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Is the travel industry prepared to support online buyers?

Thursday 5 September 2019 Digital Consultancy

Suzanne Jiggens-Johnson's picture
By Suzanne Jiggens-Johnson

CACI’s research into digital marketing tactics adopted by the travel industry has revealed that whilst many travel brands have started to adopt key digital tactics and a strong online presence, there is still significant room for improvement. 

The travel industry is evolving

The growth of the internet has shaped the landscape of many industries, including the travel industry.  Whilst we used to pop into the local travel agents to plan and book a holiday – including flights, hotels and excursions – we can now be self-sufficient and book all these elements ourselves, online.

As we become more confident in organising our own holidays, the high street travel agent has begun to decline in numbers. In 2017, almost 700 travel agents closed their doors, according to LDC’s retail and leisure trends report. This is a continuing trend, with Thomas Cook announcing a further 21 stores to close in March this year.

Instead, consumers are moving online, with a recent government study revealing that in 2016 76% of holidays were booked online, with that figure jumping up to 83% in 2017.
 

Travel brands must adapt online strategies to meet changing customer behaviours

With this increasing change in the way consumers are researching and purchasing their holidays, travel agents have had to change and adapt their digital approach in order to avoid closing completely.
As most bookings are now made online, it’s especially important that travel sites are adapting to the needs of customers. Here are just a few examples of key areas of focus for travel brands looking to evolve their digital strategy:

  • Reviews: Reviews are essential when booking holidays online, with 95% of travellers spending 30 minutes reading reviews before booking a holiday – that’s around 7 reviews in total. A recommended adaption for this is to provide reviews on your website, so that customers don’t need to source them elsewhere, which can lead to lost sales.
  • Research: Content is king for travel sites. Expedia found that consumption of digital travel content is growing at a rapid rate of 44% in the UK. Blogs are a great way to share information, hints and tips, and suggestions of where to visit. As with recommendations, people love to find out as much as they can before planning. With the huge growth rates, and 75% of all digital users in the UK already consuming travel content according to research by Expedia, having a blog onsite really helps customers with decision making for holidays, as much like reviews the more they know, the better equipped they feel before spending their money.
  • Mobile: Real-time communication is another key area that consumers value within the travel industry. With a rise in last minute bookings and more people booking their holidays through their mobiles, an adaption to these needs of consumers must be taken into account. Apps are often preferred by consumers. This is largely down to speed, but also as there are functionalities within apps that help when planning a holiday. Notifications were a key feature picked by users, who want up-to-date information about travel updates, price alerts and offers instantaneously.
     

There is room for improvement in the travel industry’s digital strategy

The above are just a few examples of how travel brands should be adapting to support today’s consumer behaviour. In our Digital Marketing Scorecard for Travel, we review 25 travel companies over 9 key areas of digital marketing, analysing their digital presence to find out who is adapting their digital strategy to meet the needs to today’s digital-first buyer, and who still has a way to go.

The results were extremely varied. Some of the brands we reviewed are already very well adapted to online, but many others are a lot further behind. The highest score over these 9 areas was 7.3 out of 10, with the lowest being 3.7, showing that all companies reviewed could improve their digital approach.

Perhaps most surprisingly, the areas with the lowest scores were Customer Care and Email, which could be considered some of the most important investment areas for any brand.

Our Digital Scorecards are put together as a basic hygiene test, with all information reported on being available in the public domain. They give a general overview and benchmarking of the travel industry, focusing on areas that are deemed most important to the industry. To find out more, download the Travel Industry Scorecard.

The way consumers are interacting with travel brands is rapidly changing, as what was once a traditionally face-to-face buying experience moves online. But, is the travel industry evolving with consumer behaviour? CACI’s research into digital marketing tactics adopted by the travel industry has revealed that whilst many travel brands have started to adopt key digital tactics and a strong online presence, there is still significant room for improvement.

Is the travel industry prepared to support online buyers?

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