Is there a Digital Holy Grail when it comes to serving the online search and shopping needs and preferences of travelers?
I’m not sure if there is, but those of us in the travel industry continue to chase it to determine how to best serve travelers and pave the path to purchase.
NB: This is an analysis by Alix Arguelles, vice president for the online travel group at Amadeus North America.
What do consumers want most when searching and shopping for travel? Amadeus partnered with Tnooz to see what travelers had to say on this topic.
A survey was conducted in October 2014 with approximately 400 Tnooz readers responding, many who are not only part of the travel industry but very likely frequent travelers as well.
It appears what travelers want most when it comes to searching and shopping for travel is price transparency, personalized offers and confidence in knowing they are getting the best bang for their buck.
And based on survey responses, that appears to be easier said than done.
Of the travelers surveyed, over a third (34%) agreed that online travel companies have nailed down the basics of search and shopping, but over half (53%) said there’s still room for improvement. Significant opportunity lies ahead for those travel companies who understand customer needs and shape their offerings accordingly.
And consumers’ have a relatively short list when it comes to online travel sites. Almost half (46%) of the travelers surveyed said they stick to only two or three travel websites when purchasing online, which means building and retaining customer loyalty should be a critical focus for the industry.
Surprisingly, only a small percentage (19%) of travelers begin their search with Google. This may be because consumers turn more to search engines for travel information than for travel purchasing.
And travelers are willing to shop around but have their limits. Almost half (49%) of those surveyed admitted they check for better prices a few times to score the best price.
So travel sellers need to assure they hit that finite window of opportunity, getting the right offer at the right time to the traveler.
And only 5% used sites that offer price alerts, which may have less value to consumers with a limited shopping timeframe.
Social media is prevalent in so many aspects of our lives, but interestingly half (50%) of travelers do not typically use it for travel search or shopping.
So while social media may have a role for travel providers looking to connect in general with consumers or for customer servicing purposes, it doesn’t yet carry a lot of influence when it comes to making the sale.
But online review sites seem to carry the clout as part of the shopping and booking process.
More than half (51%) of the travelers surveyed regularly reference review sites during the shopping process, while only 6% turn to their friends and family, Consumers continue to see great value for reviews and recommendations from fellow travelers like themselves.
And although we’ll spend hours on YouTube watching cats play the piano, it appears we’re less likely to do so as part of the travel shopping process. Over half of respondents (51%) say they typically do not view travel-related videos at all and only 11% do so for ideas.
Video might be relevant for travel entertainment and information, but less so in terms of direct shopping and purchasing.
There seems significant opportunity in advancing personalization but consumers think we still have a way to go.
Over a third (38%) of travelers admitted today’s personalized offers often are not tailored to their specific needs and almost the same amount (39%) like them but continue to shop around.
So if a combined 86% consider, like or value personalized offers, more advancement in this area will likely bring more success for travel companies.
And when looking forward, respondents were fairly split on what they wanted most. They want their future travel search and shopping experience to be more centralized (25%), personalized (24%) and comprehensive (23%).
And while mobile continues to be a hot topic across the travel industry, only 7% of travelers most want more mobile capabilities when searching for and booking trips.
Travel providers must focus on developing the right solutions and capabilities to meet the needs of travelers so they can deliver these solutions across all platforms, including mobile.
And in the coming years, it seems dollars will continue to drive decisions. More than half (54%) cited price transparency as a critical component for travel companies moving forward.
Greater personalization ranked second (37%) while social media (5%) and voice driven search (4%) were relatively unimportant to the travelers surveyed.
For travel companies, the key challenge in shaping the future lies in determining how to give consumers what they want when they want it. And understanding what travelers want enables us to focus our resources and dollars in the places where it matters most.
And with good reason.
Acquiring, converting, retaining and – most importantly - satisfying consumers is key to a travel company’s success and sustainability.
Every travel company is looking to figure out how to best pave the path to purchase and heeding customer preferences and behaviors is the beginning.
NB: This is an analysis by Alix Arguelles, vice president for the online travel group at Amadeus North America. It appears here as part of Tnooz’s sponsored content initiative.
NB2: Check out the Tnooz-Amadeus webinar - Travel search and shopping: Is the industry hitting the mark?
NB3: Travel shopping laptop image via Shutterstock.