Travel sites: why user experience matters

A fantastic customer experience on a travel website has now become the expected norm, and is key to the success of any business within the industry. Travellers now consider cost to be one of their main priorities, meaning travel providers need to pull out all the stops in order to gain (and retain) their loyalty.

Last year, a survey revealed that, out of 500 people booking a trip, 85% did so online. Even more interestingly, these customers admitted that, were they to come across any hurdles during the booking process, six in ten of them would become frustrated and abandon their booking, with nearly eight in ten (89%) going on to book through a competitor. Econsultancy revealed that users take up to 45 days to book a trip and visit as many as 38 travel websites.

Travellers are becoming more savvy and demanding with regards to their choice of providers, and they are increasingly turning to mobile for all levels of the buying cycle – from carrying out research to actually booking the trip.

In order to gain loyalty from customers, they need to be provided with a smooth, seamless and persuasive user experience. A typical user journey will be made up of the four following stages:

Discovery

There are several reasons a traveller may come to your site. They may be searching for inspiration, or they could already have a plan in mind. Your website should provide engaging content for all types of visitor. Travel sites should offer a clear search function; ideas and inspiration; access to past searches; easy transition between different devices; and easy sharing. Helpful recommendations and non-biased reviews should also be available and there should certainly be some integration with social media channels.

Decision making

Detail is paramount when it comes to travel websites, and visitors should be provided with as much information as possible, without feeling swamped. This should include images, maps, written descriptions, related itineraries, prices and optional extras. These details should be presented in a way that is easily scannable and clear.

Booking

There should be no barriers when it is time for visitors to complete the booking process. It is important to have clear product categories; easy-to-understand forms for choosing dates and destinations; clearly displayed search results; straightforward forms for paying; and appropriate device-dependent functionality.

Some 13% said that a lengthy, complicated payment process could prevent them from booking a trip.

Post-booking

Don't neglect your customer just because they have made their booking. Send them a clear confirmation email and a reminder email closer to the date, and offer location guides that can be used when at their destination. And don't forget to send out a follow-up email after their trip, encouraging them to write a review.

In 2015, usability is now a basic requirement, so no travel site should be resting on their laurels. Is your online travel company's website future-proof?