Travel companies have just one chance to make a good first impression with prospective customers researching trips online, but it seems that some operators still need to work towards improving their performance, according to research from GfK into the way digital consumers book travel online.

The market research firm claims that travel brands risk missing out on bookings if they fail to immediately win consumers' attention, especially bearing in mind the fact that consumers come across a significant number of agencies and brands while searching for the right company, said Matthias Hartmann, chief executive of GfK Group, at the ITB conference in Berlin earlier this month.

There are many competing firms providing various opportunities to customers, which makes it difficult for travel businesses to grab holidaymakers' attention at the outset, noted Ralph Poser, managing director for strategy at German creative agency Kolle Rebbe. A travel brand needs to make a real effort to stand out from the crowd by coming up with a strong creative idea, he said.

For customers, travel agencies and brochures still play a key role when they research holidays, but for brands it is essential to be "discoverable" across the many platforms available, Hartmann said. Brands also need to be familiar with the behaviour of the two main groups of customers searching online - "the fast bookers" and the "intensive researchers," in order to better tailor their online offerings to the preferences of their target audience and the destinations they prefer, he added.

The fast bookers, who represent 49% of online searchers, spend less than four weeks on research before booking their holiday, while intensive researchers, accounting for the remaining 51%, are those who dedicate up to 25 weeks or even more to online research, according to GfK's findings.

Fast bookers are typically female and tend to book travel packages and hotels more often than other online bookers. Fast bookers are generally aged under 30 and live in a household with more than two members. Female fast bookers are more likely to pick domestic or short-haul trips than holidays further abroad.

In contrast, the intensive researchers are usually slightly older and male, living in a household with one or two members, and booking flights is one of their more common activities. Male intensive researchers also tend to prefer destinations beyond Europe.

Perhaps not surprisingly, intensive researchers take a lot of things into account and often visit a large number of websites before making a booking. These can include generic and branded searches and the websites of aggregators, suppliers and travel agencies.
Overall, the holiday search area is dominated by online travel agencies and aggregators, which are responsible for the bulk of traffic during the search process.

Make your first impression count – talk to us today and we’ll show you how our technology can make you stand out.