How to describe rooms to help the guest decide?

Our research into hotel guests’ online behaviour shows that alarmingly often they have problems deciding on the room. How should you describe rooms to help guests make the decision and to make them choose rooms of a higher standard more often?

A characteristic pattern often emerges from our studies of hotel guests’ online behaviour. The guest visits the pages with details of particular types of rooms and revisits several times those already seen. In the end, they choose the cheapest type of room (if any).

This problem does not concern all websites. Those that manage to easily assist guests in their decision making share a few characteristic features. What are they?

First of all, clearly highlighting the most crucial features of a room, especially room size and the maximum number of guests. Bed configuration, extra bed options, air conditioning and Wi-Fi are also important. Each hotel will have a slightly different list that can also include details such as the window view or the presence of a balcony.

It is crucial to clearly indicate such features already on the list of all rooms. This is where we can help hoteliers by properly designing their room list. The list should show only the key features in a concise form, without any unnecessary words. The guest doesn’t even have to read such a description – it’s enough to scan it to know the rooms’ key features and to compare them. This is an example of what it could look like:

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At a glance, you know the differences between the rooms – and see what great additional features the more expensive room boasts.

However, not everything depends on us – some hoteliers still do not enter the rooms’ key features into the system. Additionally, if your website allows you to publish longer text strings on the room list, it is definitely not worth making use of this possibility. When viewing the room list, guests just want to compare rooms and longer texts will only obscure the picture.

If you cannot dispense with a loose text (because, for example, the rooms have a unique character that has to be shown somehow), the description should not exceed the length limit of one text message: 160 characters. See what it could look like:

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What hoteliers have much more influence over are the detailed descriptions of rooms. Unfortunately, around 70% of them do not take the opportunity and provide only sketchy descriptions. How to do it right?

It is worth repeating the key features of the room, just like on the room list. They should be conveniently displayed at the top of the page without forcing the guest to pick them out from among the remaining features. They will get their turn in the following paragraphs of the description.

How should you go about writing room descriptions? It is good to start with brainstorming and writing down all information that you think might be of importance and interest to guests. Talk to the reception staff – they know what guests ask about and what arguments influence positive decisions.

Don’t start writing yet – let’s first classify room features into three groups, from the most to the least important ones. The first group should include those features that are an elaboration of your hotel’s unique characteristics, those distinguishing features that you want to have highlighted. For example, in the case of a historic building this might be a short (more on what we mean by “short” will follow soon) reference to its history.

The second group is all the important information on room furnishings, amenities and arrangement, and terms of stay (complementary services, range of service, pet friendliness, child policy and cancellation policy) – at least those details that guests ask about.

All other information that does not fit into the two above groups will constitute the third category. It includes descriptions of what guests can see in the photos (“furnished in two styles – classical and modern, in brown and golden tones with green, beige and orange accents”) as well as hollow declarations (“We aim high when it comes to the standard of our rooms.”).

The information from the first group should be placed just after the key features of the room. You can consider illustrating it with a photo. Then comes the information from the second group. The third group should be omitted altogether – a long description will discourage guests from reading the text.

How to write? This is of crucial importance. Our research into hotel guests’ online behaviour demonstrates that hotel guests DO NOT read blocks of text. Instead, what works well are short bulleted list, with the most important fragments in bold type, such as this:

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Make sure your texts are concise. Once a text is ready, make it shorter by a third. Then ask someone to edit and shorten it by another third. Consider every word – does it carry any information? Hotel guests do not want to read long texts.

In our text, we have not discussed the issue of photos - a separate article will be devoted to the topic. We can just mention now that photos should show what is difficult to describe (style, colours, spaces, atmosphere) and vice versa – the text should include all information that photos cannot convey. Photos and texts are meant to communicate different types of information and it is worth remembering this distinction.