When it comes to travel, customers have enormous choice in where to book their flights, hotel, car rental, and in-trip activities. This ranges from metasearch channels, online travel agencies (OTAs), direct suppliers’ websites—even social media channels. Each of those providers wants the same thing: to capture travelers’ attention, bring them to their website, and convert them to a customer.
Despite the vast amount of choice in the market, more and more travelers want to book their entire trip in one place. In fact, the number of travelers looking for this capability is up by over 10% in the last year alone, according to Skift. So as an OTA, how can you make sure the one channel they use is yours?
To optimize conversions for your OTA, you need to look at the entire traveler journey: inspiration, shopping, booking, pre-trip, in-trip, and post-trip. At every step, your OTA has an opportunity to add value, engage with customers, and increase revenue opportunities beyond flight bookings.
Here, we’ll look at each stage of the journey to show how you can optimize conversions at every touchpoint.
Most leisure travelers’ trips start out the same way: looking for inspiration. Travelers will use multiple channels and devices to begin their research, so you need to make sure your OTA is front and center at this vital stage.
Here are some tactics you can use to inspire travelers and guide them towards booking their next trip with your OTA.
Build traveler persona profiles
Building persona profiles will allow your OTA to identify your target customers, their preferences and behaviors. By combining data from various sources, you can tap into what a specific traveler is looking for and provide information and offers based on that insight.
Some data you can collect and analyze includes:
- Website analytics and visitor demographics
- Booking history
- Industry shopping trends
Our guide to optimizing conversions across the customer journey dives further into how your OTA can start building traveler persona profiles—get your free copy here.
Optimize your website
Optimizing your website so that it is both discoverable through search and useful for travelers at the inspiration stage is vital.
According to Google, 60% of searches for destination information comes from mobile, so it has never been more important to optimize for mobile-first SEO. In addition to mobile optimization, it’s essential to improve your site speed.
Capturing traveler attention can be a challenge and users will bounce off your website if they don’t get the information they’re looking for as quickly as possible. If your site takes around 10 seconds to load, you increase the chance of visitors bouncing from your site by 120%!
More on inspiration…
These are just some of the tactics your OTA can use to optimize conversions at the inspiration stage of the journey. Other tactics include:
- social media marketing
- destination marketing
- organic and paid search
Read our guide to optimizing conversions for a deep dive into grabbing traveler attention at the inspiration stage.
Once your traveler has decided on a destination, they will move on to the shopping phase. Here, they’re looking less at where they will go, and more at how they will get there: what flight they’ll take, the hotel they’ll stay in, and the ground transfer options available.
Here are some of the ways you can optimize conversions at the shopping stage of the traveler journey.
Fast search results
Your site needs to return flight search queries as quickly as possible, or you risk losing visitors to competitor OTAs and supplier sites. In fact, 52% of travelers with smartphones say they'd switch sites or apps because it takes too long to load. To optimize for conversion, your OTA should be aiming to process search responses in under two seconds.
Airlines target different types of traveler needs through the introduction of branded fares. These fare options can vary from selling no-frills economy class seats, where checked bags and seat selection are not included, to fares that include a higher level of service, flexibility, and comfort that a traveler pays extra for.
Travelers want choice and your OTA needs to present travelers with the branded fares options that are available across multiple airlines, to enable them to research the best offers quickly and all in one place.
More on shopping…
Find out more about optimizing conversions at the shopping stage including:
- dynamic packaging
- intelligent caching
While 82% of travelers say they always book travel with the website that offers the best price, it’s no longer enough to just give travelers a good price—thousands of agencies all over the world are doing that.
You need to show the value of booking with your OTA; everything from how easy it is to add ancillary products, how user-friendly the booking process is, and what customer support you can offer along the way.
Optimize your booking flow
At the booking stage, your main focus is on getting that conversion. Optimizing your online booking flow and testing conversion paths are key steps in turning your website visitors into customers. Here are some quick tips on optimizing your booking flow for conversions.
- Limit the number of fields a user must complete to make a booking. Only ask for the essential information. Top tip: Capture email addresses as your first priority, so that you can send a reminder to finish any incomplete bookings. Our research shows that 69% of travelers would like to receive this type of communication.
- Allow users to sign up with their social media accounts. Not only will this allow for a faster registration process, it will also give your OTA more data on your users.
- Google research shows that 46% of travelers with smartphones say they make their decision on mobile, but then book on another device. Make sure that if a user starts a booking on one device, they can easily finish it on another.
Increasing shopping cart value through ancillary upsell is a key goal for every OTA. The good news is that travelers want to buy ancillaries: 71% of OTA end travelers we surveyed said that it’s important to be able to add extras to their bookings.
Knowing when to push ancillary products, especially throughout the booking process, is a delicate balance. It’s vital to keep your booking flow as clear and uncluttered as possible to ensure users don’t abandon the shopping cart out of frustration.
More on booking…
Download our eBook for more tactics on optimizing booking conversion including:
- price prediction
- agent support
- multi-ticket itineraries.
At this point the trip is booked, but as an OTA your work is far from over. There are still plenty of opportunities to engage with the traveler, upsell and cross sell ancillaries, and position your brand as a trusted travel partner.
Build relationship with customers
Now is the perfect time to continue building a relationship with your customers. Your OTA can make preparing for their trip easier by sending timely, contextual, and relevant communications via push messaging or email, such as:
- Reminder to check-in
- Visa/vaccination information relevant to their destination
- A reminder to download your OTA’s app
Pre-trip ancillary upsell
As your traveler’s trip draws closer, you can use this time to start filling in any gaps in their itinerary. With an average of 50 days’ lead-in time between booking a flight and traveling, there is plenty of time to upsell and cross sell ancillaries like accommodation, flight add-ons, and car hire.
The trip has arrived; the stress of searching and booking is but a distant memory for your traveler. Now, they want location-specific travel tips, and this is where your OTA can continue to bring value for your customer, as well as boost ancillary revenue.
Guides and recommendations
According to Google research, 85% of leisure travelers decide on activities only after arriving at their destination. With the right data, you can target travelers with personalized offers while they are on their trip, allowing you to tap into travelers’ holiday spending budgets, which are now worth an average of $5,000+ .
Beyond in-trip recommendations, travelers also expect travel brands to be on-hand to assist with queries while on their trip. Our research shows that 42% of travelers expect to be able to chat with an OTA via their app or website, and 37% expect to be able to chat via text message.
Most agencies still focus on selling a single trip to a traveler, with no plan for what happens next. However, to build longer-lasting, more profitable relationships, you need to have a lifetime plan for every customer you engage with. Here are some of the ways you can engage with your travelers post-trip.
There are a number of key factors that will encourage a customer to book another trip with your OTA. Aside from the obvious factor of price, the value of a convenient and user-friendly experience can’t be underestimated. While 73% want to be able to book an end-to-end trip in one place, 70% also tell us that a good mobile experience would encourage them to re-book with an OTA.
Post-trip might be the last step in a traveler’s journey, but it’s not for your OTA. You have now built up a bank of insights with your traveler’s booking history, preferences, and behaviors. Use this data to inspire, excite, and engage your customers through newsletters and other targeted marketing tactics.
Optimizing across the journey
Optimizing conversion across the customer journey is an ongoing process. As travelers demand personalized experiences, the opportunities to convert and generate revenue will only continue to grow for OTAs. What will truly differentiate yours from the competition is how you collect, analyze, and use customer data to create these personalized experiences.
Get your free guide to optimizing conversions across the customer journey for more tactics and end traveler insights.