As the holiday season heats up, travel searches are on the rise, almost back to pre-pandemic levels. According to travel trade magazine, Travel Weekly, 39% of people surveyed are more likely to book through ‘safe’ third party travel brands this year. Apparently we are all still worried about the complexities of Covid regulations.
With so many travel choices available, many online travel players will lose customers on that perilous journey from landing page to booking. It’s horribly tantalising to watch a spike in web traffic, only to witness how customers dwell, explore and depart with only a handful proceeding to checkout. Why does this happen and how can you fix it?
So what are the key ingredients to ensuring a travel website is impactful and relevant in 2022? What is a perfect customer journey and what site design features will help customers find what they want smoothly, quickly and without irritating barriers?
It’s not too late for travel businesses to ensure their websites are performing well for the holiday stampede. In fact, often simple changes can make the biggest difference in customer conversions. But where to start? It’s easier said than done, right?
Don’t be misled!
Sometimes it’s not until a website is being used by customers that insightful patterns and behaviours are revealed. And occasionally those behaviour patterns signpost what looks like a useful instruction. But watch out! Without greater examination, website analytics can be misleading and will send you on the wrong track to fixing.
This is where an expert CRO team can really help. Their experience can unpack the meaning behind customer behaviour and rapidly remove those challenges that are slowing customer conversions on your website.
Somebody’s CRO expert and co-founder, John Wilkes shares some top tips and recent experiences on how to help travel websites fly.
What’s the story?
It starts with a compelling brand identity. What is unique about your travel brand and customer offer? Is your website clearly showcasing your distinct brand identity and are you strongly connecting with your target audience?
In a crowded marketplace, think about what you can do to stand out? It’s an obvious piece of advice but it’s worth remembering. Make sure your unique selling points sing for you. What is so different about your service? How personalised or safe is your experience? Is being visibly eco-conscious important or is your business about value and cost effectiveness.
Right here, right now
We all know very well that travel experiences have changed significantly. But not all travel operators have adapted to these new demands. Covid regulations are still in play and customers are seeking much more guidance on travel restrictions and cancellation policies. Let’s start with the biggest customer concern. The cancellation policy. Right now it's top of your customer’s mind and given the stop-go-stop experience we’ve all had, they’re right to be cautious.
We recommend you put your cancellation policy front and centre. Make it easy to find on your website, easy to read and easy to understand. Use language that makes customers feel assured and confident that if things change, you’ve got their back.
Perhaps also offer repeated check in moments prior to booking when customers are contacted and given regular confidence updates in their countdown to departure.
The Dream Journey
The perfect scenario is for customers to undertake a seamless journey from your homepage to check out. But that journey can be hampered by un-seen challenges. And this is where monitoring and testing customer behaviour will be highly indicative.
User videos are a great way to understand how people search your website and what this reveals in terms of popular pages and also challenges. An experienced CRO team can evaluate the reason and intent behind customer behaviour, which doesn’t always show up in the analytics.
Only recently, user videos helped us understand a functionality issue on a travel client’s website and enabled us to unlock an important customer insight. We discovered that unlike most travel websites, committing to travel dates was not a leading indication of intent to purchase for these passengers.
In fact, serving limited locations against available dates was a customer barrier because they were much more open and flexible with booking dates. Unfortunately the website wasn’t serving this search behaviour. It was something we could fix but not without diving deeper on why visitors were behaving this way.
Knowing your customers and their typical booking behaviour is clearly highly instructive. Holidays are considered decisions, often involving more than one person. Sometimes that can take a few weeks and it’s not necessarily because of a poor website.
Notwithstanding, with multiple browsers exploring multiple travel sites right now, it’s worth considering how to encourage departing visitors to return. One of our top tips is how to help a returning web visitor pick up where they left off.
Providing a personalised wish-list option on your site is a great idea. There’s nothing worse than finding a great collection of travel ideas on one website, only to find you have to start the search again when you return. A personalised wish-list that’s ready for returning customers means you can also build a customer relationship. Encourage customers to save their favourite options, reminding them that their collection of ideas is eagerly awaiting their return to book - quickly!
We know that rich visual content entices click through. It enables businesses to connect with customers on an emotional level which evidence shows is more powerful than rational factors like price or service. Over 90% of marketing experts say that video is the customer language of the future and 83% attribute video to lead generation.
So video content and imagery needs to sit high up in the funnel and help travel brands drive their point of difference. But whether video or imagery, once the content has engaged the user, then the customer search might become much more specific. This is where travel websites need to make it easy for customers to find the answers quickly to complete their booking.
Questions and Answers
Providing customers with an easy opportunity to ask a specific question like, for example, a resort’s proximity to shopping or access to laundry or babysitting facilities - is really useful.
However if data shows that too many people are asking questions before booking, consider how to answer the question on the page. It can take some time for customer service representatives to gather the answers required and by that stage, the customer may have already booked elsewhere.
If you know your customers well, you can pre-empt the types of FAQs they might ask and embed those answers in website pages.
Final Tip: Don’t Assume Anything
The key to effective CRO is not to assume anything!
Analytics will only give you the results but not the reason behind the behaviour.. As we have seen, it's important to recognise that customers don’t always behave the way you expect so be ready for some deeper analysis - or just call us in!