Trying to understand travelers in the day of device-driven bookings is like trying to figure out what kind of car Americans are likely to buy. There are too many options and no one size fits all. However, the digital era is all about data and the “phat data” has spoken when it comes to buying travel online: desktops win out and research is king. What we do know: consumers use an average of 6.5 sites and a variety of devices to research before booking travel.
In a recent travel survey sponsored by Webtrends, travelers who have taken at least one leisure trip within the past year (involving a hotel or airline purchase) were asked to identify the number of touch points that led to their purchase. Touch points are defined as both sites visited and devices used during the booking process. Survey findings include:
• Travelers search multiple web sources when preparing to book trips — 79 percent of travelers use online travel agencies/apps on their desktops for research compared to 14 percent who use smartphones and 11 percent who use tablets.
• Frequent travelers (6+ trips/year), big spenders (spend $6,000/annually on travel), early tech adopters and mobile travel shoppers use the most touch points and do more research than the average traveler before booking.
• Consumers aged 25-34 represent the most mobile-heavy shoppers, making up 38 percent of the total users who book travel through mobile. As consumers age, the number of touch points used to book travel decreases, identifying a key opportunity for sites to capture market share within that age demographic.
• Top reasons travelers give for not booking via mobile devices are that they prefer to book via desktop/laptop (55 percent), the mobile screen is too small (31 percent), not ready to book when shopping on a mobile device (30 percent), and they are not comfortable booking via a mobile device (26 percent).
“Booking sites are challenged to meet customer needs on every step of the journey — from the first interaction all the way to the final booking of the trip. Since travelers often do research on many sites while using multiple devices, it is imperative for travel sites to get the experience right the first time by connecting the dots between channels. This includes understanding how consumers use both mobile and desktop.
“Travel sites that depend on booking travel online have an opportunity to increase conversions and customer loyalty by providing a personalized, easy-to-use experience for customers who are using multiple devices,” says Michael Wilson, Senior Director of Product Strategy, Webtrends. “By understanding consumers on a real time, visitor level, booking sites can determine immediate intent and offer the most personalized, relevant experience. That experience adds up to increased bookings, higher order values and, best of all, site loyalty.”
The following are five digital best practices suggested by Webtrends to help travel booking sites better understand their consumers and better focus their marketing spend:
1. Discover what matters to each individual traveler. In order to deliver relevant and personalized experiences to visitors, travel sites must take a sophisticated approach to the digital booking process by knowing each visitor on an individual basis. This allows brands to create the most relevant user experiences. By leveraging visitor-level measurement and optimization tools, brands can personally assist each traveler with his or her search and avoid the risk of that visitor booking elsewhere.
2. Understand travelers across their entire journey and on all devices. While you can’t control how consumers interact with your site, you can learn from that interaction — and learn to read between the channels. It’s not just about what a consumer did on a website or a mobile device, it’s about the journey and interaction between devices. For example, research may be done on a smartphone, but the user may ultimately book using a tablet. By painting a cumulative picture of consumers that includes both action and intent, brands can understand cross-channel flows and make informed decisions on where to invest both effort and spend.
3. Test everything across all channels. Whether it is flight/hotel booked or Average Order Value, metrics are essential to the travel industry. Constantly testing and measuring results allows brands to improve the booking experience and drive up KPIs — ensuring brands get the most yield for every dollar spent on marketing optimization programs. Evaluate your campaigns constantly and make adjustments regularly to see which messages result in the greatest return. Brands should continue to evolve the booking process because there isn’t a one-time fix. Channels should evolve depending on season, visitor demographics, travel pricing and other criteria.
4. Take immediate action. Every traveler has a purpose when visiting a site and historical data only tells part of that story. Real-time data is the clearest indicator of current intent, and using those in-the-moment insights to see what travelers are searching for and clicking on is the best way for brands to provide a relevant experience while the traveler is still engaged, regardless of channel or device. By reaching out to a visitor while that person is still thinking about the purchase, whether it’s through a pop up ad, an email immediately after he’s left the site or an offer for a lower fare, conversion becomes increasingly more likely.
5. Leverage technology that plays well with others. Booking sites must have the flexibility to change and adapt in order to improve experiences for travelers across digital channels. When selecting tools, make sure you are leveraging technologies that are compatible and open. Otherwise, you may be forced to make compromises in your strategy in order to conform to a closed system.