Meet the Creators: SiteMinder’s Mike Ford says “if we can’t find good technology to integrate with, then we build it ourselves”

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After celebrating a 10-year anniversary, it was time to discover more about the driving forces behind SiteMinder’s ongoing success. In this four-part interview series, co-founders Mike Ford and Mike Rogers talk about their business philosophies, share their expertise, and take a deep dive into SiteMinder’s industry-leading products.

Today, managing director Mike Ford discusses SiteMinder’s unique approach to technology development, its peerless booking engine TheBookingButton, and beautiful website builder Canvas.

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Previously, chief technical officer Mike Rogers explained the virtues of The Channel Manager and Prophet, tools that significantly improve a hotel’s distribution and revenue management strategies.

SiteMinder is also a powerful driver of direct bookings for hotels.

In the final instalment of this four-part interview series, co-founder Mike Ford reveals the early beginnings of TheBookingButton and Canvas, detailing their relationship and the unparalleled ways the technology has helped hotels achieve their business goals during SiteMinder’s lasting tenure.

A look behind the makings of ‘TheBookingButton’

SiteMinder’s initial goal was to help hoteliers optimise their distribution by making it easier for them to update their availability and rates on third-party sites like online travel agents. For Mike Ford, this quickly turned into a new source of ideas.

“We realised the hotel’s own website should be one of those prominent channels, working seamlessly, and being exposed to the same inventory the booking sites are.”

This would enable a hotel to have a powerful booking channel of their own that they could manage at the same time as third-party sites – without paying commission. However, when SiteMinder investigated a path towards integrating with booking engines, the company didn’t find what it had hoped for, explains Mike.

“When we began looking at booking engines to integrate with in 2007/08, we didn’t find much good product. Hotels were using difficult-to-navigate products that were hurting their conversion rates and a lot of them didn’t have the capability to integrate with us. That led us to think ‘if we can’t find any good product to integrate with, we should probably build it for our customers ourselves’.”

It was this dedication to customer service and quality development that spawned TheBookingButton, a product that is now a core element of the SiteMinder business.

“We ended up building a booking engine that was simple to manage, but really effective in converting guests that visit a hotel website. Originally it was for the independent market, but we’ve rapidly increased the capabilities of the product. We have some significant hotel groups using our booking engine now and its features are quite advanced”, says Mike.

A look behind the makings of ‘Canvas’

Somewhat a sister product of TheBookingButton, Canvas is a smart and easy-to-use website builder.

According to Mike, hotels were overlooking the need for a functional, optimised, and aesthetic website.

“One of the things we noticed with TheBookingButton was that it looked fantastic on a hotel’s website, but the website itself looked dated. Many hotels were providing a bad user experience on their website. They were slow and not mobile-friendly because hotels didn’t respond to the change in the way people shop.”

The reason for this largely stems from the speed at which technology leaps ahead, and the expensive nature of updating and creating websites through developers.

“Hotels could hire a web developer and spend thousands of dollars not even knowing what the finished product is going to look like”, says Mike.

“Given this landscape we developed Canvas, a continually evolving technology that allows hotels access to pre-designed websites that are specifically geared towards properties and guests. What you get when you buy Canvas is a very carefully considered website that the designers have spent a lot of time thinking about from the guest’s perspective.

“Canvas evolves as technology evolves so the hotel never has to worry about upgrading or redesigning their website. Partnered with TheBookingButton, it allows a hotel to have a hassle-free direct online booking experience for the guest.”

How does SiteMinder develop the user experience?

The standout thing about SiteMinder’s products from a development perspective is the constant progress that is being made when it comes to their effectiveness. Mike and his team never let anything rest, forever looking for new opportunities.

“We still see a lot of potential for booking engines, particularly in the big hotel and chain space. We’re definitely not at the end of the development journey of TheBookingButton. In saying that, we’re very happy with how effective is it is right now.

“Some our biggest competitors have really confusing booking interfaces and we’ve created a very simple navigational experience for the guest, which results in high conversion rates for the hotel.”

Throughout this development journey, simplicity always remains a key focus for SiteMinder.

If the products are easy for the customer to understand and use, they can spend more time on running their hotel and see even more benefits in the form of increased revenue.

Mike says this is also made necessary by the range of entities served by SiteMinder – from smaller independents through to large chains.

“It means we have to think about simplicity when we design our products, but that ends up benefitting all our customers. Our products do a lot for the hotelier, but they’re extremely easy to operate. That’s really important even in the big chains because staff turnover can be high and the training requirements for our products are low. It’s easy to get up-and-running quickly because a lot of it is automated.

“TheBookingButton and Canvas are great examples of that and support our strong focus of delivering direct bookings to hotels.”

If you missed any of the instalments in the ‘meet the creators’ series you can find the links below:

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