New research from Google suggests that the travel purchase path can no longer be viewed as a linear, logical funnel – rather, it has become the purchase pretzel with randomness a characteristic of what, for many consumers, has become a tortuous process that takes an average 53 days during which 28 different sites are visited over 76 sessions.
All that time spent to buy just an airline ticket or hotel room.
How can it be so hard?
"It’s complex, consumers are researching travel purchases everywhere, on every device, at any time, at every point in the purchase process," Sarah French, Industry Manager – Travel, Google Australia, told delegates at TRAVELtech 2014.
"There is so much information out there – consumers are overwhelmed.
She said the average 53 days it took from look to book is both an opportunity and a risk.
"That’s a long time for consumers to discover and choose your brand.
"It’s also a long time for your competitors to capture a consumer that could have been yours."
The survey was conducted from April, 2013, to March, 2014, by Nielsen for Google using a panel of 3000 Australian consumers aged 16+.
Results were compared to a similar 2012 survey and they showed that there had been a 6% overall increase in travel transactions.
It also revealed that 59% of those tracked made two or more travel purchases in the 12 month period.
"Nearly 20% made more than five purchases," Ms French said.
"This tells us that there is a huge spread of consumer behaviour – from those who might book one trip a year, to those who book multiple trips with multiple purchases.
"This insight starts to show us the importance of using data to understand consumer signals becomes for brand advertising online."
The major implication is that travel marketers have to be everywhere at all times, and also use techniques such as re-marketing to stay in front of qualified prospects.
She said 97% of online travel shoppers use search at some point, 78% use six or more times before purchase.
Other key points to emerge from the bi-annual study include:
- Travel is one of the top activities for sequential screening – moving from one device to another to complete a task – at 52%.
- Smartphones are the most common pace to start planning a trip at 46% with 43% of that then continuing to a PC.
- 47% of consumer expect a web page to load in two seconds or less.
- A one second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions.
- Mobile travel browsers are five times more likely to abandon the task if site not optimised – 79% go back to search and look elsewhere.
"If you are not present on mobile, you have a much higher likelihood of losing your potential consumer in their purchase journey," Ms French said.
"If you have a poor mobile experience, this likelihood increases exponentially."