How to test your way to giving a better online travel booking experience

NB: This is a guest article by Mark Simpson, president and founder of Maxymiser.

The travel industry is more diversified than ever before. So beware…

With nearly every travel booking site, or intermediary, providing one-stop shops for everything from airfare and room and board to transportation and tours, these sites aren’t only competing against each other.

They’re now competing against the suppliers themselves – airlines, hotels, rental car and tour companies.

Intermediaries are offering dynamic packages across suppliers, and competitive websites are investing in new features, such as online reviews, to keep travelers looking and booking on their site.

Meanwhile, suppliers are investing in their websites to capture more direct bookings, as well as investing in loyalty programs and other initiatives that help them reconnect with the customer.

And midst all this, consumers are taking advantage of their battle to please them.

Always on the prowl for the best deal, bargain hunters can make life in the travel industry difficult—especially for companies that can’t compete price-wise.

For them, brand loyalty is of particular importance. But how do you create and maintain brand loyalty when consumers have hundreds, if not thousands, of choices?

It’s all about user experience

By ensuring that visitors have a successful browsing and booking experience. Doing this requires speaking to individual customers’ needs by providing an optimized and personalized travel experience – across all digital touch-points.

In other words, if you please them, they will return.

Whether you’re a supplier or an intermediary, providing an optimized and personalized travel experience – across all digital touch-points – is critical to building and maintaining customer loyalty.

Unfortunately, many travelers today still encounter problems with the simplest of tasks on travel sites.

According to recent Forrester research, one in five leisure travelers encounter problems booking online. Fundamental tasks, such as completing, modifying or cancelling reservations, proved to be the most problematic for this group.

Start by asking yourself a few key questions:

  • When a visitor comes to your site to plan a trip, are they able to effectively search for what they’re looking for?
  • Do they abandon your site after the first set of trip results are displayed? Or do they get deep into the checkout process only to then bounce to do more research?
  • Of those who do not complete the checkout process, can you identify any specific trends, such as getting stuck on a certain page or form before leaving?

A common problem in the online travel booking process is for a user to nearly complete the checkout process, only to bounce out of the funnel at the last minute to continue researching.

In this case, information that influences a traveler’s decision is likely being presented too late in the process, such as revealing hidden fees that result in a higher-than-quoted price.

What to do?

This is where multivariate testing can be used to determine which information should be presented up-front in the process – well before the visitor advances to the final stages of booking.

This type of testing can also determine whether presenting this information reduces overall conversion rates or has a negative impact on revenue.

Continuous A/B and Multivariate Testing (MVT) are key methods when it comes to optimizing websites and achieving specific behavioral results, such as converting browsers into buyers, reducing last-minute bounces, and so forth.

For example, by testing content and layout variations of the home page, search interface, and layout of search results, while also measuring the corresponding impact of each of those changes on engagement and bookings, you can determine which content and page layouts result more engaging experiences for site visitors, which ultimately leads to higher online revenue.

Testing with live visitors will provide the insight you need to determine why certain segments of visitors might abandon the process.

You also don’t want to ignore the fact that your website may need additional features to improve the customer experience.

For example, during the research phase, many travelers tend to consult Google Maps. Since maps can provide convenience to determine how close a hotel is to walk to a local attraction, or the types of restaurants available nearby – and are therefore helpful to someone planning travel – don’t force visitors to toggle between your site and Google.

Instead, try embedding a Google map directly into your site. This will keep visitors on your site and help them progress into the booking funnel.

Past traveler reviews are extremely influential on the decision to book. Knowing that online travel bookers rely on sites such as TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Lonely Planet for reviews and discussions, online travel bookers often consult these sites before pulling the “Book Now” trigger.

As with Google Maps, if your visitors are distracted by additional sites and pages, your abandon rate could suffer.

Try testing out integration of travel reviews from these reliable sources into the booking funnel to improve conversions.

By giving visitors information they are already looking for (the good, the bad and the ugly) you’re more likely to get—and keep—them as customers.


Of course, all of this is just the beginning. But in the end, it’s really about providing a seamless (and painless) online experience to help customers plan, book, and modify their trips.

Doing so will provide a deeper connection with consumers, as well as drive more online bookings, revenue, and customer loyalty.

NB: This is a guest article by Mark Simpson, president and founder of Maxymiser.

NB2: Image via Shutterstock.

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About the Writer :: Viewpoints

A founding principle of tnooz was a diversity of viewpoints from across the spectrum. Viewpoints are articles by guest contributors from around the travel and hospitality industries. The views expressed are the views and opinions of the author and do not reflect or represent the views of his employer, tnooz, its writers, or partners.



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  1. Nathaniel Tapley

    From the customer’s point of view, booking travel online is often more stressful than it should. Hidden charges appear out of nowhere, pages hang, buttons are accidentally clicked twice, terms & conditions have to be read…

    Even for those of us who are comfortable booking travel online, it’s rarely a pleasant experience. Testing like that you describe could help, but I’m not sure anyone has got it right enough to know what they are testing for, yet.


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