News | Distribution | OnlineFive ways to perfect the travel booking funnelThis article was originally published onBy Viewpoints | December 8, 2015 Understanding the customer journey in its entirety is a puzzle that continues to challenge digital marketers, particularly when it comes to perfecting the process of online travel booking.NB This is a viewpoint by Tony Gray, senior director of consulting services at Webtrends.The reality is that there are so many factors that influence a consumer before they make their final travel purchase decision. These factors occur on and offline, across multiple devices and over an unpredictable range of time.Research shows that people are using a plethora of sites and devices to research before booking travel. Potential customers are, literally, all over the digital map when researching their travel plans.Because of this, it’s imperative that marketers understand how to simplify, contextualize and link every engagement between every digital touch point.That way, when consumers finally enter a brand’s booking funnel after the research process has been exhausted, they stay there until the purchase is made.We have worked closely with our travel industry clients and together tried and tested the elements that will make for the most effective booking process. The secret boils down to understanding what your customers are telling you by collecting data shared throughout their journeys and then using the data to optimize every stage of the funnel around their preferences.Below are five best practices that help you do just that:1. Understand the travel visitor and his or her purchase process.Understand the buyer’s journey and map your digital data accordingly. Ensure you are able to analyze this journey across different channels and create a single view of a visitor. Be sure to understand the different segments of travelers that visit your site – both known and unknown – as well as the attributes that can be used to tailor their experiences with your brand.When you understand the buyer’s online behavior, device usage and communication preferences, you can then begin to optimize his or her digital experience.2. Measure all relevant data points within the booking processIt’s imperative to collect robust data on the full booking process. The first step is to make sure you can identify and separate out each step, and that all entry and exit paths for each step are captured and reviewed on a regular basis. Some steps are common to all channels, but others might vary according to the channel.Error information should be collected so that corrective actions can be prioritized. Don’t forget to look at intra-page activity – such as link usage, form completion and which images are clicked or not – and work out which actions are helping conversions and which are killing the sale.3. Optimize for device type as matched to the appropriate stage of the customer journeyOnce you’ve measured the data points, you can analyze each point in your funnel with an eye toward device type. Identify shortcomings that are specific to one device – and fix them. If you've got an app, make sure you know the difference between tablet and smartphone users, and do not overlook the increasing number of non-standard booking channels such as set-top boxes, games consoles, smart TVs, etc.Your booking funnel should be optimized for every type of device.4. Generate traffic and demand for the purchase process.Know where your site traffic is coming from and its overall quality, since not all traffic sources are created equal in producing conversions.Some demand channels may be better for earlier stages of the travel buyer’s journey, while others may be important to maximize the profitability of the transaction, such as paid channels, affiliate marketing, etc. Adjust your channel spend and strategy based on what the data tells you about performance.5. Right-size the booking funnel.The overall consensus across the travel industry is that the booking process should be three to four steps. Occasionally, there are regulatory requirements that cannot be avoided, so you can work to simplify elsewhere.Consider fewer steps by using more prepopulated information (e.g. zip code entry vs. city, state, country). Also, use A/B and multivariate testing to “right-size” the process for minimizing abandonment and maximizing completion rates. Always think about relevance and convenience, avoiding the need for re-entry and duplication of commonly available data.Want the inside scoop on perfecting your travel booking experience? Read our full report on the Top Ten Best Practices to Optimize the Booking Funnel here.NB This is a viewpoint by Tony Gray, senior director of consulting services at Webtrends. It appears here as part of Tnooz's sponsored content initiative.NB2Image by Shutterstock.