The need for speed
James Miller

The need for speed: how OTAs can maximize conversion with fast, relevant searches

September 20, 2018

Nothing puts customers off like slow, clunky searches and thousands of travel options to scroll through. To maximize your conversion and boost your revenues, you need technologies that make the customer experience faster, more relevant, and more compelling, says James M. Miller, Vice-President of Search Technologies at Travelport.

It’s ironic. Travelers want instant responses to their searches, and even a few seconds delay is enough to lose their attention. At the same time, aggregator searches or meta-searches are bringing in thousands of travel options at a time – and all the back-end data crunching slows down the customer experience. 


Slow searches are a huge problem for OTAs. In 2016, 56% of US smartphone users abandoned an online transaction, leading to an estimated $25 billion in lost revenues. Travelport research also shows that even a one-second delay can cause a 7% reduction in conversion.  
So with customers voting with their feet, OTAs are under pressure to speed up searches and deliver relevant, compelling offers to customers faster. The question is, how? 


Personalize and conquer

One way that forward-looking OTAs are speeding up travel searches is by understanding individual customers’ needs and preferences. By setting search parameters based on their buying histories, for example, you can start to personalize their search results and return fewer, more relevant results. And, crucially, you can do it faster.


This approach gives you the perfect combination of speed and relevancy. Faster searches mean you can reduce your abandonment rates and hold more customers’ attention. And better relevancy means a better chance of getting the booking. All of which adds up to increased conversion, and more revenues for your business. 

 

 

New technologies, new levels of relevancy
The technologies are enabling this faster, more relevant search experience are Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and predictive analytics. These work by analyzing industry and customer data in real time, and by applying parameters to searches based on a range of factors – including customers’ booking histories. 


With all of this in-depth analysis taking place in real time, relevant search results can be delivered almost instantly for customers. This transforms their experience, helping your company to differentiate your proposition and compete and increase your competitive advantage and market share. 


Optimized mobile searches: the conversion icing on the cake
Asking mobile customers to scroll through thousands of flight options is a sure-fire way to lose their attention, so your search experience has to be simple.


You can enable this with the right mobile-optimized Application Programming Interface (API), which optimizes how search results are displayed on a range of mobile devices. 


As an additional benefit, mobile-optimized APIs accelerate search response times by connecting directly into search engines, rather than going through unnecessary network infrastructure. They can also reduce the size of search result ‘messages’, saving network resources and speeding up searches. 


Another key benefit of a mobile-optimized API is improved pagination. For example, you can give customers arrows or ‘next’ buttons to view the next short page of highly relevant travel options – which makes their experience simpler. 


One last technology that can help you speed up the customer experience is ‘asynchronous search’. This replaces your ‘waiting’ screen with the first page of highly relevant search results, even before subsequent pages are loaded. This means fewer customers will get bored and abandon the search, which increases your conversion and success.

 



So there it is. Speed, relevancy, and a great user experience – all you need to minimize abandonment and boost your conversion. 


Travelport is helping OTAs around the world to boost their conversion with faster, more relevant searches and optimized mobile searches. To find out how we can do the same for your business, visit this page