asprices and room types. We will offer customers a more personal experience tothe hotel, so they can listen to its stories and experience its culturalatmosphere.
Simplest booking process
The core business of ahotel’s website has typically been focused on increasing in the number andsuccess rate of online booking. Therefore, we’ve carefully developed thesimplest booking process in the industry. We designed a preview page to reducereliance on the Hotel Details page, thus decreasing the number of page jumpsand making it easier to make choices or comparisons. Moreover, we haveincorporated all procedures into three steps by simplifying and integrating thepayment process in a bold and decisive way to ensure minimum error and bouncerates.
The customer experience journey shows thatthe customers’ contact with hotels is a complete journey. So, how to motivatecustomers from a journey perspective rather than being limited to existinghotels becomes the core direction for our innovation. “Destination exploration” is one of our groundbreaking attempts to provide one-stop servicesfor customers that will soon arrive at IHG’s hotels, such as information aboutthe culture, history, scenic spots, fine food, and suggestions of target citiesand surrounding areas, thus further improving brand recognition among customersthrough considerate, non-marketing content in the website.
Feedback and Landing
TANG helped complete IHG’s Chinese websiteconcept plan in 2011, which was highly recognized by IHG China and its U.S.Headquarters from research analysis to strategic design. Through jointpromotion and efforts, IHG decided to independently design its Chinese officialwebsite in late 2012 to make it the first local website different from theinternational one. Meanwhile, since late 2013, IHG began to integrate the Chinesewebsites of its sub-brands, making IHG’s Chinese website the only officialwebsite in Mainland China.
In early 2013, TANG started the detailed designof IHG’s new Chinese website. By the middle of 2013, IHG’ Chinese website saw a3-fold increase in the number of online bookings than two years before.