The travel sector is competitive. While it has one of the largest pools of online customers, these users often lack loyalty.
Instead, they brand-hop based on the best price-based offers.
NB: This is an analysis by Mollie Spilman, chief revenue officer for Criteo.
The online customer journey has, until recently, been difficult to track. Customers not only jump between brands but also between their smartphones, laptops, desktops and tablets – making it more difficult than ever to identify customers and convert sales.
To assess the new online travel planning curve, Criteo recently partnered with Phocuswright to survey more than 1,000 American adults who have internet access and travel for leisure.
Leisure travel is experiencing a resurgence among digitally savvy adults; 63% took at least one trip last year and nearly half took at least three trips, spending an average of $3,155 on travel components such as airline tickets, paid lodging and car rentals.
When it comes to searching, shopping and booking, here’s some insights that travel marketers can use to attract customers at each stage of the new digital funnel and improve conversions.
Searching is dominated by Google, OTAs and mobile
A lot of travelers plan their vacations with a destination already in mind. These destinations are often tied to a range of external factors – such as visiting relatives, the price of airline tickets, personal recommendations.
Regardless of whether travelers pick their destinations independently or not, the vast majority (73%) go online to further research them.
Digital traveler searchers love options. As a result, Google is the number one source for travel information (51%), but online travel agencies (OTAs), were top of mind for more than a third (39%) due to pricing and availability information,
While PCs remain the device of choice for searching during the early stage of travel planning, numbers have dropped.
The rapid growth of smartphones is the reason why researching travel destinations on mobile devices is becoming increasingly popular.
Shopping for flights and hotels is becoming increasingly mobile
Shopping is the peak of the new digital travel funnel, with travelers spending more time shopping for their trip than they do researching where to go.
Similar to researching trip destinations, shopping using PCs is also in decline, down to around 65% of users compared with 80% in previous studies. Smartphones and tablets are picking up the slack.
Specifically, travelers are shopping for flights and hotels on mobile devices more than ever, for which they widely prefer using OTAs to suppliers in both instances.
But when shopping for their trip on mobile devices, travelers prefer mobile websites over mobile apps–although 40% used a combination of mobile websites and mobile apps in this phase of planning.
Trust trumps prices when it comes to buying
Once travelers have identified where they’re headed and have shopped around for the best deals, it comes time to lock down the details – moving to the buying phase of the funnel.
While travelers book a wide range of trip services online, they’re slightly more likely to book their flight (74%) compared to their hotels (68%).
Interestingly, travelers are significantly more likely to book both flights and hotels directly with suppliers over OTAs – despite travelers’ perception that OTAs have better prices and more options, suppliers are trusted.
This preference for booking directly increases dramatically with age, as travelers become less price sensitive and more brand loyal.
For hotels, this preference is likely a result of the strong presence of branded hotel chains, such as Marriott and Hilton.
Mobile is changing the travel shopping path
With the new digital funnel, trust, price and ease of use largely factor in to how travelers search, shop and book leisure travel. Mobile devices continue to redefine this shopping path, with travelers relying on them at all stages.
OTAs have the advantage over travel suppliers when it comes to mobile shopping, although this hasn’t yet translated into an advantage in bookings for OTAs.
Suppliers should gear up their game in mobile because the OTAs are investing heavily and will not give up their advantage.
NB: Download the full report now.
NB2: This is an analysis by Mollie Spilman, chief revenue officer for Criteo. It appears here as part of Tnooz's sponsored content initiative.
NB3:Funnel image by Shutterstock.