Travel Industry Must Go Digital To Engage With Customers

Digital technology has dramatically changed the way the travel industry works. Today, we live in a world where travellers get inspiration from recommendations on social media, online reviews and travel websites, which makes it possible for brands to actively take part in every stage of their journey.

Digital has created a new shopping place where travellers can browse through a myriad of opportunities, either before their trip or while abroad or even when looking at pictures of friends' trips on social networks. Today people heavily research their trips online, says Emma Jowett, head of travel and education at Yahoo!.

Consumers tend to visit many websites before booking a trip to find the place that inspires them the most. This means that the travel booking process is quite a fragmented experience for users, Jowett says. A typical traveller visits at least 18 different websites before completing the booking process, going to several sites to find out more about selected destinations, logging on to social media to get recommendations from friends and family and visiting another site to book a flight.

Many people also turn to their smartphones and tablets when planning a trip. As they switch between devices, one of the most important things for them is the quality of the images. Sixty eight percent of holiday makers say that seeing pictures of the place they want to visit encourages them to make a decision on booking, according to figures from Yahoo!.

The travel sector is a leader among other industries in terms of e-commerce success, however it still needs to work towards making the best use of this advantage and the opportunity to engage with people at an emotional level.

According to Yahoo!'s recent study, just 3% of travel companies' websites are visited by users who are in search of inspiration. Engaging with people's imaginations and emotions, however, is actually an incredible opportunity for travel brands to build loyalty. Companies also need to make sure their online presence is multi-device friendly, optimised for smartphones and tablets, so users are able to book directly from their mobile devices.

Figures from the Internet Advertising Bureau reveal that out of the 48% of travel companies with a mobile-friendly website, just 6% have optimised their website for tablets. What this means for the user is that when browsing high quality images and getting inspiration, they need to use a device other than a tablet. The travel sector must enter the tablet segment as soon as possible, not only for browsing but for booking as well.