The $18 Million Website. Really? Really.

The $18 Million Website. Really? Really.

Heather Dougherty

Apparently I missed this gem in the feeds this January: “Four Seasons Unveils $18M Website.”

Four Seasons Website

I recently came across it while doing some research on hotel marketing. After a quick hit with the defribillator, I managed to collect myself and rub my eyes to make sure I was seeing straight. Sure enough, I had indeed read “$18M Website.” Now, I’ve been at this interwebs thing for well over a decade and haven’t seen such a seemingly inflated price tag since The Bubble. I mean, I’ve personally worked on multi-million dollar site designs/redesigns of complex web-based applications, but we’re talking maybe $3M–$5M over several years involving large corporate teams (which may be the case here, too). Naturally intrigued, I headed over to fourseasons.com ready to have my mind BLOWN. And it was…but not in the way I was expecting.

The site is bursting with spectacular photographs of each of their locations around the globe (around 90). Clearly, visually stunning imagery is an important factor in selling luxury accommodations, but if the entire site experience doesn’t also delight visitors with its ease of use, timely delivery of information and seamless translation on mobile devices, imagery alone won’t close the deal. Unfortunately, the website fails to meet a surprising number of basic user experience best practices and, frankly, the design gets pretty generic once you’re off the location landing pages. It’s also not truly mobile-optimized as advertised. For anyone who was tracking this story when it originally hit, I’m sure this all sounds very familiar.

UX expert, Tom Stewart, commented “Despite the umpteen millions it cost, it still appears to have been designed by a photographer (they are stunning) and a computer programmer.”

While I might not go that far (having seen my fair share of true developer designs), a peruse through usability.com’s assessment and econsultancy’s assessment quickly reveals a host of issues and oversights. Perhaps if this other commenter’s quip were true, it would ease the pain – ” I just did a search on their new site and a $20 bill just shot straight out of my MacBook!”

So, will the new website increase direct online sales from the purported current 12% of overall sales? I haven’t seen any numbers, but it got me thinking…what else could you drop a cool $18M on, and would it be worth it?

Let’s take a look…

Mariah Carey for one year

photo source: http://popstoptv.com/entertainment-411/mariah-carey-signs-on-as-american-idol-judge-pop-or-stop-16632.html

Whether this is worth it remains to be seen, but the diva drama already stirring between Carey and Nicki Minaj could be just the thing AI needs to boost its ratings back up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peyton Manning for one year

Peyton Manning #18 Broncos 2012-2013 Season

photo source: http://keepingscore.blogs.time.com/2012/03/21/peyton-manning-will-wear-number-18-in-denver-why-exactly-do-we-care/

Probably safe to give this one a solid “worth it,” though the stock dipped a little after his performance this past Monday night against the Falcons. (love that he’s #18, too. perfect!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney 2012 Presidential Candidate (Rep.)

photo source: http://www.trendmixer.com/cpac

Politics are always prickly, but, personally the sound of “President Romney” makes me shudder. Keeping it to the facts, though, the words “Republican” and “balanced budget” (or god forbid, “surplus”) have rarely appeared in the same sentence unless “don’t know how to create a” occurred between them. So, squarely in the “not worth it” column.

 

 

 

A luxurious townhouse in NYC’s Upper East Side

$18 million townhouse in NYC's Upper East Side

photo source: http://www.homedsgn.com/2011/08/09/what-kind-of-townhouse-does-18-million-buy-in-manhattan/

This might depend on how long you’re planning on living there given the still sad state of the housing market. Historically speaking, though, properties in elite areas of the Big Apple are a solid investment as they almost always increase in value. So, as long as the market improves and the neighborhood doesn’t turn, grab it if you got it I guess.

 

 

 

 

 

Winklevoss L.A. Mansion

Winklevoss L.A. mansion

photo source: http://www.tmz.com/2012/08/27/cameron-tyler-winklevoss-twins-facebook-hollywood-hills-mansion-mark-zuckerberg-millions/

8,000 square feet seems a bit excessive for one person (only one of the twins will live there), but, if you have $18M to drop on a bachelor pad then extravagance is par for the course. Even “average” houses in L.A. start around $2M, so, in comparison it’s not all THAT extravagant. Plus, there’s a level of reputation investment that comes along with being a VC and, if you’re a smart one, this will be a drop in the ole bucket before long.

 

 

 

 

180 Jet Packs

Water powered jet pack

photo source: http://www.jetlev.com/index.html

This is the stuff rockstar parties are made of – Jetson-style fun for you and 179 of your insider-elite island party attendees, right? Well, if you want to look like a test case for the Science Club, maybe. I mean, it’s cool until you consider the dryer vent tube-like connection device to the boat. For a bargain $540K you could score 180 parasail kits, which seems SO much more elegant. Then again, if you’ve got $18M to drop on jet packs, you may as well get the Rockettes all trained up and put on a one-of-a-kind show worthy of your hoity-toity guests.

 

 

 

Batman’s Tumbler Vehicle

Batman's Tumbler vehicle

http://www.funonthenet.in/articles/batman-gadgets.html

Carpe diem! Geek is the new chic. With this stealth, jet engine, self-destructing, armour-plated, machine gun outfitted, remote controlled, GPS-enabled ride, you could swoop up the whole “I <3 Geeks” fan club of bandwagon blondes and head over to the Winklevoss mansion for some unadulterated fun (he won’t even notice – he’s hangin’ in the east wing, plus…you’re buds after hanging at Lindsay Lohan’s shin dig last year anyway, right?)

 

 

 

Diamond-laden Duds

Marie de' Medici $20M diamond-laden gown

photo source: http://www.interestingtopics.net/dress-of-20-million-dollars-id-330

If you’ve got a date with the red carpet and the gathered mermaid look that’s all the rage just isn’t your style, consider THIS deluxe Marie de’ Medici (1575 – 1642) gown, originally purchased for $20M (in 1606 dollars). It’s “gently used” – as in she wore it only once. Rendering Joan Rivers speechless is worth the $18M alone, wouldn’t you agree?

 

 

 

 

 

 

3D-ification of “The Titanic”

The Titanic 3D

photo source: http://images.wikia.com/twilightsaga/images/d/d2/419177_10150592809136604_563691603_9553503_303175424_n.jpg

Last, but certainly not least, is the making of “The Titanic 3D.” Most of us enjoyed our first 3 hour big screen experience (complete with intermission in many cases), but how much oomph does 3D really add to the story? Oh please let me feel like I’m right there at the table with Kathy Bates or so close I can practically FEEL the paper Leonardo is sketching his beauty onto. Give me a break! Spend $18M on an original movie idea and maybe you’ll get the “worth it” rating.

 

 

Getting back to the main point of this post – whether Four Seasons’ $18M website redesign was worth it – only time will tell (and hopefully eConsultancy or the like will follow up). However, when you consider the sheer cost of the photography, not to mention a new online reservation system, preference-driven customized site experiences and the audience research (evidenced by their 2012 Luxury Travel Trend Report), you can see the costs start to stack up. Yet another commenter on eConsultancy’s original post broke down the ROI math…

At first I was a bit shocked with the spend, but when you unravel the math of this it is not necessarily that much money. With 30M visits per year and a conservatively low average online conversion of 0.5% you’re looking at 150,000 bookings per year. Assuming an average order value of $600 (which may also be low) then the site generates $90M in revenues. Here’s the interesting part, for every 0.01% increase in conversion they add $18M in revenue.

When you look at it like that, it doesn’t seem so outlandish. Or does it (given the quality of the final product)?

Apparently I missed this gem in the feeds this January: “Four Seasons Unveils $18M Website.”

Four Seasons Website

I recently came across it while doing some research on hotel marketing. After a quick hit with the defribillator, I managed to collect myself and rub my eyes to make sure I was seeing straight. Sure enough, I had indeed read “$18M Website.” Now, I’ve been at this interwebs thing for well over a decade and haven’t seen such a seemingly inflated price tag since The Bubble. I mean, I’ve personally worked on multi-million dollar site designs/redesigns of complex web-based applications, but we’re talking maybe $3M–$5M over several years involving large corporate teams (which may be the case here, too). Naturally intrigued, I headed over to fourseasons.com ready to have my mind BLOWN. And it was…but not in the way I was expecting.

The site is bursting with spectacular photographs of each of their locations around the globe (around 90). Clearly, visually stunning imagery is an important factor in selling luxury accommodations, but if the entire site experience doesn’t also delight visitors with its ease of use, timely delivery of information and seamless translation on mobile devices, imagery alone won’t close the deal. Unfortunately, the website fails to meet a surprising number of basic user experience best practices and, frankly, the design gets pretty generic once you’re off the location landing pages. It’s also not truly mobile-optimized as advertised. For anyone who was tracking this story when it originally hit, I’m sure this all sounds very familiar.

UX expert, Tom Stewart, commented “Despite the umpteen millions it cost, it still appears to have been designed by a photographer (they are stunning) and a computer programmer.”

While I might not go that far (having seen my fair share of true developer designs), a peruse through usability.com’s assessment and econsultancy’s assessment quickly reveals a host of issues and oversights. Perhaps if this other commenter’s quip were true, it would ease the pain – ” I just did a search on their new site and a $20 bill just shot straight out of my MacBook!”

So, will the new website increase direct online sales from the purported current 12% of overall sales? I haven’t seen any numbers, but it got me thinking…what else could you drop a cool $18M on, and would it be worth it?

Let’s take a look…

Mariah Carey for one year

photo source: http://popstoptv.com/entertainment-411/mariah-carey-signs-on-as-american-idol-judge-pop-or-stop-16632.html

Whether this is worth it remains to be seen, but the diva drama already stirring between Carey and Nicki Minaj could be just the thing AI needs to boost its ratings back up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peyton Manning for one year

Peyton Manning #18 Broncos 2012-2013 Season

photo source: http://keepingscore.blogs.time.com/2012/03/21/peyton-manning-will-wear-number-18-in-denver-why-exactly-do-we-care/

Probably safe to give this one a solid “worth it,” though the stock dipped a little after his performance this past Monday night against the Falcons. (love that he’s #18, too. perfect!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney 2012 Presidential Candidate (Rep.)

photo source: http://www.trendmixer.com/cpac

Politics are always prickly, but, personally the sound of “President Romney” makes me shudder. Keeping it to the facts, though, the words “Republican” and “balanced budget” (or god forbid, “surplus”) have rarely appeared in the same sentence unless “don’t know how to create a” occurred between them. So, squarely in the “not worth it” column.

 

 

 

A luxurious townhouse in NYC’s Upper East Side

$18 million townhouse in NYC's Upper East Side

photo source: http://www.homedsgn.com/2011/08/09/what-kind-of-townhouse-does-18-million-buy-in-manhattan/

This might depend on how long you’re planning on living there given the still sad state of the housing market. Historically speaking, though, properties in elite areas of the Big Apple are a solid investment as they almost always increase in value. So, as long as the market improves and the neighborhood doesn’t turn, grab it if you got it I guess.

 

 

 

 

 

Winklevoss L.A. Mansion

Winklevoss L.A. mansion

photo source: http://www.tmz.com/2012/08/27/cameron-tyler-winklevoss-twins-facebook-hollywood-hills-mansion-mark-zuckerberg-millions/

8,000 square feet seems a bit excessive for one person (only one of the twins will live there), but, if you have $18M to drop on a bachelor pad then extravagance is par for the course. Even “average” houses in L.A. start around $2M, so, in comparison it’s not all THAT extravagant. Plus, there’s a level of reputation investment that comes along with being a VC and, if you’re a smart one, this will be a drop in the ole bucket before long.

 

 

 

 

180 Jet Packs

Water powered jet pack

photo source: http://www.jetlev.com/index.html

This is the stuff rockstar parties are made of – Jetson-style fun for you and 179 of your insider-elite island party attendees, right? Well, if you want to look like a test case for the Science Club, maybe. I mean, it’s cool until you consider the dryer vent tube-like connection device to the boat. For a bargain $540K you could score 180 parasail kits, which seems SO much more elegant. Then again, if you’ve got $18M to drop on jet packs, you may as well get the Rockettes all trained up and put on a one-of-a-kind show worthy of your hoity-toity guests.

 

 

 

Batman’s Tumbler Vehicle

Batman's Tumbler vehicle

http://www.funonthenet.in/articles/batman-gadgets.html

Carpe diem! Geek is the new chic. With this stealth, jet engine, self-destructing, armour-plated, machine gun outfitted, remote controlled, GPS-enabled ride, you could swoop up the whole “I <3 Geeks” fan club of bandwagon blondes and head over to the Winklevoss mansion for some unadulterated fun (he won’t even notice – he’s hangin’ in the east wing, plus…you’re buds after hanging at Lindsay Lohan’s shin dig last year anyway, right?)

 

 

 

Diamond-laden Duds

Marie de' Medici $20M diamond-laden gown

photo source: http://www.interestingtopics.net/dress-of-20-million-dollars-id-330

If you’ve got a date with the red carpet and the gathered mermaid look that’s all the rage just isn’t your style, consider THIS deluxe Marie de’ Medici (1575 – 1642) gown, originally purchased for $20M (in 1606 dollars). It’s “gently used” – as in she wore it only once. Rendering Joan Rivers speechless is worth the $18M alone, wouldn’t you agree?

 

 

 

 

 

 

3D-ification of “The Titanic”

The Titanic 3D

photo source: http://images.wikia.com/twilightsaga/images/d/d2/419177_10150592809136604_563691603_9553503_303175424_n.jpg

Last, but certainly not least, is the making of “The Titanic 3D.” Most of us enjoyed our first 3 hour big screen experience (complete with intermission in many cases), but how much oomph does 3D really add to the story? Oh please let me feel like I’m right there at the table with Kathy Bates or so close I can practically FEEL the paper Leonardo is sketching his beauty onto. Give me a break! Spend $18M on an original movie idea and maybe you’ll get the “worth it” rating.

 

 

Getting back to the main point of this post – whether Four Seasons’ $18M website redesign was worth it – only time will tell (and hopefully eConsultancy or the like will follow up). However, when you consider the sheer cost of the photography, not to mention a new online reservation system, preference-driven customized site experiences and the audience research (evidenced by their 2012 Luxury Travel Trend Report), you can see the costs start to stack up. Yet another commenter on eConsultancy’s original post broke down the ROI math…

At first I was a bit shocked with the spend, but when you unravel the math of this it is not necessarily that much money. With 30M visits per year and a conservatively low average online conversion of 0.5% you’re looking at 150,000 bookings per year. Assuming an average order value of $600 (which may also be low) then the site generates $90M in revenues. Here’s the interesting part, for every 0.01% increase in conversion they add $18M in revenue.

When you look at it like that, it doesn’t seem so outlandish. Or does it (given the quality of the final product)?

If you like this story subscribe to our newsletter.

Get updates directly to your email and never miss a thing.

Thanks!

This entry was posted in Design, Development, Marketing, Strategy. Industry: . Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.
Google+