How many websites and devices does a consumer use to research travel?
As devices proliferate, the number of touchpoints for travel research increases. Brands such as Expedia are focusing on the cross-device experience, and are delivering research showing that some consumers visit up to 38 sites before booking travel. So how many websites and devices does a consumer use to research travel?
In the latest travel advisory report from Webtrends, that number is pegged at 6.5 devices and websites, on average.
The number, which comes from sponsored PhoCusWright research, is an important one, as it determines just how vital it is for brands to be present across devices and search parameters.
In addition to the 6.5 devices/sites figure, the research also found that:
- 41 percent of travelers research travel using mobile devices (smartphone or tablet).
- 55 percent of travelers prefer to book using a desktop or laptop even if they research using mobile.
- Desktops maintain popularity for travel research, with 79% of travelers use online travel agencies/apps for research compared to 14% who use smartphones and 11% who use tablets.
- Power travelers research more frequently, with those traveling 6+ times a year, those spending over $6,000 annually on travel and early tech adopters using more touchpoints than the mean.
- 25-34 year olds are the most mobile-heavy, comprising 38% of total users booking on mobile.
- As consumers get older, they use fewer touchpoints – important for those seeking to capture that demographic.
As far as not booking on mobile, the main reasons that respondents gave are that they prefer to book via a desktop or laptop (55%), the screen is too small on mobile (31%), not being ready to book on mobile (30%) and not being comfortable booking via a mobile device (26%).
Webtrends – which provides technology and consulting to digital brands – published the following suggestions to travel brands seeking to optimize for ongoing consumer trends:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tnooz posed a few questions to Michael Wilson, Senior Director of Product Strategy, about his company’s latest advisory report and how it applies to travel.
The number of travelers using mobile [in your research] is surprisingly low – and contradicts some recent research that shows more of a trend towards booking on mobile. Given this particular set of results, how should mobile play into a travel marketing strategy?
Before determining how mobile should play into your strategy, brands should engage with their customers to really understand how they use mobile. For research? For booking? For updates while already on the trip? The key for brands is to support customers’ goals and make those goals your goals. If — as our research suggest — customers are not yet comfortable booking on mobile, help them make better decisions along the way until they are ready.
This mobile trend is reversed when it comes to younger travelers, who are rapidly reaching their peak earning and spending years. How can travel marketers create a segmented travel marketing strategy that ensures both mobile and desktop searches/bookers are fulfilled?
Travel marketers can segment traffic by campaigns and channels, search terms, and previous purchase histories. At that point, marketers should use the knowledge of who they are trying to attract to make a targeted decision of how to engage – with either an attempt to educate or convert.
Expedia has recently talked a lot about creating a cross-device experience, with products like ScratchPad, that populates across devices. How does Webtrends see this cross-device trend playing out in travel?
Years ago, Webtrends recognized the need to understand customers at the visitor-level, not simply as aggregate traffic. We developed our data collection strategy to collect information across physical devices and across channels (site, mobile, social, email) and provide a visitor level view to marketers as customers move throughout their journey.
This has only become more important as the number of devices and channels have proliferated. Thus, the goal for travel marketers is to see each customer’s engagement with their brand continuously until they have completed their desired task(s) – regardless of how many touchpoints that may involve.
Given the research of consumer behaviors, what are the most pressing/required features for travel companies to prioritize in development cycles?
An ability to recognize visitors as they move between channels and devices is the most important factor in being able to offer customers a consistent and relevant experience. Marketers must provide opportunities for visitors to identify themselves so they know the context in which the visitor is engaging on the brand’s channel. Once marketers have that context, they can act on that knowledge to deliver the relevant content and experiences in real time.
More from Webtrends on travel here.
NB: Search image courtesy Shutterstock.
Nick Vivion was a senior reporter for Tnooz from August 2012 to July 2015.