In the second of our three-part customer journey series of posts we are focusing on the research phase. And it doesn't take a genius to guess that the internet is the primary source of information for today's intrepid explorers.
A whopping 83% of leisure travellers plan their trip online and research shows that travel consumers visit an average of 22+ websites over multiple research sessions prior to making a final booking. In terms of which websites these online shoppers are visiting to conduct their research, OTA's sites are a more popular option than a brand's own website.
So what are travel customers doing during these multiple research sessions? First and foremost they are (unsurprisingly) trying to find out as much information as possible about their preferred destination, accommodation and/or transport methods. This research could be motivated by an advert they have seen, friends' recommendations, or a moment of inspiration.
Travellers are also watching travel videos (posted by travel bloggers and brands alike) and requesting information from individual companies to support their plans.
In addition, travellers have become increasingly reliant upon reviews posted online by other travellers. Research consistently shows that these reviews are playing a major part in the decision-making process for travellers, with those aged 35 and under most likely to share their travel experiences online – via social media in particular. It is also this age group who are most influenced by online travel reviews.
Regardless of demographics, online reviews are changing the face of travel, with 93 per cent of travellers worldwide confirming that online reviews impact their booking decisions. The key challenge for travel companies is exercising an effective reputation management programme.
Another challenge that should be on every travel business's radar is personalisation. In order to win the confidence and grab the attention of travellers businesses must portray their brands in a way that treats every one of their customers as an individual. When travellers are presented with content that doesn't match their interests – or their place within the buying journey – they are far more likely to continue their research elsewhere.
Another key focus needs to be creating cross-channel engagement at the same time as maintaining consistency. Websites need to be dynamic and mobile-enabled to allow customers to conduct their research as and when they choose. Providing a more personalised experience based on users' profiles, online behaviour and search patterns is something travel businesses cannot ignore.
Stay tuned for the third and final installment of our customer journey series. Next time we'll be considering the booking stage...