Airport codes are increasingly being used by consumers searching for flights, Robin Goad, director of research at Experian Hitwise told the Travolution Summit.
Goad said data shows that consumers are picking up on the three-letter codes that are often included in traditional search results and using them to do further research. “People are picking up on this industry lingo, these three letter acronyms usually associated with industry jargon,” he said.
The trend was among a number Goad said Hitwise has discovered from analysing its data, others being a move to universal search using maps and towards informational and entertainment sites.
Although the overall level of traffic to purely transactional sites was still increasing, Goad said the proportion was falling. “The market really is moving towards the internet being an informational, entertainment and networking medium and away from being much more about transaction,” he said.
Two-thirds of time online is now spent on informational sites, down from a half-and-half split with transactional sites as recently as two years ago.
Hitwise data shows 14 minutes of every internet hour are now spent on social media sites, with Facebook accounting for one in every six pages viewed in the UK, or 50% of total social media usage.
Goad said this is making social media potentially a more powerful customer acquisition channel with some mainstream non-travel retailers seeing up to 20% of traffic coming from social media.
Another clear trend Goad highlighted was a move towards flight searches and away from hotel searches, particularly in relation to the US.
“One of the reasons behind that might be the airlines are getting much better at saying, ‘Now you have booked your flight, do you want to book your hotel?’. We are finding the airlines are better at picking up hotel traffic that the hotels are at picking up airline traffic.”
Early data for Google’s new Flight Search service, launched last month in the US, shows it had 300,000 visits during the month, making it the seventh biggest meta-search site.
There are concerns that the powerful ITA-software Flight Search is poised to put rivals out of business but Goad said Google had not been successful in other areas, like finance, having launched similar products. However he conceded these were not as “sophisticated” as Flight Search.