The telephone is still the biggest sales channel for many travel companies and will continue to play a huge part going forward.
Lowcost Group chief executive Paul Evans told the TTI Spring Conference his call-centre was converting one in five calls on a good day.
He added that by contrast the lowcostholidays website conversion rate was about 1% despite its redesign and ease of use.
“Telephone is our most successful sales channel and it’s higher value business. On a decent website you might get a conversion as high as 7%, especially if it’s a commodity but all this stuff about sexy online play – don’t kid yourself. If it’s a multi-product site conversion could be 0.5% – that’s half a person in every 100.”
Evans said that key to the success of a website was good technology followed by speed, price and brand.
“If you don’t have a decent system and the internet is the main access to your business, you are history.”
Hitwise head of research Robin Goad said that in general consumers were spending more time browsing to get an idea of cost in the current climate.
Evans added that conversions on travel websites were low because of the emotion involved in the purchase.
“The holiday is still aspirational. It’s complicated to research, money shelled out early and a large purchase item in the family budget,” he said.
He also said he had been astounded by the drop-out rate at the shopping basket stage.
“We all operate in a Del-Boy environment where we add and add and add to the price but if you put it in at the beginning you won’t even appear in the search so you have balance it out.”
Google UK, travel industry manager, Robin Devlin told the conference that 60% of online shopping baskets are abandoned – 12% before checkout and 48% at checkout.