Hotel chains have the least user friendly websites, according to the latest eDigitalResearch benchmark study on usability.
The study looked at airlines, holiday camps and self catering accommodation, cruises, hotel agents, hotel chains, tour operators and travel agencies.
Of the 51 sites in the study, Keycamp topped the list, performing strongly for all aspects of the customer journey, particularly for initial research and search.
Most of the major hotel chains were nowhere to be seen, with Premier Inn coming in at a 22, Travelodge ranked 34 and Hilton scoring near the bottom at 46.
The study said this poor showing was down to low engagement. EDigitalResearch said hotel chain websites were too corporate for their leisure users. They lack key accommodation and destination information and do not include customer reviews.
This was in contrast to high-scoring sites which the study pointed out “go beyond expectations to engage users in the holiday experience – a key area to encourage conversion in a market where the product is not an essential purchase”.
“These sites engage users on their homepage through ease of navigation and by providing travel inspiration. They encourage their customers to promote the brand through social media, using these channels to answer customer queries and promote destinations to encourage conversion,” the report said.
The sites that best engaged customers were holiday camps and self catering. They performed well across all phases of the customer journey.
The study found that high-scoring sites had seven common factors: first impression, initial research, search, search results display, booking process, telephone customer service and email customer service.
Operator Hayes & Jarvis was rated top for first impression with a score of 90.9%.
After customers enter the site they should be encouraged to do some initial research. Haven was considered to be best for this scoring 90.8%.
Once a site gets a customer’s interest it should provide easy to use search and Expedia came top for this with an 89.2% score.
Having plenty of concise and informative search results is also a deciding factor for customers. Thomson Holidays secured top spot for that with a respectable 85%. After a successful search, customers look for an easy booking process.
Thomson flights was considered the simplest to book earning it a 91.3% score.
After the booking, customer experience becomes the main factor. Offering helpful telephone customer service earned Haven first place with an 88.8% score.
Finally, having fast and friendly email customer service was also considered important. Pontins did this best in this area earning it a 78.1% score.
Overall, the study recommends utilising social media and live help features to interact with customers. This helps promote engagement and can quickly identify problems.
The results also show that providing more customisable search which can filter by price, date, destination and type of holiday simplifies the process of discovery and leads to happier customers.