Is your travel ecommerce site ‘beach-ready’ for 2016?

Date: 20th August 2015
Author: Deri Jones

Deri Jones, CEO of SciVisum, offers some hot tips for getting your Travel website in top shape

Seven tips to get your Travel site in shape

The summer holiday season is drawing to a close and overseas travel was up for a third year in a row with flight numbers increasing by 4.4% reports the CAA.

But despite growth, not all travel operators are well prepared for the new opportunities and challenges online. 49% of all European tour operators are in decline according to information released at the AITO conference in June of this year.

Travellers are more savvy than ever and tour operators have, “a new breed of customer” to please, says Niels Magill from Google Travel. Holiday goers are increasingly expecting more choice, better prices and exemplary service, so what can tour operators do to entice browsers to book?

Tip 1: Don’t let your Mobile delivery limit your growth

Whether you have made your site mobile-friendly via a responsive approach or you’re using a third-party to run a parallel mobile site for you, mobile strategy is a key consideration.

Mobile bookings are becoming increasingly mainstream, with Thomson and First Choice seeing 28% on mobile last year, and Small Luxury Hotels of the World reporting a 66% increase in bookings from mobiles and 15% from tablets.

Mobile advertising platform Opera Mediaworks conducted research into personality types and found that Samsung and Apple users engage more with video ads and often click through when presented with a promotion or discount offer.

Google favours mobile friendly sites in its search results, and with holiday shoppers using the Internet as their main research tool, having a mobile responsive site should be a must-have for 2016.

Tip 2: Last Minute deals – Don’t make your users wait

Maybe you focus a big chunk of your marketing on last minute campaigns, or maybe you agree with Sunvil managing director Chris Wright that “the trend towards early booking continues”. Either way, your email campaigns are vital to bump up the bottom line.

But are you confident that the very success of those campaigns is not causing an annoyingly slow buying process for your customers. Consider the following:

  • Mobile buyers are often on slower network connections
  • Are your servers adding to the delays? Under the peak load of visitors who’ve clicked on your persuasive email can your systems cope with the strain? Investing in a robust server will pay dividends.

Tip 3: User experience – Help users find what they need

A tour operator’s website needs to capture attention, showcase offers, availability and best prices and above all else, deliver exactly what each holidaymaker is after, which is diverse, in an ever growing market. With so many types of holiday on offer, browsers will travel through many pages and multi-function routes to refine their search.

Web teams have a double challenge:

  • To constantly enhance their holiday site to provide the range of information for the diversity of site journeys to guarantee browsers stay engaged. These enhancements also need to meet mobile user needs too.
  • To maintain fast and error free pages, despite the increase in site richness.

It’s not uncommon that mobile users see a slower user experience than desktop users, to make the same search and bookings.   Without 24/7 metrics on those vital user journeys, you may be blind as to what your visitors experience and why they may abandon your site. Customer retention is vital and analytical insights hold the answer.

Tip 4: Check that your website friends are not hurting your sales!

The experience your visitors have on your site is not dependant only on how well your own team have built your site but also on various external 3rd-party teams.

The use of partner plug-ins and third party integrations to offer additional services such as car hire, resort/hotel reviews, video feeds, content marketing feeds is increasingly vital to give a rich experience to your customers. However, all this functionality can hurt performance, so thorough load testing is recommended to make sure it is fit for purpose and not a barrier to booking at the crunch point, when your traffic peaks are high.

Tip 5: Don’t be shy, if you’ve got it, flaunt it

There have always been a chunk of holidaymakers who plan and book for next year 12 months in advance – you can keep customers with you year after if you do this right. But with such forward planning, some browsers can be left frustrated if your site does not support booking far enough ahead. Some airlines don’t release flight seats as early as others.

Nothing dampens holiday browsing vibes more than finding a vacuum in information about future holidays or even worse the dreaded error 404 – page not found. You don’t want to be left working out how to win back that lost customer.

To capitalise on these long-term holiday planners, travel sites should first of all make sure that if long-term data is available internally, then publish it as soon as possible on the site – no holding back! Even if the information is not complete, something is better than nothing – gaps can be covered with a simple call to action such as ‘register your interest’ to capture the lead. Follow up calls can be made and quotes sent on the back of this data when information is made available.

Tip 6: Size and speed matters

With the surges in traffic to your site that you plan for and create through your campaigns, website visitors are impatient and will not wait for slow searches, pages that stall or large images that delay a page load.

Flash sales, early booking discounts and incentives are great for driving traffic to a travel site. Over half of traveller’s holiday searches start on a laptop or desktop computer and with Omni channel marketing being the ‘in’ thing, tour operators need to bear in mind how visitors are reaching their site. Mapping customer journeys can help holiday sites provide seamless migration between channels and an un-interrupted journey makes for a happy customer. Employing a service to monitor user journeys can provide great insight in how to improve customer retention.

Tip 7: Don’t clog up the checkout

Holidaymakers dream of packing their sun cream and hitting the beach but having spent hours finding the perfect deal, will a troublesome checkout on a travel website stop them from checking in? Best practise for any e-commerce checkout can be summarised into 3 points:

  • Make it simple, don’t create obstacles.
  • Make it fast, allow for a fuss free transaction.
  • Make it safe, this breeds loyalty and a feeling of security and may be a deal breaker if done badly.

Additional considerations can also improve the customer experience such as:

  • Progress indicators – customers can estimate how much longer their booking will take.
  • Basket/booking summary – no need to navigate away from the checkout to check details.
  • Remove distractions – let customers complete this transaction before trying to sell them something else.

Most 21st Century travellers know what they want and if they don’t, they’re not afraid to ask online. A travel E-Commerce site is a holiday-maker’s portal to happy holidays. They are coming to you, ready to hand over their card details and with 52% of travel consumers believing holidays are better value for money when booked online, is your holiday site ready?

(first published on Travel Daily UK)

Also read:

Why mobile performance is critical for companies offering UK holiday attractions this summer

Making the “un-buyable holiday” a thing of the past…

Rough guide to Fixing Website Performance issues in the Travel industry

Travel technology: inventory monitoring for lost sales reduction

Screenshots: Errors on Travel sites

Website performance lessons from the Travel Industry

Monitoring Holiday websites – not easy given the caching bashing