When Great Wolf Resort guests indicated that online booking was causing frustration, we listened. Feedback indicated that some individuals were unable to find certain elements in the online reservation system. In an environment where the number of options is big and travel budgets are small, the management team knew it was time for change.

In July 2011, Great Wolf Resorts launched a revamped Website designed to provide a more engaging, positive experience from the first click, while also encouraging online bookings. With the new design and integration of social media to the Website, we improved our online satisfaction scores,

increased Web reservations and reduced calls to our customer contact center. Recently, also beat 140 entries to receive a RUBY Award from the Ohio Travel Association, the highest travel and tourism industry recognition in the state.

The job of developing the new site fell to internal marketing, revenue management, creative and development professionals at Great Wolf Resorts. It was a collaborative effort and early on, the group identified three main goals for the improved Web experience: Educate prospective first-time visitors on the Great Wolf Lodge experience; convert intent into room bookings; and promote engagement with our brand.

To really showcase the brand experience, we knew our Website needed to be just as dynamic as the real thing, so the fun could speak for itself. When guests visit Great Wolf Lodge for the first time, they inevitably have a “Wow — I had no idea!” moment as they see the size and scope of our indoor waterparks and amenities for the first time. To translate that to the virtual world, we added interactive content, including 360-degree suite views, point-of-view slide videos and guest reviews of their stays.

To convert intent into bookings, we set out to create a logical progression from each property home page, providing guests with the information they need in a shorter amount of time. For those who click on the site already intending to book a reservation, we also made it easier to find deals and special offers.

Additionally, because some key findings from our research indicated how guests searched visit dates, we considered many options to optimize that process. Overnight rates vary by time of year and day of the week, and the new site’s booking engine and calendar date format make it easier to find dates and rates that fit into guests’ schedules and budgets.

Moreover, the implementation of live online chat further assists guests in booking reservations online. It continues to make the experience engaging and interactive.

To achieve our final goal of brand engagement, we determined that the Great Wolf Resorts Web site needed to feature an interactive, community-focused experience.

To that end, nearly 20 percent of the total content included on the new site is pulled from our Facebook and YouTube pages. Guests also are encouraged to share their own content directly. They can ask questions, post photos and videos, and share reviews from their visits. That content is organized and displayed in the same manner as content from social media channels, and we expect that it will increase as more guests add new items.

In addition, we also incorporated our Ask-A-Mom Panel, a group of parent ambassadors who have stayed at various Great Wolf Lodge locations. Panelists help answer questions online for potential guests, and content is streamed in real time to the site’s visitors and displayed on each resort location’s home page.  

Looking ahead, we plan to continue to evolve the site and optimize the user experience, from improving the ways in which we allow users to share information to launching a mobile platform that gives the users key information at different stages of their stays.

Other new tools will include interactive indoor waterpark maps; reservation features to help guests find the best value; enhancements allowing visitors to view customized offers; and the ability to check in online. As we develop these new features and make enhancements to the Great Wolf Website, we will continue to keep our goals of education, conversion and guest engagement in focus.