By Stuart Telling
With recent changes to the traffic light system combined with the option for returning holiday makers to take a cheaper lateral flow test from the 24th October, we are seeing further indication that customer confidence is growing in the travel sector
Search results published in a recent report by icelolly.com confirmed consumers are gradually shifting their attention to Winter 2021-22 and Summer 2022 with the latter comprising a third of all holiday searches.
January has traditionally been recognised as the “peak booking” period and early signs suggest consumers will be looking to secure their holidays for 2022 and beyond.
With this in mind companies are reporting that their main focus is on improving customer experience and performance of their online booking platforms. When questioned they highlighted three objectives:
- Reducing the time it takes to delivery holiday search results
- Offering all possible holiday combinations to the customer
- Displaying “bestselling” properties by destination within the first 10 search results
Having experienced online booking engines both as a customer and consultant I understand the challenges of delivering a high-performing website. Whilst traditional travel retail shops will always have a role to play, the importance of a credible, performing and converting online presence is as important as ever.
Customers expect everything to be at their fingertips in an instant. They want to be inspired, they want flexibility and they want choice.
Customers’ desires may not have changed, they want the best deal out there but in my opinion their online habits are shifting: what they tolerate and expect has changed. Customers increasingly seek inspiration and ideas online and expect to be shown results quickly. We need to put ourselves in the shoes of our customers and ask these very important questions:
- Are we willing to wait more than 2 seconds for our search results to be displayed?
- Do you know where we want to go on holiday or are we looking to be inspired?
- Do you click past the first two pages of holiday search results?
- Do you expect to instantly filter a large set of results to suit your preferences?
To stand out from the crowd, tour operators and OTAs need to deliver an exceptional customer experience by ensuring the performance of their online booking journey ticks all the boxes to convert more bookings. This starts by focusing on speed, breadth of content and conversion.
There are two paths when it comes to powering your online booking journey, do we use a “live” or “cached” search?
Live searches will be dependent on the slowest of the suppliers to return their results, which can have detrimental effects to the performance of your website. There are two consequences, either you wait for the results which can lead to speed as slow as 10-25 seconds by which time the customer has left or you have to operate a time out and not return all the results.
Either way speed is a critical component to customer conversion which has prompted a shift towards using a cache to display the initial search results. Using cached results can remove the “speed barrier with instant responses to meet your visitors expectations.
Breadth of content
Customers are looking for more choice, they expect to be able to search all the holiday combinations before making their decision to buy. Tour operators and OTAs are looking to showcase their bestselling holidays for the customer to be inspired by.
As I mentioned above, you may be forced to limit some holidays due to timing out the results based on speed, so it’s critical to understand the relationship between speed and breadth.
There are no limitations with cached data, outside of the availability from the airlines and hotels, which allows you to include all possible holiday combinations which the customer can search.
The final side of the triangle is conversion, getting the customer to click the “add to basket” button.
By creating inspiration on that first page of results with your bestselling, most popular or highest converting holidays, you are increasing the chances of them completing the booking.
Customers rarely click past the first two pages of search results so it is important to feature those properties high in your initial responses.
I truly believe that it’s a blend of offering all possible holiday combinations, with speed and inspiration that will increase conversion, improve customer experience and build brand loyalty for future bookings.
Over the past 15 years I have worked with OTAs and Tour Operators to optimise their online booking platforms, delivering solutions to improve performance and optimising results to improve conversion of the bestselling holidays.
Since the launch of DealFinder, our super-fast caching solution, I have been working closely with our customers to improve customer experience, search performance and increase conversion by integrating DealFinder, our instant-response API to power their website’s flight and hotel booking journey.
If you would like to arrange an informal conversation to discuss your current online booking journey please email me directly at email@example.com or visit our website to register your interest, https://www.intuitivesystems.com/dealfinder/
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