Marriott label made with text box in Snagit.jpg

Marriott Project Story Page

The project began with a request from Marriott International.  

Marriott had determined that, in order to grow its business, it needed to re-design its web site.  Marriott had concluded that it was losing potential customers and revenue because its web site was not functioning as needed.   To carry out Marriott’s request, I recommended user research prior to making changes to the web site. The following steps took place in the project:

I worked with the customer to define business goals, ask questions, and conduct a “nano” usability test

Step 1:  Marriott stakeholders identified their top five business goals and top five user experience questions.  

Marriott’s top five business goals were:

1)  Increase hotel booking via digital properties by 10%.

2)  Increase reservations for theirLuxury and Lifestyle Collection hotel categories.

3)   Gain 10,000 incremental members of the Marriott Rewards loyalty program in the first quarter after the re-design.

4)   Decrease by 20% the number of people starting and then abandoning a reservation.

5)  Increase by 5% the number of people choosing a hotel and flight package (vs. just booking their hotel alone).

Marriott’s top five user experience questions were:

1)  What is the demographic makeup of our user population?

2)  How do people choose a hotel?

3)  Why do people start a hotel search and then not complete a reservation?

4)  When do people use the Marriott website vs. the mobile app?  

5)  What value are customers looking for in a hotel loyalty program?  

I used Marriott's existing user experience data to help answer questions.

.       Customer Support call logs

.       Stakeholder interviews

.       Prior usability studies

.        Marketing reports

.        Demographic reports

.        User personas

Step 2:  To support the re-design of its digital properties, Marriott requested recommendations for changes to user experiences and new design comps.

Step 3:  I recommended adding user research to Marriott’s re-design plan.

Step 4:  I conducted a “nano” usability test of with three participants.  This test revealed user difficulty with some basic features. 

Step 5:  Based on results of the nano test, Marriott agreed that additional user research was needed. I created a research plan and a questionnaire that were used to conduct user interviews

Step 6:  I created a User Research Goals and Questions plan based on Marriott’s business goals and questions.  A closed-ended questionnaire was created and user interviews were conducted.  Marriott’s top five user research goals to support its business needs were:

               Goal 1: Determine how people choose hotels.  

               Goal 2:  Define the meaning of “lifestyle” and “luxury” for hotel users.  

               Goal 3:   Understand decisions users make when making travel plans

               Goal 4:   Investigate users’ physical problems web sites and mobile apps.  

               Goal 5:  Explore ways in which a hotel rewards program is valuable to users. 

Step 7:    I recommended an iterative development process for the re-design. This is a flexible, adaptable, and participatory type of development that expedites finding user problems. 

Step 8:    I conducted in-person interviews with users.  This method was chosen because I thought it was the best method for knowing the users’ experience.  It would allow me to see the user's body language, observe facial expressions, and hear tone of voice.   As it turned out, I was correct.  My thought process was very accurate.  The sketch below shows my thought process on capturing facial expressions during the interviews.   It shows the information being used to address research goals and answer research questions. 


The following steps summarize how the research was conducted:

1)  The interview candidates were selected using a “friends and family” approach.  I selected three people I knew who might use a hotel’s website to find and reserve a room for a vacation. 

2)   I created an interview plan that included user research goals, questions, and hypotheses. 

3)   I wrote an interview guide  that consisted of an introduction, warm-up questions, twenty main body questions, cool-down, and wrap-up sections.  The twenty main questions were organized into five themes:  Lifestyle, Luxury, Rewards Programs, Travel Planning, and Using Hotel Booking Sites.

4)  Interviews were conducted in business conference rooms.  The rooms were clean, safe, and free of distractions.  The interviewees signed consent forms for videotaping.  The interviews were fully taped for later analysis and reference.

 5)   A written summary of the interviews was created.  It provided demographic information on the interviewees, a description of the environment where the interviews occurred, and a brief narrative of the interviews. 

The three interviewees were all Marriott users.  They were all very positive and enthusiastic about Marriott properties.   They had the following demographic characteristics: all female, age 50-60, professional, and college educated.   They all stayed in hotels up to 6 times a year.  Two  of them had used Marriott’s digital properties in the past year.  My thought process in selecting these users was based on the "friends and family" approach.  However, it occurred to me several times that these users were much too similar in background to provide a variety of responses.   In a real study, an effort would be made to ensure the interviewees represented Marriott's true customer base.  Nevertheless, the interviewees gave very thoughtful and detailed feedback based on their experiences. 

The interviewees provided valuable information about Marriott's quality, service, and variety. 

Leslie is fun loving. She loves to vacation in Las Vegas.

Leslie is fun loving. She loves to vacation in Las Vegas.

Cynthia is sophisticated.  She vacations in upscale hotels in Europe.

Cynthia is sophisticated.  She vacations in upscale hotels in Europe.

Patricia is relaxed.  Her ideal vacation is a casual road trip.

Patricia is relaxed.  Her ideal vacation is a casual road trip.

Listen to the interviewees' opinions in a five-minute video below.  

I analyzed and reported the research data

Step 9:  I analyzed the videotaped interviews and my interview notes and reported the results for each goal:

Goal 1:  Determine how people choose hotels.  

Hypothesis 1:   People choose hotels and flights by finding the “sweet spot” of ideal price, amenities, location, and other features.  his hypothesis was rejected.  The user research results found that the overriding consideration when users choose hotels is the     professionalism of the staff. 

Goal 2:  Define the meaning of “lifestyle” and “luxury” for hotel users.  

Hypothesis 2:  “Lifestyle” and “luxury” have specific meanings to users.  his hypothesis was accepted.  The user research results found that “Lifestyle” and “Luxury” bring to mind specific features to users.   The following features were mentioned by users in the interviews:

 Lifestyle                                                                                       Luxury                                 

“Room with kitchenette”                                                             “Highly professional staff”

“Room that is like an apartment “                                             “Antiques” 

“Room that has separate sleeping area”                                “Exquisite furnishings”

“Coffee and tea in separate brewing machines”                   “Nice bathrobes and bath towels”

“Ironing board and iron in the room”                                      “Upscale bath toiletries”

“Good bathtub and shower”                                                       “Warm cookies in the evening”

“Free dinner as well as breakfast”                                             “Luxury hotels are more quiet”

“Safe place to stay”        


Goal 3: Understand decisions users make when making travel plans. 

Hypothesis 3:  Users make travel plans by first considering whether the trip is for business or vacation.  Then they consider the distance to their destination.  They would be interested in booking a hotel and flight as a package only if they have already determined that they must fly rather than drive to their hotel.   Users who intend to drive rather than fly are not enticed by hotel and flight packages. This hypothesis was accepted.  The user research results found a strong distinction between business and vacation travel.   The interviewees almost always fly when taking business trips, but often drive when taking vacations. 

Goal 4: Investigate users’ physical problems web sites and mobile apps.  

Hypothesis 4: Users sometimes have physical difficulty navigating hotel booking services on the web.  This hypothesis was rejected.  The interviewees  did not express having a great deal of difficulty using hotel booking sites on the web. 

Goal 5: Explore ways in which a hotel rewards program is valuable to users. 

Hypothesis 5:  Hotel rewards programs are important to users for finding bargains. This hypothesis was rejected.  One interviewee said she never keeps track or uses her points because it’s “too much work.”   The second interviewee said the only way she knows how to earn Marriott Rewards points is by staying nights.  This reflects a knowledge gap; there are other ways to earn points.   The third interviewee said her points are important to her.  She did not describe difficulty in earning or using them.

I provided recommendations for actions to meet business goals

Step 11:   I gave recommendations based on the research.  The interviewees expressed very positive perceptions about Marriott.  Their overall opinion of Marriott is that it is top of the line in terms of quality and service for value.  The following recommendations would improve the user experience and help meet business goals.   

1)      Create staff awareness program to increase professional behavior and appearance.  

2)      Increase availability of rooms with kitchenettes and separate living/sleeping areas.   

3)      Conduct user focus groups to generate new ideas on offering the Marriott Rewards program.  

4)      Use digital analytics to track users’ actions when making reservations.  Also conduct diary studies to understand how users interact with the reservation process in context.  Use text messaging as the diary collection method.   Ask users to send screen shots along with text messages.   This action will help determine the circumstances under which people are abandoning reservations.  This knowledge can then be used to determine steps needed to decrease reservation abandonment by 20%.

5)      Conduct interviews with a different demographic group to learn about differences in travel planning.  The group of interviewees in this research effort were very homogeneous: all were female professionals in the 50-60 age group.   

Learning Results

I was amazed at the amount of detail planning involved in interviewing live subjects.  Working with interviewees is a greatly rewarding experience.  

See detailed documentation by accessing links below.   Please contact me with any questions you have. 

A story sketch appears below.  It was very interesting to learn about hotel users' experiences.