Web-savvy businesses in the Asia-Pacific region are increasingly gaining more revenues simply by spending a little time beefing up their corporate Web sites.
At Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts, Web-based revenue from five of its Banyan Tree resorts increased by more than 50 percent in 2005 over the previous year, said Agnes Tan, the group's head of online communications, in an e-mail interview. This amount is accumulated from online transactions, including hotel reservations and spa packages and products that are sold via the company's Web site.
The resort and spa chain currently operates eight main Web sites. Its online revenue last year from two properties under its affiliate brand Angsana Resorts and Spas also increased by 29 percent over 2004.
Ryan Chioh, executive director of Fareastflora.com, noted that Web-based revenue now accounts for between 25 percent and 30 percent of the company's overall sales of flowers and gifts, compared to between 15 percent and 20 percent three years ago.
Apart from making purchases online, Fareastflora.com customers can also send virtual bouquets as e-greetings. They can also sign up as members and enjoy various privileges, such as the ability to track their orders at their own convenience and activate a service that sends e-mail reminders during special occasions.
According to Tan, the Banyan team has over the years beefed up the company's sites by incorporating videos, wallpapers and virtual tours of its resorts. Overall site traffic grows 20 percent to 25 percent each year, she added.
Enhancements to site navigation were made to Banyan's corporate sites last year, such as reducing the number of steps a hotel guest needs to take to make a reservation. It is also exploring the use of Web logs or blogs. Tan told ZDNet Asia that the company is currently testing out various platforms, with the intent of launching a blog first as an internal communications tool before deciding whether to offer it publicly.
Giving Web a facelift
Over the last 18 months, many airlines have been making an effort to improve the user interface on their sites to make customers feel comfortable about transacting with the company via the Web, said Peter Smith, Amadeus' Asia-Pacific vice president of e-commerce. Amadeus specializes in online travel booking and management systems.
This move has been driven by traditional airlines as a cost-cutting measure amid increasing competition from budget carriers, he said.
Smith explained that enabling airline passengers to perform self-service functions minimizes the need to hire a customer service or contact center officer. He added that airlines also benefit by having direct contact with travelers, removing the need for a middleman--the travel agencies.
Smith said the travel industry is also starting to explore the use of metasearch, a type of search that compiles results from different search engines. Airlines can then identify ways, such as buying up keywords, to have their brands listed more prominently when online users perform a search.
Established online retailers such as Amazon.com, have the competitive edge because of a continued commitment to improving Web features on their sites. According to its Web site, Amazon has development centers in India, Russia, Scotland and South Africa that focus on developing innovative new Web site features to enhance its customers' online experience.
Content and language localization are also important, as Banyan's Tan noted. She explained that the company's spa Web sites not only provides an avenue for customers to book themselves a treatment, but also dispense tips on enhancing their spa experience. There is also an advice column where online visitors can send in their spa-related questions.
With its spas and resorts located in various countries including Maldives, Australia, Japan and Thailand, Banyan ensures all its sites are available in at least two languages, Tan said.
Fareastflora.com's Chioh pointed out that while there is value in being an early adopter of new technology, businesses need to consider factors such as browser compatibility, download speed and ease of use, that their customers face.
"We believe that whatever we do, we must be able to add value to our customers," he said. "Therefore, we [usually] do not deploy the latest technology… [and] there is a lot of internal evaluation before we adopt [a new feature]."
Simplicity is the keyword, noted Chioh. He prefers corporate sites to be simple so that his customers would not have too much difficulty navigating it.