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Sinead Reilly

7 reasons why users are abandoning bookings on your online travel agency

July 9, 2019

One of the biggest challenges travel brands face is shopping cart abandonment. With a reported average of 81.7%, travel has one of the highest abandonment rates compared to other industries. 

This is particularly true for online travel agencies. 

According to the latest Travelport research, 64% of travelers who have researched a trip with an OTA, but did not go on to book, say they prefer to book with suppliers (e.g. airlines, hotels, car rental companies). 

Here are some of the reasons why users might be leaving your website without making a booking—and what you can do to convert them to customers. 

1. You haven’t optimized your booking flow

The inspiration and shopping phases are all about getting visitors to your website and leading them through to searching. At the booking stage, your focus is getting the conversion. Here are some guidelines on how to optimize your checkout flow for conversions. 

  • Limit the number of form fields: Only ask for the essential information that’s required to make a booking. Always consider your mobile users. Although more of your bookings may be made on desktop, mobile bookings are consistently growing, particularly last-minute bookings. Forms with fewer fields have been found to have a 65% higher conversion rate on mobile. 
  • Make it easy to change dates: If a user wants to change dates half way through the booking process, don’t make them go back to the first step to do it. According to Booking.com, websites where you can easily change the reservation dates before you complete the booking have a 170% higher conversion rate than ones that don’t. 
  • Enable social logins: Allowing visitors to register with your OTA using their social media profiles will make the sign-up process (and therefore the booking process) easier. They have fewer fields to complete, which is particularly useful for mobile users. Social logins also give your OTA instant demographic data about your users, which can be used to build out traveler persona profiles. 

2. The booking experience is not consistent across devices 

Google research shows that 94% of leisure travelers switch between devices when they plan or book a trip, and 46% of travelers with smartphones say they make their decision on mobile, but then book on another device.  

Allowing users to start a booking on one device and continue it on another is a good way to provide additional value throughout the booking stage and provides a more seamless user experience, which in turn can lead to higher conversion rates. 

The same research also found that only 23% of leisure travelers are confident they can find all of the same hotel and flight information on their smartphone that they can on their desktop. To help increase conversions on mobile devices, your OTA should consider allowing customers to cancel with no penalties within a certain timeframe (e.g. within 24 or 48 hours), to help relieve user anxiety when booking on mobile. 

3. Your users are unsure they’re getting the best price

According to Travelport’s 2018 Digital Traveler Survey, half of US and Canadian travelers identified the time spent trying to find the best price as a top pain point for searching and booking leisure trips.  

When the time comes to book, travelers want to know they’re getting the best deal, and 71% want OTAs to offer predictions on when air fares are likely to go up or down.  

By looking at historical price points and predicting where pricing is going based on current market data, you can begin to advise customers on when they should be booking to get the best deals. In doing so, you can reassure customers that you have their best interests at heart, helping you to build stronger, trust-based relationships with them. You can also differentiate your own services by delivering innovative price consultancy that few agencies currently offer. 

4. Customers can’t add ancillaries to their booking 

Increasing shopping cart value through ancillary sales is a primary goal for every online travel agency. And the good news is that travelers want to buy ‘beyond-air’ content: our research shows that 71% want the ability to add extras to their bookings with an OTA, and 73% would book again with an OTA who gave them the ability to book an end-to-end trip in one place. 

However, knowing when to push ancillary products, especially throughout the booking process, is a delicate balance. It is vital to keep the booking form as clear and uncluttered as possible and minimize the number of clicks to ensure users don’t abandon the shopping cart out of frustration. 

There are many stages of the customer journey when you can consider offering ancillary products, and it is all about pushing the right product to the right travelers at the right time.  

For example: 

  • If a user does not select a hotel room or insurance in the flight booking flow, show it again at the booking confirmation page or email. 
  • If they don’t select an extra bag, meal, or seat, show it again in the check-in reminder email. 
  • After the online check-in is completed, show in-flight wi-fi and activity options at the bottom of e-boarding pass. 

5. You’re not retargeting

When it comes to your digital advertising efforts at the booking stage of the customer journey, remarketing is one of the most impactful strategies you can adopt. A user who has shown interest in your offers at the inspiration or shopping stage is far more likely to convert than someone who hasn’t yet visited your website, so remarketing your offers to them can be a powerful part of your PPC strategy.  

Remarketing in Google Ads involves using a special tracking code to place cookies on the browsers of people who visit your website, and then serving ads to those people.  

These ads can take the form of static images, animated images, video, responsive ads, and text ads that are placed on the Google Display and Google Search Network. 

It’s also important to remember the basics like email marketing when trying to bring users back to your website to complete a booking. Our research shows that 69% of travelers who use OTAs are open to receiving email reminders to complete a booking they had started.

6. You’re not offering enough customer support 

While the majority of travel bookings are made online, some travelers will still need to contact an agent before making their final decision. Travel is a high-value purchase and our research found that 38% of leisure travelers think not being able to talk to a human is a pain point when booking travel.  

Having agents available to assist with bookings is an essential step in helping to increase conversions for your OTA, whether that is over the phone or via email or chat services. Of course, agent time is precious, and every OTA wants to increase operational efficiencies by reducing low-value calls to their agency. Therefore, it is important to give all essential information upfront on your website so that when someone makes a call to your agency, they are virtually ready to book.  

Our research with OTA end travelers found that 40% of respondents prefer to use ‘online chat’ to ask a query at the time of booking.

7. The customer wasn’t ready to book 

While fixing the issues we’ve already mentioned will certainly help optimize conversions at your online travel agency, one of the most common reasons users are bouncing from your website comes down to the fact that they weren’t ready to book in the first place.  

The user may not have reached the ‘booking’ stage of their journey yet and could still be considering their options at the inspiration and shopping phases. That’s why it is essential to look at conversion optimization at every stage of the journey, not just at booking. 

Our new guide for OTAs takes you through conversion-optimizing tactics at every stage of the journey – get your free copy here.