Marketing Executive Nic Weschenfelder looks at how travel sites can influence the customer journey. 

There’s a hell of a lot of planning that goes into travel.  It takes approximately 38 different site visits, totalling up to 30 hours of research, over a space of 45 days to book a holiday.

A trip abroad is one of the largest purchases consumers make each year, so it’s no wonder such a high consideration purchase can take a long time.

This Think With Google’s blog breaks down the travel customer journey into four stages that essentially shape how travelers book their holidays.

These stages are what they call ‘moments’. In theory, these travel moments start from the moment a traveler starts dreaming about a holiday and follow right the way to the trip itself.

To get to the experiencing moment (or what I like to call the pina colada moment), travelers go through the planning and booking moments. This blog will focus on this planning and booking process.

Both are make or break moments for travel brands to engage and also to be useful to travelers.


Travel Moments

  • I want to get away moments (Dreaming)
  • Let’s make a plan moments (Planning)
  • Let’s book it up moments (Booking)
  • Exploration moments (Experiencing)

Once travelers have sussed their options out, it’s all about taking their dreaming moments into the planning stage of the process.

At this stage they are looking for immediate answers on pricing, availability, and logistics. As they take to their chosen device they essentially want to know if their dream trip could actually have the legs to become a reality.

In these moments, travel brands have the power to shape travelers’ preferences with the information they provide. It’s this information that gives travelers the confidence to make an informed decision and move on into the booking moments.


How Can Travel Brands Engage and Inform Visitors on Their Site?

Once the research is done, the booking moments can happen. Visitors are ready to to book their tickets and reserve their rooms.

In these two stages of the process the stakes are high for travel brands, they are all fighting to provide the right information, to the right people, at the right time.


Provide key information

A long research process is the norm for travel sites, but they can try to provide as much information as possible so that customers don’t always need to leave the site to find what they need.

For example, TUI displays reviews and average scores from Tripadvisor on its pages, providing some useful insight for travelers.

It’s a smart tactic, as people like to view reviews from other customers and tripadvisor is a key destination for travel reviews. By showing reviews here, people don’t have to head to tripadvisor for this information.

Key information on destinations is another way to help travelers during this stage.

As in this example from AirBNB, information on destinations can provide the kind of local information that shoppers would normally have to head to another site for, and can help to reinforce their decision.


Social Proofing with Live Trends

Knowing the availability and popularity of a service gives visitors the information they need to start piecing together a plan.

Live booking trends ultimately show visitors how many people have viewed or booked a certain flight, holiday or hotel room. Showing popularity is essentially social proof messaging which can inspire confidence in travelers.

Effectively Live Trends give travelers more reassurance that they’re right to choose their desired destination or luxury hotel room, and why the price is right according to the trending information. Information such as, “51 people have chosen this hotel in the last 24 hours” and “103 people rate this hotel 5*” provides the third party reassurance to justify purchasing a high ticketed item.

Such information is also key to marketing unfamiliar destinations or places that have maybe been considered high-risk in the past.

The idea that 23 other people have booked this destination strengthens the travelers trust not only in the destination but also in your brand.


Creating Urgency with Live Trends

Any seed of doubt in a traveler’s mind can usually lead to the prolonging of a booking. However live trends can help to reduce abandonment by adding an element of urgency to the booking journey.

Put it this way, you want to get home for Christmas and are looking at flights for the 22nd December, then this message appears.

“10 people are looking at this flight”.

Your heart skips a few beats quicker and you can bet your bottom dollar that you will be booking your seat for that flight.

The element of urgency that live trends can add to a booking journey is certainly an underrated benefit, particularly when it comes to those booking moments.


Speed up the Decision Making Process

Countdown Timers look to reverse the trend of the notorious travel abandoners by making visitors think twice before abandoning/prolonging their booking.

In highlighting how long is left before a special offer or sale ends, Countdown Timers can sway visitors during their ‘booking moments’ into a purchase.

Adding a sense of urgency, countdown timers are a powerful method for pushing travelers into a faster decision on purchase.

Naturally, people want to take part and avoid missing out even when it comes to offers. So when using countdown timers, it’s vital visitors feel like they must act fast.

They should be relevant and therefore close to the end date, not several weeks away. “This three day winter break offer to Iceland ends in: 4 weeks 3 days 22 minutes 19 seconds” just doesn’t have the desired effect.

It’s important that countdown timers are honest to help speed up the customer’s decision making by providing useful information.

There’s nothing worse than purchasing a product before the countdown timer period expires, only to discover when you go back the next day to find it is the same price.

Countdown timers shouldn’t be overused too, or customers may lose trust in the information shown, and the tactic will lose its power.


In Summary

All travel customers go through planning and booking moments, but how travel brands engage and make their data useful to visitors in these key moments can influence whether they actually make their booking.

By making use of the customers’ fear of missing out, travel brands can effectively enhance the customer experience by giving clarity on stock levels, pricing and availability.

Live Trends and Countdown Timers are an effective component for travel brands to accelerate customers from their dreaming moments to their pina-colada moments.

Providing the right information, to the right visitors, at the right time through these tools can effectively increase conversions whilst also reducing conversion rates and conversion times.

It’s truly a win win!