RealTime IT News

Travel Shoppers Slow to Buy

Travel marketing service, TripAdvisor, has found that leisure travel is not an impulse buy, and that consumers often take a month or longer conducting research before deciding upon a major travel purchase, such as hotel and vacation packages.

The study, conducted during the month of March 2002, measured the number of conversions resulting from CPC (cost-per-click) marketing campaigns run on TripAdvisor.com and its network of sites across a sample size of 25,000 leads.

"We conducted this study to give our marketing partners useful data on the time it takes consumers to purchase travel products after viewing advertising campaigns," said Steve Kaufer, CEO of TripAdvisor. "These results highlight the importance of implementing adequate tracking tools to identify the consumers that come back to web sites to purchase after the initial visit. If a marketer's tracking tools only measure conversion rates during the initial session or the first five days thereafter, they are going to understate the performance of many marketing campaigns by as much as 50 percent to 80 percent."

When measured at the one-month mark, the cumulative number of conversions (purchases) was five times higher than those seen on the day of the initial click through and visit to the commerce site, and two times higher than what was recorded at the five day interval. The results show that the proper "look back" period (time from consumers initially visiting a site to making a purchase) for "complex" leisure travel products such as hotel and vacation packages is at least a month.

Meanwhile, Brand Keys Inc. analyzed the features that make online travel sites successful and found that the key players — Expedia, Travelocity, and Priceline — could sharpen up their offerings a bit.

Brand Keys determined the "four critical loyalty drivers" when shopping online for the best travel deals and the research indicated that Expedia had the best overall site when measured in these categories. Travelocity scored decently but unspectacularly, and Priceline is perceived as the slightly better bargain.

  1. Ability to Book Virtually All Travel Arrangements: Expedia emerged as the winner in this highly important category as Brand Keys determined that Travelocity and Priceline are seen as less capable of delivering full travel services. "These two brands would benefit by trumpeting a wider range of services, backing off the image of being mere bargain basements for cheap fares," suggested Robert Passikoff, president of Brand Keys Inc.
  2. Good Prices and Discounts: Priceline outscored the others in this category but Expedia and Travelocity had very respectable and adequate performances.
  3. Useful and Relevant Content: Expedia exceeded the ideal score while neither Travelocity nor Priceline matched it.
  4. Easy-to-Use Site With Trip Planning Capabilities: Once again, Expedia scored beyond expectations while Travelocity and Priceline were noticeably below the ideal score. "If this view is strongly held by consumers, their Webmasters might consider tidying up their resumis. Losing customers via technical frustration is a serious no-no. It suggests that they came planning even ready to buy, but were chased away by the site's overcomplicated or tedious purchase process," said Passikoff.

Passikoff comments that travel details can take the fun out of vacationing and online travel sites should be alleviating, not compounding the stress of traveling.