By engaging vacationers as they plan and dream, we are helping Aqua-Aston remake its business model—and turbocharge its direct revenue
In the highly competitive lodging market, hospitality brands have struggled to win direct booking and loyalty from their customers as “sharing economy” disruptors such as Airbnb, Homeaway, and VRBO continue to grow. Online aggregators including Expedia and Orbitz have only amplified the difficulties, transforming the consumer’s planning cycle and owning the relationship with customers. Aqua-Aston, a Honolulu-based destination expert that provides management services to hotels and resort condominiums, recognized that it needed to rethink its digital commerce approach to thrive in today’s environment.
Consumers no longer want just a trip, they want experiences; presenting these hospitality and lodging Holy Grails beautifully and seamlessly is critical to attracting buyers. To achieve these ends, Astound partnered with the 70-year-old Aqua-Aston to create meaningful and lasting customer relationships. Our aim was to transform the digital experience, unify data and technology, personalize engagement for both new and repeat customers, and reverse low conversion/high abandonment rates on mobile devices.
Examining Aqua-Aston’s digital footprint against traditional competitors and online disruptors, our team immediately spotted ways to drive new and repeat business, build brand relationships, and enhance channel loyalty. Primary was dramatically re-envisioning the digital commerce experience for mobile, socially connected consumers. Despite more than 50 percent of hospitality customers shopping via tablet or cell phone, none of Aqua-Aston’s web properties were mobile-optimized. The company’s dozens of standalone sites forced users to toggle awkwardly between properties to research, plan, and book vacations—hardly ideal in an industry with one-stop shops like Expedia. Plus, Aqua-Aston’s legacy sites, with dated imagery and minimal storytelling, didn’t emotionally connect with vacationers dreaming of once-in-a-lifetime getaways.
Together with Aqua-Aston, we analyzed the data and devised a holistic digital commerce strategy to serve customers wherever they are in their purchasing journey, from pre-funnel (sifting through Google results) to post-booking (anticipating what to do on the trip). Consolidating Aqua-Aston’s sites into a single, mobile-optimized portal, we created a seamless planning and travel-shopping experience that tugs at the heart and inspires the mind with gorgeous photos, insider destination information, and customizable search options. Customers can build personalized itineraries, complete with restaurant and event suggestions; prominently displayed best-rate guarantees and pre- and post-check-in communication reinforce why consumers should work directly with the brand.
By addressing two seismic shifts in consumer behavior—the desire for customized experiences and the migration from desktop to mobile devices—we are transforming Aqua-Aston into a digital-first brand that taps into the emotional reasons why people travel. Our detailed analysis of the site’s user journeys is providing valuable, 360-degree views of the brand’s customers. By coupling this new data with demand- and lead-generation strategies, we have helped the company develop loyalty programs to drive repeat business and lower customer-acquisition costs. Customers now have a frictionless experience as they plan and book their trip, with the mobile optimization and increased page load speed allowing Aqua-Aston to win over a new generation of shoppers.