It is the time of year when we start looking forward to our holidays, but booking them has become more challenging, rather than less, in the digital age, a new study suggests.
The report, ‘How We Book Now’ by Yieldify, a customer journey optimisation company, shows that nearly half (41.7%) of consumers spend more time on research and booking than they did five years ago, with the average consumer now researching their next trip 4.19 months before departure.
The new report found that this increase in time spent by consumers is being driven by two main behavioural trends. Firstly, with consumers now acting as their own travel agents – many of them (48%) booking each part of their vacation separately – there are multiple purchase journeys to each trip. This has resulted in more than four in ten (42%) agreeing that the process of researching or purchasing travel products online is fragmented and complex.
Secondly, digital travel is a victim of its own success: as the number of travel websites has exploded, the research stage of the customer journey now has no limits. This leads to ‘analysis paralysis’, as more than half (50.15%) of consumers visit more or many more sites than 5 years ago, and 78% of travellers say they now visit multiple sites when deciding where to go. This means a longer booking funnel, with more work for consumers, and more chances to lose them.
When it comes to actually securing the booking, competition on price is no longer the only option for travel brands. While price still has a larger role in attracting consumers to travel sites, it only just edges out previous experience (48.6% vs 45.7%). Price is less influential when it comes to actually securing the booking, where it’s previous experience (45.7%) and reviews (41.3%), rather than price (39.4%) that are more influential.
Wai Lin Yip, Corporate Director of E-commerce at Arlo Hotels, and contributor to the report says: “Travelers these days are very savvy. One of the biggest challenges for any travel brand is encouraging customers to book directly so that they can capture data and use it to build customer loyalty and ensure repeat business. What this report shows is that these booking journeys are so long and complex that attracting and sustaining attention demands a personalized approach.”
But with more than a third (35%) of consumers saying that they’re not comfortable with brands collecting and sharing their data, getting personalization right is a challenge. Yet there is hope – 80% of travellers are broadly in favour of a personalised experience when booking travel – but if they get something in return, such as reduced prices or special services. This is not surprising, given that many applications of personalization seek to simplify the customer journey – reviews (66.7%), real-time availability (61.1%) and personalized loyalty schemes (66.6%) were all rated positively.
Mark Murray, Head of Travel at Yieldify, adds: ‘The results of the study really confirm the trends that we’ve seen amongst many of our travel clients over the last year: as research and booking options proliferate, there’s a need to shift toward personalization strategies that improve the customer journey, making it easier for consumers to discover and purchase the right travel products.”