While there are differences between the travel and retail industries, both sectors have one thing in common - they want to effectively attract new customers and retain existing ones. In fact, travel companies can learn from the retail sector in terms of optimising their online and mobile presence.

A study conducted by website optimisation firm Qubit shows that while retail generates higher conversions and lower average purchase value, there are also behavioural differences between retail and travel and the former is less complex when it comes to actual purchases than the travel sector.

The results from the research show that the travel sector generates 0.75% conversion rates, while the average for retail stands at 5.9%. In addition, the retail path to actual purchase is an average of 6.5 days, while the travel path to purchase takes users 13.2 days and around 9.4 web pages seen on average per purchase. But travel clients see ten times higher order values compared with the retail sector.

Qubit also analysed the dynamics behind how different platforms convert users with the aim to understand and improve the performance of travel firms across the various platforms. A clear opportunity for travel companies can be seen in the sector's lower conversions on mobile devices, not least because a higher proportion of travel traffic (8.32%) than retail traffic (4.0%) comes from users on smartphones.

For the travel industry, there are traffic sources that perform lower than in retail, including SEM, SEO and display advertising. This could explain why many companies are more focused on marketing on social media and are making efforts to increase their affiliate networks. But it's worth remembering that SEO and SEM are considered to be among the most important steps in the path to purchase because they are so effective at getting a website seen.

What about once users have found your website and started looking at it? According to Qubit, 99% of travel visits make use of search, although it varies depending on whether the site is wide-ranging or more focused on a smaller choice of options. Overall, search is the most viewed type of page in the whole of the travel path to purchase.

Further along the path to purchase, cart abandonment in the travel sector is significant. A key factor is likely to be the total price per item which is generally much higher than purchases made on retail websites. But the Qubit study also found that many travel website visitors repeat purchase more quickly than retail visitors. Among those purchasing more than once in a two-month period, 24% of travel visitors purchased three times on the same day and 36% purchased twice on the same day. In the retail sector the respective proportions were just 7% and 26%.