Understanding the traveller’s path to purchase

February24, 2017

Andey Speight

To provide the very best booking experience on the market, you will first need to know exactly how your customers research and plan their holiday when booking online. So, sit back, relax, and let us take you through the traveller’s path to purchase.

A recent study commissioned by Expedia Media Solutions and conducted by comScore, used a mixture of online travel behavioural data combined with data sourced via a survey, in order to determine the traveller’s path to purchase for the United Kingdom, United States and Canada.

The overall data retrieved indicated that of the countries involved, a huge 75% of online users consume digital travel content in the United Kingdom, 70% in Canada and 60% in the United States.

For time spent viewing digital travel content, the United States weighed in as the winner with a total of 8.7 billion minutes spent viewing digital travel content. Coming in second with 2.4 billion minutes was the UK and in at last was Canada with a much smaller total of only 806 million minutes.

So, what channels are these countries using to find information when searching for their next holiday destination?

Mobile is number one choice for travellers

The research conducted showed that firstly, the online audience for travel is obviously big, but more importantly, is increasingly leaning towards mobile as a method of searching for travel related content online.

Desktop usage is shrinking in favour of hand held devices, with findings indicating that every traveller uses hand held devices much more than desktop to research their travel online. 54% of UK users preferred to use a wide range of hand held alternatives to search travel related content, whereas The United States preferred to consume their travel content solely on a mobile device. Canada on the other hand, still prefer desktop, however this number decreased slightly from 46% to 36% in April 2016.

OTAs lead the charge

During the 45-day path to booking, customers online increasingly engaged with travel content in the final weeks leading up to purchase. OTA’s have the most engagement in comparison to other travel businesses throughout the booking path, with UK travellers accounting for 32% of all visits and the United States and Canada marginally higher at 33%.

The key influencers for travellers searching at the beginning of the booking journey were search engines and suggestions from family and friends. As travellers alternated from initial searching to narrowing down their options, share shifted between sources of influence with the UK in particular favouring OTA’s, Hotel and Airline sites. Travellers from the States would mainly use OTA’s as well, and Canadian travellers would still prefer to use search engines as well as hotel sites.

During consideration, the use of search engines and suggestions from friends and family would decrease in favour of OTA’s and Hotel sites overall. The final channels used to book by travellers online were mainly OTA, hotel and airline sites, with each generating a consistent level of engagement throughout the final path to purchase and also high conversion rates overall.

Europe most popular destination

If you’re trying to promote a specific destination on your site, then take a look at the results found by comScore. The research uncovered that out of the three countries that participated in the survey, UK travellers are most likely to consider up to 2 destinations when booking online, whereas the United States were much more likely to consider only 1 destination.v

This year you’ll want to be focusing on upselling European holiday destinations for the UK, United States and Canada, particularly in the UK, as research suggests 61% of all UK travellers will research destinations in Europe before any other location in the world.

It was also proven that OTA’s were the most influential resource online for travellers when researching possible holiday destinations, followed closely by recommendations from family and friends.

Advertising hits hard

Thinking of using advertising in your marketing strategy this year? We’d definitely advise it, as research shows that advertising has the potential to influence almost half of every travel bookers decision making process when considering one or more travel destinations.

When surveyed, over half of most travel bookers said they recalled seeing an advertisement while shopping for travel destinations online. Based on industry findings, we recommend using advertising to promote your travel offerings at the very initial stages of the booking journey.

Advertising will have the highest level of impact at this early point in the customer’s decision making process, particularly for hotels, air travel and even complete travel packages. Don’t quit their though, travellers are also likely to notice advertising messages when narrowing their options as well, especially for hotels.

A few key highlights
  • The UK, Canada and the United States consume a high level of travel content, and this continued to grow year over year.
  • Mobile is on the rise, and in the United States more people used mobile to book their travel online than any other platform, even surpassing desktop.
  • It’s important to keep in mind that the journey leading up to purchase for travellers online is a long and time consuming process.
  • OTAs receive the most engagement during the booking journey across all travel site categories.
  • More than a third of travellers were influenced by advertising messages when considering more than one travel destination.
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