A rigid legacy CMS came with frequent updates
A coupled architecture meant there was a separate site to maintain for each hotel
Limited universal control over websites led to inconsistencies in content and branding
Adding or changing tools, content, and design elements demanded development
A content platform supports multiple sites with one tool and a single upfront fee
Structured content lends itself to reuse and updates that populate universally
APIs support tech stack iterations with low to no code
A reliable CDN and opportunities to resize images decrease page load times
“Legacy CMS platforms have been a mainstay for 20 years and this longevity acts as a reassurance for many brands. Headless solutions are still unknown to the public, so migrating to one is often viewed as risky. But ACE Hôtel saw headless as an opportunity and its results are more than convincing.”
“The shift to Contentful has been day and night compared to our previous tool. We’ve gained enormous efficiency with the platform.”
No matter how extensively you dream of your trip to France, no matter how far in advance you book activities, or how carefully you plan your schedule, something is bound to go amiss — it’s the rule, rather than an exception while traveling. Perhaps you inadvertently tumble into the Seine, your dinner reservations at Le Fouquet’s get lost in translation, or urgency at work distracts you from the sands of St. Tropez. Should such scenarios arise, you’ll want a dry towel, 24/7 food service, and complimentary Wi-Fi — all of which are readily available to ACE Hôtel guests.
Since 2004, ACE Hôtel, a subsidiary of the hotel and commercial catering company Sighor Group, has been providing affordable, comfortable, and reliable lodging throughout France. While undergoing a massive physical expansion from a network of four hotels to over 30, ACE Hôtel sought digital expansion. The company envisioned attractive, hotel-specific sites where guests could explore amenities, book stays, and receive updates that might impact their stay.
Letting go of a legacy CMS and its baggage
ACE Hôtel’s first attempt at establishing its series of websites involved a legacy content management system that was billed as “ready out of the box,” and promised extensive capabilities at a low cost. It missed the mark, however. Platform updates were frequent and expensive, and editorial processes were developer-dependent. Content couldn’t be carried across individual hotel sites, and the larger marketing group had limited control over what was being published there, jeopardizing the company’s reputation of reliability.
By 2019, ACE Hôtel was ready for something new. Ideally, its next CMS would be low maintenance and easy to use. It would eliminate duplicative content and processes, and scale with the company, which had a pattern of introducing two to three new hotels annually.
Seeking white-glove service from an experienced digital agency
ACE Hôtel brought in French digital agency Ultrō to support this digital overhaul. Informed by 13 years of building enhanced user experience for clients and their customers, the agency recommended that ACE Hôtel consider a highly flexible solution, specifically Contentful. When combined with Netlify and Gatsby, the content platform would be able to adapt to ACE Hôtel’s present and future needs.
“Unlike legacy CMSes with rigid architectures, we knew a content platform with a decoupled architecture, such as Contentful, would allow us to design a data architecture model for the targeted needs and identity of ACE Hôtel. Plus, it would be easy for internal team members to learn and use,” noted Ultrō Project Director Thomas Rousselot. Rousselot and others devoted a good deal of time building ACE Hôtel’s initial content model and even more time iterating on it. The agency moved away from page-centric models and grouped elements by type instead. The goal behind implementing this structure was to simplify daily content management processes for the editors and content creators.
Conforming to unique needs with help from a low-maintenance content platform
ACE Hôtel was pleasantly surprised with the outcomes of implementing its new content platform. Ultrō’s content models were effective in eliminating content duplication as modules that might apply to multiple hotel sites — like the company’s history or an interactive map of all ACE Hôtel locations — could be referenced rather than recreated. This capability ensures content accuracy and provides a more consistent, recognizable brand experience.
For ACE Hôtel’s Marketing and Communication Manager, Caroline Mioche and the rest of the marketing team this means moving faster. “A commercial update across hotel sites used to take hours as we had to make that update on 30 different sites. Now we make that change in one place and it populates across all sites in about five minutes,” details Mioche. Mioche also praised Contentful’s editorial interface, describing it as “pleasant” to work in.
Catering to hybrid digital experiences with headless software
With little maintenance needed to keep the site running smoothly and securely, ACE Hôtel has been able to rely on Contentful’s ability to support omnichannel delivery. The company will soon broadcast content to digital signage throughout its hotels. For example, restaurant hours will be posted outside the entrance, and promotions for future bookings will populate natively at the concierge.
With such information available at both physical and digital touchpoints, there’s a greater chance that customers see and interact with it, which can increase customer satisfaction, retention, and loyalty. If we continue the example above, customers who read the routinely updated restaurant hours posted outside the venue will be more aware of when they can dine in and will likely avoid the disappointment of showing up to the venue during closed hours. At the concierge, customers considering a future trip might be enticed to book their next stay when they see an opportunity to save.
Delivering pages at speeds that rival room service using APIs
Before ACE Hôtel can inspire customer satisfaction and loyalty through these hybrid experiences, the company has to get customers into its doors. Attracting and converting leads in the digital-first world often depends on organic search and, by association, site performance. To become more discoverable and increase its search engine rankings, ACE Hôtel needed to increase site speed — which would require the company to optimize its content and multimedia.
Ultrō supported the first effort by introducing SEO tags to the content models already in place. The agency then used Contentful’s APIs to address media and delivery issues. With the Images API, Ultrō was able to resize images already uploaded to and published on the platform directly within the space. Then, the company connected its site to Contentful’s read-only Content Delivery API, which uses a CDN network to quickly fetch and deliver content from servers that are near the end-user. These three changes — adding SEO tags, optimizing images, and introducing a CDN — have improved ACE Hôtel’s site speed by 300%.
“The home page, which contains a lot of content and several visuals, displays in less than a second on mobile and just a few milliseconds on desktop. We've come a long way from pre-Contentful delivery times, which were several seconds,” said Antoine Caillet, Co-Founder and Technical Director of Ultrō.
APIs play another role in ACE Hôtel’s technology architecture. With Contentful’s App Framework, which relies on APIs to connect various microservices, the brand was able to easily introduce its custom-built hotel booking app and search engine. With no limit to the tools it can connect and create with the framework in the future, the company says a loyalty program app might be next on the list.