Research & Insight
Activities: Desk research, venue immersion & observation, brand audit, digital audit, team member interviews, customer interviews
Long-established as a destination for domestic tourists, the New Forest represents an escape into nature and freedom from the big city.
Careys Manor lives amid an opening in the forest, surrounded by wildlife, nature and the English countryside. It’s a resort, housing a world-class spa, three restaurants, meeting rooms and event spaces, alongside 77 rooms.
But, over time, the brand had fallen behind the local competition, including luminaries like The Pig and Lime Wood. Attempting to follow their lead and attract a growing, affluent audience, the business was being sold on an axis it couldn’t win on: Luxury.
Our brief was to redevelop the brand with digital in mind, find white space away from the region’s 5* operators and drive direct bookings through a new website.
Our visits to the New Forest crystallised the challenge and the opportunity. The entrance to the hotel is grand; it’s followed by a reception that dates back to being William the Conqueror’s 11th century hunting lodge. But the customer journey then races through a Thai spa, a French restaurant and a medley of varied room types and public spaces. This could clearly inhibit a guest’s comfort and their ability to define the proposition to others.
Immediately, we could see the spa was the centre of the guest experience for those that knew and loved the brand, becoming first choice for a national audience. It was outnumbered by the restaurants, but not outperformed.
The restaurants, by contrast, predominantly housed hotel guests. They didn’t represent a destination and would rarely factor into the choice of whether to book or not.
At the outset of the project, the hotel maintained 11 room types; a legacy of iterative additions to the property over the years. This greatly challenged first time guests, unable to synthesise the offers presented to them, creating inertia and uncertainty.
Every bricks & mortar enterprise changes over the course of the year, but few places more so than Careys Manor. Over our visits we experienced how intertwined the property is with the New Forest; how it changes with the seasons and how different the stay could be, from March, to May, to November.
Most hotels sell consistency and for good reason. But we had the chance to share a sense of place and time too.
We had to define the proposition in a way that played to the brand’s strengths and gave it a clear point of difference. By connecting Careys Manor & Senspa in brand name and communication, we could leverage the spa without it losing its identity.
This directed our approach to the website, connecting the hotel & spa in the guest’s view wherever possible.
The brand needed to meld modernity and heritage, relaxation and practicality, steering clear of luxury in favour of serenity and locality. There’s a maturity to the offer, not just by nature of being adult-only, which we reflected in type, colour and application.
Careys Manor’s previous website had no lack of content – it was dense and unwieldy – but the content produced lacked focus. We centred ongoing content around a series of local area guides to position the business as an authority on the area and local custom, and to support SEO in the knowledge that the majority of prospective guests worked ‘New Forest first’ in discovery, before determining where to stay.
The booking module incorporates all three options as an immediate reminder of the resort feel, also helping regular guests book quickly. This is complemented by regularly placed modules aimed at promoting users to explore other facets of the estate in context of their current journey.
With a spa, 3 restaurants, 11 room types and myriad other spaces – coupled with our attempts to intertwine the offers – there’s an inevitable danger that the user could be overwhelmed. We kept navigation streamlined, supported with gentle transitions, and treated ‘inventory’ pages (e.g. rooms) as sales tools rather than exhaustive indexes, designed to compel the user to consider availability and commit to the idea of visiting.