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Kimpton Hotels takes a guest-first approach to digital overhaul

Kimpton Hotels has unveiled a reinvented, fully responsive Web experience that incorporates content from a recently launched travel blog while providing features such as a universally available booking pathway.

The new site, which was designed by San Francisco-based Fine agency, scraps legacy content, and sitemaps in favor of a freshly imagined content structure, carefully curated images and a more streamlined accommodation search. It allows users to navigate between, and compare Kimpton’s hotel portfolio in a myriad of ways – by city, amenities, restaurants, and descriptions, while reflecting the hotelier’s design and personality.

“The entire Kimpton digital destination is driven by an experience-first methodology, said Kenn Fine, creative principal at Fine. “No matter which device guests use to connect they are provided an experience adapted specifically to the weapon of their choice.”

“With a content strategy implemented to create distinct messaging and a hierarchy based on efficiency, the user connects with Kimpton’s personality on first click. The brand experience and promise are elements that users can actually interact with, from a universally available booking path to the distinctly tailored, personal settings of Kimpton Karma,” he said.

“Just like the Kimpton brand experience, the site adapts to your needs, not the other way around.”

The “from scratch” approach to the project provided Kimpton with an attractive site based on the company’s “guest first” approach that is adaptive to user needs on desktop, mobile and tablet devices.

The revamp represents a dramatic design evolution and modernization of the Kimpton spirit and style alongside photo-centricity to integrate new tools and services for creation of a seamless guest experience across booking, meeting and events and dining outlets.

This first version of the new Web experience includes features that enable guests to search and view properties in unique ways, including the ability to compare meeting, event and wedding venues within the Kimpton hotel group.

Kimpton’s digital evolution will also target the individual hotel Web sites in the near future, which are scheduled to be redesigned to look and feel similar to the parent site, but not solely a duplicate. The standardization process will focus on factors such as navigation menus and booking engines to align them across the board.

In time, the individual hotel Web sites will also host relevant destination content from the Life Is Suite sister travel blog. Fine is also working closely with Kimpton to craft and bring to digital life the “Kimpton Karma Rewards” loyalty program.

More than fine
Just about every brand today has a Web site, however whether that site is effective at generating and capturing sales, advancing marketing aims, and communicating the correct information to the consumer is up for discussion.

Once the most important lead generator, booking path, marketing apparatus and revenue manager available to hotels, Web sites no longer provide the immediate information and interactivity beyond a static reservation form that connected consumers are craving. The ability to attain specific rate quotes and online confirmation is standard for most enterprises, though a platform with an open interface that is linked to a CRM program or property management system is becoming the new norm.

The hotel’s Web site remains its face to the world, and is usually the first encounter a guest has with the property. Although Kimpton’s design trumps many of its competitors, its mobile app offerings need to catch up, as they cannot be replaced by Web as demonstrated by Marriott and Starwood whom are pioneers in mobile check-in, keyless entry and in-app SMS concierge, all features leveraged by smartphones.

Starwood knows apps are critical to catering to the new demands of travelers.

For instance, late last year Starwood’s digital design team took advantage of the iPad’s capacity for high-resolution images to create an editorial-like experience on its app, and most recently launched an app for Google Glass in anticipation of the potential surge in consumer interest for wearables.

Last week, Marriott expanded its already cutting-edge mobile platform by piloting the use of  iBeacons to send guests push notifications based on their location at one of its properties, one of the many changes it is making to its approach to customer experience by accounting for a predicted 76 percent increase in consumers ages 18 to 40 within six years.

Marriott is currently repositioning its loyalty with Gen X and Y who differ from traditional travelers characterized by their use of mobile devices which is three times greater than any other segment. To create a sense of loyalty in these guests who expect more while traveling, Marriott’s mobile check-in, check-out and service request features improve guest experience and overall hotel perception.

“While we believe that this new destination will be more aligned with the expectations of Millennials, it was not directly designed specifically for them,” said Kathleen Reidenbach, senior vice president of marketing, Kimpton Hotels.

“They’ll certainly appreciate the look, and the responsive design, and the approachable tone that Kimpton offers.”

“Millenials tend to appreciate many of the things Kimpton’s always tried to offer, in terms of experience and design, and a pioneering spirit. So the redesign was about expressing the ethos of Kimpton Hotels.”

According to a recent eMarketer report, consumers are spending more time online than with any other media, and spending much of that digital time on mobile devices within apps.

Therefore, apps are becoming the dominant form of digital interaction. In 2013 Americans spent more time on digital than on any other media including television.

“Redesigning our app is something we’re looking at, but the website  and Karma were the first priorities,” Ms. Reidenbach said.

Still, Kimpton is taking its time to make sure it gets each step of the process right.

“Because our team has deep brand, design, and digital experience, we know how far to push each step. Each of these unique perspectives has a rhythm, and they don’t always align,” Ms. Reidenbach said.

“You can push specific things too far, too fast and lose your audience. Push the brand too far at once and an organization might seem fickle or inauthentic. Push your tech too far and you can lose your less savvy audience members. Modify design too far and you lose your connection to the past; your continuity.”

“The only way to dial in the nuance just right is to have all the players in the room at the same time. Know how far to go and how fast and keep your reach within your grasp. Pace yourself,” she said.

Final Take
Michelle is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York