Be there or be square – how to own the travel booking moments and convert customers
It’s time to make this trip a reality! Enter – the booking stage of your travel customer’s journey.
The booking stage
Your customers are now at the stage with the most intention to convert. This stage usually takes place after the new year as users have spent time over Christmas dreaming, researching and planning their next trip. Your potential customers have spent a considerable amount of time looking at booking:
- Visas and other travel requirements
During the first 8 weeks of 2018 in the UK, online traffic to the travel tourism industry grew by 13% year on year – Hitwise, 2018
By now, customers have selected their dream travel destination of choice, they know where they want to stay and have rounded up their list of activities to explore. With this information in tow, now it’s time for your business to make the most of the moments when customers are ready to finalise their purchase. After all, booking a holiday is a big commitment for many, therefore customers need your help to ensure them they’ve selected the best and most trusted company (and have got the best deal!).
What can you do to own these booking moments?
Paid ads and Remarketing
Chances are, the user has already visited your website during the previous two stages of booking a holiday, so now is the perfect opportunity to reconnect with them by serving remarketing ads. RSLA (remarketing lists for search ads) is a feature that allows you to customise search ads for people who have previously visited your website. Using these type of ads enables you to target returning visitors who are now looking to book – don’t forget to adjust your bidding strategy, you may want to bid more aggressively on these users since they already shown an interest in your site.
It’s also important that you rank well (not just organically) in the search listings for branded searches. Serving an ad at the top of the search results will increase your chances of the user converting. How? Your brand is more noticeable if it’s sitting at the top of the page – be at the forefront of your user’s search journey. Being there at the right time and place will help to improve the brand association your customers have begun during their research phase of booking a holiday.
When it comes to intent-driven search, it is essential for your paid campaigns to focus on using specific keywords. Target users searching for a ‘city’, ‘resort’ or ‘hotel’, using these specific intent-driven keywords. Again, this is all part of being there and then when your customers need you the most, fulfilling the customer’s needs with your service – so make sure your targetting strategy covers all basis.
Recent research shows that travel is the second poorest performing sector for mobile user experience. Throughout the travel customer journey, users are swapping between devices constantly. While mobile is still and will continue to be a key tool for researching a holiday and making a booking, users often begin their journey using a mobile device, but then switch to desktop. This is usually so they can complete a booking quicker due to the mobile site not being as user-friendly or as trustworthy, so bear in mind the speed of your website which all plays a key role in increasing those all-important conversions. Would you continue browsing a site if it took more than five seconds to load?
But, why aren’t users booking on mobile?
Mobile speed optimisation
Brands must ensure their websites and apps are optimised to help their customers complete their customer journey on mobile, without needing to swap devices – the omni-channel experience has to be seamless. By allowing customers to complete the process how they wish will not only help improve conversion rates, keeping users on your site exactly at the point when they’re ready to book, but also to help retain their interest in your website and brand in the future.
Ways to improve user experience across your site
- Calendars – ensure they are used to help the user input dates. They must be big enough to accurately select dates, pop out and designed for thumbs entering information on mobile
- Speed – is not only a ranking factor for search engines, but it can have a huge effect on the user experience. It’s understandable that some pages may take some time to load due to the number of possible results available, however, this can be dealt with, such as showing the most relevant results while continuing to add to them, or alternatively, create a fun, engaging loading page to hold the user’s attention as more results display
- Cluttered screens – make sure that there’s not too much going on to distract users – keep the page design clear and uncluttered whilst ensuring the calls to action stand out. It’s also essential that the numbers and forms are also large enough to use on a mobile device
- Travel Apps – improve the user experience by tailoring the site to loyal customer segments. Criteo found that travel companies with a booking app generated 60% of transactions via mobile, up 41% from 2016
Online booking process/checkout
One major factor of the mobile and desktop user experience is to ensure that the path to purchase is clear and simple for the user. Below are some key reasons why people abandon their travel bookings:
The 3 main reasons in relation to the booking stage specifically are payment options, technical issues and the booking process being too long. These alone can make up a huge 29% of abandons. So, what can affect a user converting at each of these processes?
- Payment options – a holiday can cost a fairly large amount of money – the last thing the user wants is to be restricted by how they can pay. Therefore, by providing the user with as many options as feasibly possible you are keeping them happy, making the booking process easier for them to finalise that all important booking
- Technical issues – this is down to the quality of your website. Technical issues often require a large business investment to fix, but it’s one of the most important tools and is worth the investment. Once the technical changes have been implemented, it’s essential to test, test and test again! Testing your website should be a continuous process to ensure all pages, especially the checkout process, is working to the highest standard. It’s important that you have a decent hosting service. A dedicated hosting provider will improve your website’s performance and security as it guarantees maximum uptime. An SSL certificate is also imperative as essentially it lets the user know whether your website is secure enough for them to process their payment details through your site
- Hidden charges – be clear about any additional costs that could affect the final total. If there are alternative flight options, be transparent about the differences, providing your customers with these options before they proceed to the checkout. Don’t be forceful with add-on costs as this can put people off – make sure the free option is just as clear
- Long booking process – providing a ‘guest checkout’ option for the user is important – not everyone wants to take the time to sign up. If they are a previous customer, make sure you give them the option to save their details to help with the efficiency of the booking process, encouraging users to come back as it was so easy to book could encourage repeat business. A key step to aid the booking process is to improve the form design
Form design can play a key role in reducing the length of the booking process. Due to the nature of the industry, forms can be quite long due to the amount of information required to make a booking. Effective, user-friendly design can help improve the user experience by making the process easier and more efficient to enter their details.
Top tips for designing an effective form design:
- Avoid unnecessary fields
- Provide progress indicators
- Visual appeal
- Provide clear contact options
- Use shortcuts
- Use in-line validation
Microcopy – the use of engaging copy can help guide people through the booking process as well as providing them further information to help build trust with your brand and service. Design focussed content can also be used to highlight the key USPs throughout the booking process to remind the user of the benefits of booking with your business to avoid basket abandonment, such as offering free cancellation
If all else fails, catch the abandoners
87% of consumers who abandoned their booking would consider returning to the site, so act quick!
- Remarketing – keep up with your ad campaigns, but don’t delay, serve these visitors an ad within a few hours of them visiting your site
- Emails – send out an abandonment email with an hour of the user leaving your site. Make sure this includes saved details of the holiday or their travel arrangements
- Saved holiday details – when the user comes back onto your site, allow them to access their recently viewed inventory, this can help shorten the booking process
We hope you have enjoyed our travel customer series and are feeling more prepared and aware of how to capture your online customers from their ‘dream’ stage through to making a booking for their holiday. Don’t delay, people are actively searching as we speak, so own each of the travel customer stages to increase your chances of them converting.
Don’t get those post-booking holiday blues
It doesn’t have to stop there! Once a customer has booked their trip, continue on their journey in the lead-up to their break and whilst they are jetting off. How? Find out exactly what we mean in our next instalment!