Anticipating and responding to travellers’ needs at different points in the online journey

A survey, conducted earlier this year, indicated that travel organisations need to improve image and destination content online.

Published: 09 Jul 2010

A survey, conducted earlier this year, indicated that travel organisations need to improve image and destination content online.

According to a survey of more than 1,600 people carried out for Frommer’s Unlimited by eDigitalResearch, half the people surveyed admitted that they’d encountered sites with insufficient pictures and destination information. The importance of online content at every stage of a traveller’s journey was illustrated by the fact that 91 percent of people said they look online when researching where to go on holiday – 70 percent find websites influential in their decision while 7 percent now rank online networking sites as influential. For the 18 – 34 age group, social networking sites are more important, considered influential in their travel decisions by 13 percent surveyed. When booking their flights and accommodation and before they leave for their trip, 44 percent of respondents also look for destination information online.

The industry is also witnessing new initiatives, which would help in overcoming some of these hurdles. For instance, the concept of ‘real time’ travel guides is gaining traction, erasing the almost instant “sell by” date of traditional travel guidebooks. Travel website worked on this feature in order to allow holidaymakers access to up to date and relevant travel information. According to the company, these guides won’t ‘time out’ or become a ‘rough guide’ for holidaymakers; the experts will report exactly what’s hot, what’s no more, what’s open and what’s not, updating their content daily. The guides link to travel partners so users can compare prices, check availability and book their travel requirements.

In order to know more about the latest trends, EyeforTravel recently spoke to Michael Rhodes, eCommerce Manager, Leger Holidays. Excerpts:

Outlook of websites today and how have they changed: Although it is a very contradictory statement, if you look back you can see how much websites have changed in the last decade and a half. At the same time, you can see how little they've changed. The Internet as we know it today is still in its early stages of growth and development, with many years of growth still ahead. Although it's easy to laugh at the past designs of many websites while praising the current ones, you have to remember that we are contemporaries of 2010 and five years from now, you might think that even these current sites and technology stand no where. As an example of how things have changed you can look at how designers are trying to make the navigation elements key and developing cleaner lines with more structured content, across multiple platforms which is a key point to note.

Overall, I feel that design standards have been raised over the last decade, usability and obviously technological advancements have helped with this, it will be exciting to see what the next 10 years hold. It’s all one long evolution, and where we are now is just one of the steps along that path and I do feel that the adoption of mobile and interactive elements will grow this channel even more.

On social media features and rich content: I believe that social media is one of the keys to the web’s growth as the element of talking with friends and peers with similar interests feeds peoples’ needs of wanting to belong and nothing can beat the word of mouth element especially from friends. Off the back of this, people want to share their thoughts and images can only help in building peoples’ choices especially when choosing a holiday.

On significance of online content: We have tried to signpost our customers’ journey as best we can along with providing more detailed destination information. Our aim is to give numerous touch points with detailed copy and imagery. Bundling in the social aspects like our Facebook pages, the forum and customer testimonials are already proving a great source of good content.

On customised offering: It is inevitable that the travel sector will have to move to a more personalised platform and the tools that are offered by the digital arena are really helping to move to this “holy grail” which in my opinion will lead to even more exciting times for the travel industry.

On finding where in the booking process customers are abandoning sites: Due to the nature of travel and its varied offerings i.e. flights to escorted tours there are no set benchmarks on how to understand where you are losing customers as it is pretty unique to each company so the best way is to use analytics and carry out some testing. Once again this will vary between all the sectors and so will the reasons; one of the biggest reasons though has to be the research time we already know that people spend more time researching a holiday than actually on when they are on a holiday. Hence a lot of cart abandonment.

On real-time travel content: The whole immediacy of real time information is invaluable and with the growth of mobile device uptake this type of information is obviously going to become a major factor in peoples’ purchasing decisions, coupled with this the chance to build a content rich experience with tools like augmented reality can only help to strengthen a holiday offering.

On the maturity level of the online travel sites in the UK: The whole sector is maturing and due to the data that can be collected around peoples’ browsing habits along with the chance to communicate with them directly through social networking, enables sites to be tailored to the customers’ needs . This brings a more competitive marketplace and so the companies have to up their game in order to catch the customers. The customers know this and so their knowledge of what they want and expect online makes them a little more switched on.

Benefitting from semantic elements and stronger associated data points: Well I think we only have to look at how mobile is starting to provide people with more information tailored to their needs. With a click of an app you can be guided to a restaurant or place of interest that fits your profile. It is still in early stages but just think of the opportunities that will be available to travel companies and the customers themselves as these targeted rich sources of data are built around the individuals themselves. This of course is not just owned by mobile but the whole digital arena itself and tools to utilise this are being developed on a daily basis which can only lead to exciting times ahead.


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