Travel brands are lagging behind on mobile optimisation. As consumers continue to make sharper decisions on their mobile devices, how can these organisations simplify user experience and convert more sales? Duncan Keene, UK Managing Director, ContentSquare, discusses.
An unfathomable amount of information faces the would-be traveller who is trying to buy online.
Not only are there numerous sites – the average customer makes 38 visits to multiple sites before booking – but each one is crammed with information on destinations, packages, upgrades and more.
For many travel websites one of the biggest challenges is getting customers to their site rather than going to one of the many others.
Customers typically require 3.6 sessions before buying when browsing on a desktop and four sessions on mobile.
Capture customers, keep them and convert
But the real concern should be the fact that many travel brands aren’t allocating enough resource to keeping them on their sites, understanding their on-site journeys and driving them towards making a booking.
The mobile has become the customer’s default device in many sectors but that is especially true in travel because the mobile goes with them.
It is the traveller’s pocket personal assistant throughout their trip.
This shift in mobile use hasn’t gone unnoticed by travel brands, they know that some of their users will now be booking hotels, flights etc whilst they are away, not just while they are at home.
“Mobile is the ideal platform because you’re on the go, looking for something right now. You’re not going to open your laptop in the middle of your travels and look at 100 hotels to see who gives the best deal,’’ said Amir Segall, vice president global supply at Hotel Tonight.
In order to take advantage of this new way of travel purchasing however, brands need to ensure that their sites are optimised for international mobile use.
Despite the consumer demand, many mobile travel sites still lag behind desktop usability.
Common complaints include: too much information to sift through, questions about whether the information was up to date and search problems.
The problems are exacerbated by the fact that customers are less patient when using their mobiles.
They want fast results. It takes just 39 seconds for a mobile user to decide to leave a page – 22% less time than on a desktop or tablet.
Mobile users also spend 21% less time interacting with the first page and one in four will abandon a site if they get an error message.
Travellers in emerging economies such as Brazil, Russia and India are the most frustrated with their online experiences.
According to a recent study, between 73% and 78% of people in those countries say they have experienced frustration with online travel sites.
Levels in the UK (42%) and the US (48%) are lower, but still significant.
All of this in turn has an impact on conversion. Mobile average purchase value for travel sites is much lower than on desktop and shopping cart abandonment rates are 30% higher.
Mobile users also spend 69% more time at the checkout than users on other devices.
Gut feel doesn’t pay bills – data does
The user experience (UX) challenge, then, is to deliver what the customer is looking for as quickly as possible.
This data emphasises that time is the key issue on mobile, though security and reliability are also important.
“Reassurance is as key as the speed of service. It’s about speed, it’s about ease, it’s about quality and it’s about experience. You have to pull every lever across all those variables to try to and optimise them,’’ said Neil Morgan, head of digital trading and optimisation, Avis.
Faced with so many elements to optimise, travel brands are starting to realise the importance of investing in design research.
Budget airline Ryanair has done exactly that – testing how long it took users to complete various tasks on its website and then optimising the pages based on the results.
The company performed a similar exercise on competing sites, to provide a benchmark to work against.
Getting the digital experience right means monitoring user behaviour so that you can determine what works and what doesn’t.
To do that, a business must ask the right questions and – more importantly – have the right tools to answer them.
Newer UX analytics metrics allow businesses to go deeper than what customers are doing and instead analyse how and why they are doing it.
For example, faced with the question ‘why are my returning visitors struggling to fill in a particular form?’ many businesses currently have to rely on gut instinct or have no answers at all.
The information that can be gained from click recurrence metrics in this instance, can help pinpoint the specific areas of frustration e.g the submission button, and show brands which content they need to analyse and adjust in order to improve the customer engagement experience.
Having tools like these allows businesses to pinpoint areas of customer struggle and more easily identify what areas of their sites they need to improve (and easily enable changes).
With this insight in hand travel brands will stop failing to convert, and start flying high.
All statistics in the above piece were taken from Travel Tribes report featuring advice from leading travel brands on how to better cater for digital travellers