Survey reveals personal touch

A wide-ranging survey of online shoppers has revealed almost half still book holidays based on a personal recommendation from friends or family.

The study, carried out by research company Nielsen//NetRatings, advertising network Adviva and marketers Harvest Digital, revealed the inspiration for trips from offline sources is still strong with press travel articles accounting for a third and 15% citing Teletext.

However the offline method for booking is waning with less than half of online shoppers booking a holiday through a traditional high street travel agent.

Nine percent of internet users book a holiday on the High Street after researching products online and a further 17% use a call centre, the research said.

Planning director at Harvest Digital, Mike Teasdale, said: “Obviously offline media still has a vital role to play in the marketing mix, but once an online consumer is interested in a specific destination or holiday, they use the Internet to research and buy.’

The study also found researching about destinations has extended to supplier websites, with 40% of respondents visiting an airline for information, while over a third rated tourist board sites.

While the role of High Street agent has diminished for a large number of respondents, especially those booking beach holidays, online shoppers still prefer to book activity breaks through an offline agent.

European corporate development director at Adviva, Fiona McKinnon, said: “The most noticeable shift is from the high street with more than three quarters of holidays now researched or booked online.

“This is reflected in the high number of people booking late deals and taking more holidays than the average British consumer.”

European internet analyst Alex Burmaster warned retailers that the shift to online should not be avoided if a modern business is to survive.

“The Internet is now officially a mainstream form of media and companies who still believe it can only form a ‘niche’ part of any consumer-focused strategy will soon find themselves marginalised as the 21st century progresses,” he said.

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