Germany's northern coast side is a popular national holiday region. In 2020, a newly established business for holiday apartments was looking for ways to promote their business online. The property got listed on travel portals like Airbnb. However, the business requested a website to generate bookings directly and indedendent from mediators.
Develop branding for a holiday apartment. Build a website to generate traffic and direct bookings. Design a content strategy and set up social media for additional visibility.
A newly established vacation rental needs to get exposure. Define branding. Develop a website for visibility, generating traffic and direct bookings. Create a marketing/content strategy that includes a comprehensive online presence.
My goal for branding was to create a calm and relaxing atmosphere, something that instantly creates association with summer holidays at the beach. Since lots of businesses in the area have a quite stereotypical look for a holiday business at the sea side (bright blues and yellows that is), I wanted to create a unique look that still works well with imagery of greens and blues (e.g. nature photography). I decided on a color range from mint to olive green as my accent color. It was my goal to provide a simple and plain design, which is why white, light and dark grays are added by sprinkles and color. "Less is more" was especially true for the brand's needs as photography takes a center point in brand communication.
Imagery should be bright and focus on natural colors, with lots of greens and blues.
I chose a one line illustration of a seagull for the logo. Choosing the seagull, my idea was to pick up on the stereotypical holiday symbols, since tourists in the area appreciate them. At the same time, I wanted to give it a twist. Line art allowed me to emphasise the plain, simple and modern touch of the brand.
I chose 2 typefaces: Nunito Sans, a popular sans serif typeface, is the primary type. Applied in different weights it is used across the brand in all contexts. I chose Nunito Sans for its round and friendly appearance. Marcellus, an elegant & minimalist serif typeface, serves as decorative font. Both are available under Google's open font license.
A modern and minimalist branding that still manages to be warm and friendly - a perfect reflection of the product: a freshly renovated real estate available for holidays by the sea led by friendly locals.
Instagram is an addition to the web presence. It is primarily used to share pictures of the rental, nature and activities in the area. The purpose is to support a community of enthusiats. The focus not on advertising but promoting the region and blog articles on the website.
I created a responsive website using Wordpress. Specific goals for the website were defined as follows:
1) it needs to be easy to navigate
2) it needs to be easy to place a booking
3) it is a way to offer credibility to potential customers
4) it addresses a community of enthusiasts
Experience of locals that I interviewed as well as economic analysis of tourism provided by official institutions of the region showed that the target group is almost only German speaking, which is why the website is in German and not translated to English. (The minority of English speaking customers would also be likely to use a travel portal such as Airbnb on which translations are provided.)
I created a straightforward navigation: home, apartments, pricing, contact and book now.
For the property pages ("apartments") I took inspiration from Airbnb's page setup as I find Airbnb having the best usability & aesthetic amongst competitors and due to not having budget on testing.
Each page is designed with conversion in mind. Aparmtent pages have a build in booking tool that allows making a reservation right on the spot. Other pages use CTAs to forward users to the "book now" page. Instagram embed and the blog add social credibility. A widget that shows recent Airbnb reviews is the biggest social proof on the website.
I added a blog called "Entdecke (den) Norden". It translates to "discover (the) north" and is a word play as the city's name in which the business is located is the German word for north. Blog articles can be used for SEO and may attract enthusiasts for the region. My most popular post so far has been an article on painting stones, which is a popular activity done by tourists. They paint stones and place them outside, some people even engage in online groups (such as Facebook groups) to share their finds or give hints on where to find painted stones. Although not engaging in that hobby, I observed an increasing amount of painted stones in the area. I took this indication in combination with low competition on Google trends to write my article.
The business opened with 3 vacation rentals in June 2020. By utilising search engine optimisation I drove bookings up to 80% occupancy within the first half year (from June to October 2020, before and after which Covid-Lockdowns were set in place).
I generated 40% of bookings in the first year of business with direct traffic through the website.
The website Familie Visser’s Ferienwohnungen was indexed No. 1 in Google search results for „Ferienwohnungen Visser“ within less than a year. (Visser is a popular name in the region with established rental businesses under the same name.)
On a monthly basis (as of May 2021), the website has 1180 search queries, a majority of them are direct searches. Moreover, the business generates 2450 monthly views on Google Business.
I reached the KPIs of 150 booked nights in the first year (taking into regard the effect of Covid on travelling in 2020). Moreover, I hit the revenue target.
Booking platforms such as Airbnb offer advantages to businesses due to their popularity and marketing options. However, they take a significant amount of the price for acting as mediator. Which again has its advantaged like insurance and such but it can also be a burden, especially for small businesses. Relying on a platform as single source of income creates a huge dependency. Using an own website can be a strategy to develop more independence. Platforms like Airbnb have a monopoly in Google search results which makes it harder to be found in search results directly. Moreover, indexing a website can take time which, also delays the discoverability. Considering these hardships, generating 40% of total bookings directly is a good result. One driver in creating visibility for the website was Google maps.