Google study highlights travel buyer behaviour

Many will be wondering what the stand out statistic was from a recent GoogleComScore study of UK online consumer behaviour.


For some – the market-change refuseniks perhaps – it will be the fact that 20 million people were searching the web for a travel product in the first quarter of this year.


Others may well be surprised by the average number of times (2.5 times) users will visit the purchase website before actually clicking the Book Now button.


Meanwhile, news that consumers take nearly a month to go from first search to purchase of a travel product reinforces other studies carried out – including one focusing on booking latency by Yahoo! last year – which stress the need for long-term planning with keyword buying.


Drill deeper into the results and it is easy see to why Google UK’s new industry leader for travel, Robin Frewer, believes travel searchers are becoming more “brand fickle”.


On average, the survey found, customers made 12 searches, visiting 23 websites and taking 29 days before they made a booking.


Frewer says users spend “a large amount of time researching their desired purchase, and considering offers from competing brands”.


He adds: “The fact users are using more generic search queries gives ample opportunity for brands to attract new customers – and brands that are not present during these searches are missing out.”


The survey of 20,000 consumers tracked not only Google users but also those on the Yahoo!, MSN, AOL and Ask.com engines.


The battle to win the purchase clicks of uncertain customers seems to be rather difficult for tour operators, Google-ComScore believe.


The research indicates that the average user will have visited the site 3.9 times before making a booking.


As the research points out: “Travel companies face a rising challenge to retain the online consumer as the proliferation of competition encourages travel customers to shop around.”


Bob Ivins, executive vice-president for ComScore in Europe, says: “This study clearly shows the important role played by search in consumers’ decision-making process and some of the ways in which savvy marketers can make their search marketing budgets generate an even higher return.”


Nevertheless, Google says many travel businesses are “missing out” on opportunities for additional bookings and branding opportunities by “overlooking the value of advertising against generic search terms”.


The study found more than half of online travel buyers started their search with a generic product or destination search term, with 10% not using any branded terms at all during their online travel shopping experience.


“Importantly, more than a third of travel buyers use a generic term as the last search before they purchase, giving advertisers a key window to influence their purchase right up until the last minute,” the research suggests.

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