Understanding bounce rates and unfriendly airline mobile websites

A lot has been written here on the mobile web versus mobile apps debate in travel, but the primary focus of this post is to better understand the size of the lost opportunity from having a mobile unfriendly website.

Using data from six geographically dispersed airlines, the intention is to address the following question:

  • What is an acceptable bounce rate for mobile devices accessing travel websites?
  • Or to put it another way, how much revenue is my company losing by turning away consumers using mobile devices?

Bounce rate here refers to the percentage of users who after landing at any page progress no further – that is, they do not view a second page on the same website.

Whilst in some cases this may be the result of users mistakenly clicking on unclear or ambiguous search engine links, in this example all six are well known brands (especially in their home markets) so we should be safe to assume that by far the most significant reason for the bounce rate is poor user experience on the landing page.

The data below covers a one month period from early-2011. Only percentages rather than volumes are shown in order to maintain anonymity for each airline shown. The final row showing bounce rate for the entire site includes all mobile and non-mobile traffic to that site.

Selected bounce rates compared to bounce rate for all traffic to the website:

Airline AAirline BAirline CAirline DAirline EAirline F
Entire site24%25%20%17%35%35%

The data above is robust, but the field test I performed when digging into some of the numbers was extremely basic. Using a BlackBerry phone with image downloading turned off, I put all six airlines to the test to see how likely I was to bounce after typing in the homepage URL.

One number in this table immediately jumps off the page – the BlackBerry bounce rate for airline B. It is the only case where a mobile bounce rate was below the bounce rate for the entire site (albeit with a tiny sample size of BlackBerry users in this case).

Sure enough, with images turned off I was still presented with a mobile optimized homepage allowing me to easily select dates of travel in order to progress towards making a booking.

With mobile download speeds in most countries still far from sufficient, a mobile site that results in empty boxes all over the screen as a result of image coding not using the HTML ALT attribute is unacceptable. Realistically, that issue probably only accounts for a very small part of the mobile bounce rate with other airlines, but it is still worth noting.

Looking at outside data, Expedia claimed that 4% of its traffic was coming from mobile devices (browser + apps) in late 2010, and more recently Christine Petersen, president of Tripadvisor for Business, said that almost 10% of TripAdvisor site traffic is now coming from mobile.

When investigating what percentage of total page views came from mobile devices for the sample here, the amounts ranged from 1.8% to 4% but these numbers need to be read with caution.

Firstly, they include iPad, which typically had a bounce rate similar to the overall site average and which in some cases accounted for half of all mobile traffic.

Secondly, because the bounce rates are so high on some mobile devices, it means that customers were wanting to view more pages but were turned away due to a poor UX. This gives mobile users a much lower weighting as a percentage of the total because so many of them were leaving after only one page view. That is, they wanted to view more, but were turned away after the landing page.

The other interesting statistic not shown in the table above is how many of these mobile users were referred versus users typing in the URL directly or coming from a saved bookmark. Non-referral (ie. not clicking a link on a third party site to get to the airline) ranged from 17% to 31% of mobile customers, so referral business still looks like accounting for around three quarters of mobile traffic in this sample.

This referral statistic does not mean only search engine traffic, although in more than one case, search (paid and organic) accounted for over 50% of the mobile visitors.

Reading that number in conjunction with the massive growth we saw in mobile search during 2010, and you have an increasingly important segment of the market that is crying out for travel companies to invest more in making their websites mobile friendly.

Apart from the obvious message that travel industry participants need to be allocating more resources to the mobile web experience, one other interesting observation comes out from the data in the table.

If a mobile bounce rate higher than that for the entire site is a clear sign of money slipping though your fingers, how much should be invested in getting the non mobile bounce rate down?

Bounce rates for predominantly PC traffic above 20% and especially above 30% look extremely high, but I don’t have OTA, rental car, destination content, hotel or any other travel industry bounce rate data readily available at my fingertips.

Comments from informed readers working in other sectors within online travel on how their companies compare to this small selection of airline data would be interesting to see, even if left anonymously.

I suspect today that this seemingly ignored (and certainly rarely written about) topic of lowering the non-mobile bounce rate may be an even bigger opportunity than mobile, although probably not for too much longer.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail to someone
Martin Collings

About the Writer :: Martin Collings

Martin Collings is a contributor to tnooz and is currently employed as Vice President, Innovation Management & Commercialization at MasterCard Labs, based in Sydney. In this position, he manages various mobile payments initiatives with his role covering the region of Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa.

Prior to MasterCard, Martin Collings spent six years with Amadeus IT Group, based in both Madrid and Chicago in a variety of airline roles, most recently as head of airline e-commerce sales for the Americas.

During his time at Amadeus he also wrote the Shearwater Blog covering various topics of interest for airline selling via direct channels. The views of Martin Collings are his alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of MasterCard.



Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Economy traveller.

    INteresting post Martin – thanks. The absolute numbers would be interesting because they might tell airlines (and the rest of us) something interesting about the mobile devices being used – as opposed to the ones that are fashionable. I see a lot of stuff about JobsPhone “apps” – in the face of the facts that the (unfashionable) Symbian OS is still far more widely used.
    Airlines and others could do themselves a lot of good by concentrating on what is really out there, not what is trendy.
    Usablenet produce several laudable airline “widgets” for various mobiles, but for me the weakness is that, so far, outside the USA too few airlines have got round to barcode to mobile for checkin.

  2. Free Software To Make Your Website Mobile

    To my experience I think mobile websites have relatively high bounce rate as compare to a regular website, because from mobile, user would be looking for some specific information and may browse the whole website.

  3. Daniele Beccari

    Great post Martin!


Newsletter Subscription

Please subscribe now to Tnooz’s FREE daily newsletter.

This lively package of news and information from Tnooz’s web site provides a convenient digest of what’s happening in technology that drives the global travel, tourism and hospitality market.

  • Cancel