Travel site visitors engage and make purchases in a unique manner. Typically they are high-intentioned users with specific needs or a set of needs which direct their search. With whom they are completing the purchase (or where) matters less than factors like price and convenience. For example, Traveller Bill probably already knows when he enters your site that he needs a flight to Europe for his partner and two children that departs on Sunday and returns a week later. As a competitive travel brand, you need to show and tell Bill with an optimized experience why he should purchase with your brand and how he can do so most efficiently.
While determining, in general, what the user needs to complete their purchase is relatively simple, figuring out how, when, and where to serve Bill his optimal experience is harder. And that’s why we test!
To effectively drive purchases from users like Bill, it is helpful to think about how you can test the following key areas:
Benefits of Booking Directly
Travel brands are scrambling to retain their direct bookers as OTAs win the meta-search game with user reviews and optimized booking funnels. Despite the popularity of OTAs in travel booking, most travellers (or about 72% of people) would still rather book directly with the hotel if they could be certain that they were getting the best deal. (Triptease)
Many of our travel clients find OTAs steer visitors away from their sites due to customer’s price sensitivity and the notion that OTAs will always provide the best rates. This is commonly not the case and travel brands are putting a great deal of focus on informing visitors of the benefits of booking directly, as well as the financial efficacy of this decision.
It’s a good idea, too. You can make the benefits of booking clear to your visitors in several different ways. From simple copy changes to complex integrations with outside resources, you can show them your worth. For a quick and efficient way to inform your visitors of the advantages you provide, you could show a direct comparison with a leading OTA. Use your analytics to determine where visitors drop off and place your competitive advantages on these pages, i.e. Rooms & Rates or Property Pages. Just make sure it adds to and doesn’t detract from their overall goal because if it does, they will take their business elsewhere. According to one study, 66% of customers switched brands due to a poor user experience. (Accenture)
The acquisition obsession is the achilles heel of all marketers. Far too much marketing spend is allocated towards attracting new customers when customer retention is known to be a more business savvy investment. The popularity and ubiquity of loyalty programs in the travel industry offer an opportunity to shift the focus towards retention. Your loyal customers provide a consistent source of engagement and revenue when treated correctly, so it is vital to try and personalize their experiences to keep them coming back!
Personalizing an experience could be something as small as welcoming them back to the site to let them know you are aware they’ve been there before. You could even ask them if they would like to view similar flights/rooms/car types etc. to their previous search. But first, you’ve got to create an easy sign-up experience and an experience which encourages existing members to log-in so you can target them with personalized offers to improve your experience and increase their average order value.
Get this; according to one travel brand, ancillary revenue is valued at $31bn annually to the airline industry. Not to mention 68% of people said that they find the ability to see optional upgrades available in the booking process helpful. (Triptease)
Yes, we love the customer who returns often to our site and provides a consistent source of revenue, but what if we could make it easier for customers to see the value in spending more with you, either through upsells or ancillary products? Take an opportunity to evaluate what customers often buy along with your products and how you can package upgrades so that you earn more of their travel dollars.
Tying together personalization and upsell, you could take existing visitor data and tailor recommended upsells based on this information. By making a recommendation for different or additional purchases based on visitor data, they will be more likely to select and confirm an upsell as it likely fits their needs more than a random upsell opportunity.
Forrester predicts that leisure and business travel spending will climb nearly 41% to $143bn by 2016. The number of online bookers will only increase in that time period, raising demands for a research and booking experience that makes it easy for users to get what they want. Test everything to improve the customer experience, but start by focusing your efforts on the three areas above for tests that will drive business results.
Got these areas covered? Check out what else travel brands are doing with strategic ab and multivariate testing.