This is a viewpoint from Chemi Katz, co-founder and CEO of Namogoo. .
Online journey hijacking is a newly identified revenue thief costing the world’s leading travel brands millions of dollars every year, and is largely invisible to those having their hard-earned treasure stolen right from under their noses.
Online journey hijacking is prevalent across the web and involves unauthorized product ads being injected into consumer browsers, while visiting travel websites. The injected ads distract prospective buyers from a travel provider’s offerings, cutting directly into their revenue. These malware-driven infections typically present themselves in the form of pop-ups, banner ads and additional competitor offerings on a brand’s site.
In the crowded online travel ecosystem, customers are far more concerned with finding the lowest price than sticking with a particular brand. For hotels, travel agencies, platforms, fare aggregators, and airlines vying for business, the last place they should face competing offerings is on their own website.
According to Allied Market Research, the global online travel market is projected to generate a staggering $1.091 trillion by the year 2022, so opportunities for online journey hijacking are increasing by the day due to continued consumer preferences in researching and booking travel via the web. In fact, Rezdy.com notes that 57% of all travel reservations each year are made online, and that number is going nowhere but north.
Consumer preferences will forever drive brand engagement in the world of ecommerce, and today, consumers are looking to hang 10 when it comes to booking travel.
To put online travel surfing in perspective, Nielsen Research found that travelers spent an average of 53 days visiting 28 different websites over a period of 76 online sessions, with many checking social media for tips and reading reviews before booking as well.
Today’s online travel booker knows the competitive market is their friend. Even if a potential customer sees a favorable deal on the first site they visit, it seems ingrained in consumers to ride the wave to the next offering in hopes of a lower price.
Nothing promotes surfing more than a pop-up interrupting a consumer web session, displaying a competing offer. It has been found that 15-25% of all web sessions are impacted by journey hijacking, with the majority of these instances presenting competitor pop-ups. When such activity occurs, the exorbitant amount of time and money brands spend on creating an engaging online journey is wasted as consumers are given even more motivation to grab their board and surf to the next offering.
The sky is the limit for cart abandonment
Journey hijacking is a primary motivator for cart abandonment, as pop-ups and additional unauthorized ads during checkout provide consumers with the welcome opportunity to put their credit cards away in hopes of being led to a better deal.
Increasing conversion rates and limiting cart abandonment is a top priority for digital marketers across every industry sector. But nowhere is cart abandonment as prevalent as in travel, and nowhere is it more important to create the online journey in a manner that does everything possible to prevent leaving the basket at checkout.
According to research from SalesCycle, 82% of travel shoppers will abandon their shopping carts online. This is a higher abandonment percentage than in online retail or other ecommerce sectors, as the average rate for abandoned baskets across industries is 77%.
Converting a browser to a customer involves countless variables, but one thing is certain - today’s consumer has limitless travel options at their fingertips, and zero time for their journey to be interrupted by online distractions, or worse, competitors.
Loyalty is the ticket
In online travel, price is, and always will be, the most critical factor for consumer purchasing decisions. Therefore, membership and rewards programs providing discounted prices to regular customers are top priority for travel businesses in their efforts to retain repeat business and customer loyalty.
Some travel businesses assume that their registered members are more focused online customers and, therefore, are less likely to click on ads featuring competing offers. However, this simply is not the case. Non-members and members are both jumping at the opportunity when exposed to unauthorized ads.
These losses are even more amplified as they impact a brand’s most valued customer segment. It is therefore even more critical to prevent unauthorized ads from diverting away a brand’s most active shoppers – their members – and negatively impacting their perception of the brand.
Travel brands losing their most active shoppers to these invasive ads not only hurts their conversion rates – it also unravels the investments made to retain members. Losing customers can lead to a significant reduction in customer lifetime value (CLV).
One of the most concerning aspects of journey hijacking is that it goes completely undetected by travel providers, as these malware-driven injections are only visible on consumer browsers. And since injections look like a native component of a website, customers are inclined to click on these pop-up ads, increasing their predetermined tendencies to look for lower prices.
As online, and in particular - mobile travel booking activity grows, so does the number of digital malware infections on consumer browsers, initiated through free software bundles, or free, unsecured wifi networks. In the process of optimizing the online customer journey and converting browsers to customers, these infections are the invisible enemy.
Online journey hijacking is prevalent across every ecommerce sector, but nowhere are consumers so pre-conditioned through market structure and current shopping preferences to have their journey hijacked than in travel. Albeit a newly identified revenue thief, online journey hijacking will only become more frequent with continued digital transformation.