Putting the brakes on booking abandonment

The travel sector sees a high level of booking abandonment online. Jamie Pierre, COO at Ve Global, Asia-Pacific shows the way for travel agents to tackle this problem.

Jamie Pierre

Attracting high-quality website traffic is vital to any brand. This fact isn’t lost on travel marketers with roughly 90 per cent of digital ad budgets going towards traffic generation. However, traffic generation, while important, is only one half of the job. The next step is converting this traffic into actual bookings.

Jamie Pierre

Recent research showed that the travel sector is hit hardest by consumer hesitation – more specifically, when potential bookers make their way to the checkout process only to bail out early. This is also known as booking abandonment, and it happens with nine out of every 10 consumers in the travel sector. Travel agents are hit even harder online, seeing a miserably high 97.4 per cent average abandonment rate.

A certain amount of shopping around for inspiration is a hallmark of the travel industry, with customers always likely to dip their toe before taking the plunge on an often expensive outlay. However, there are some easy ways travel agents can reduce this number to increase bookings.

Know your type online: get with the programmatic
The first chance travel agents have to decrease booking abandonment rates is actually before consumers even arrive on site. With so much marketing budget going on driving wannabe travellers to your website, making sure that this traffic is relevant and interested in your product is vital to success. This can be achieved with programmatic display ads.

Display advertising has undergone a revival of late, driven by a few reasons. For one, the widespread change to programmatic buying of inventory has made it more accessible and affordable for a greater number of companies to run display campaigns. But the main reason behind the resurgence of display advertising is the results it can now achieve.

The huge quantity of data available today allows travel companies to reach their target demographic with unprecedented accuracy. With a programmatic strategy in place, travel agents can pinpoint the difference between traffic and qualified traffic – driving only worthwhile, relevant consumers to their sites. And as a general rule of thumb, the better suited your offering is to the people who view it, the more successful bookings your website will generate.

Less persona, more personal
I’m assuming that you will be familiar with, and most likely use, buyer personas. Effective marketing, and ultimately business practice, has always involved the ability to find and develop a strong relationship with your customer – speaking to and not at. And how can you do that without knowing who they are?

However, traditional buyer personas are of limited use in the modern online landscape, and in display advertising in particular. While they’re great at telling you who your customers are, it’s only through data reporting that you can see how they act.

Take an active holiday provider, for example. Their ideal candidate for booking is 30-50 years old, a fitness nut, with moderate levels of disposable income and a fondness for running wear. With the traditional model of manual inventory purchasing, ad space would be paid for on sports news and retail websites in the hope that their readership overlaps with this customer profile. However, customers are far less one-dimensional in reality.

By using a mix of automated data points and real-life market expertise, brands can not only reach their target audience, but make a positive impression with their advertising.
Every time a visitor uses your website, their actions tell a story, it’s up to travel companies to read it. Doing so will mean travel agents can cater to behavioural trends on site and in their marketing, leading to better booking rates online.

Make your website a one-stop shop
Making travel plans often starts with a spark of inspiration, and inspiration is often followed up with a good deal of research. The more travel agents can stay relevant during this transition, the better chance they have of being there at the decisive moment – the booking.

Embed Instagram accounts, integrate TripAdvisor reviews and publish share-worthy blogs to allow consumers to continue their research journey but remain on your site to do it. Also, a thumbs up from fellow travellers along with some stunning snaps is often more persuasive than your carefully crafted and articulately illustrative website copy alone.

By bringing everything together, travel agents, regardless of size, will cut booking abandonment.

Declutter the booking process
Bookings rely on momentum, and nothing kills momentum like boredom or confusion. So any booking process needs to be kept lean, intuitive and easy to use. This means short forms, inline field validation and offering a number of different payment options to remove any blockers in the process and keep bookers on track.

Although customers are now more comfortable with online payments in general, displaying security logos and clear delivery options still goes a long way to instilling trust. If you’re unsure of what’s working and what isn’t in your booking process, run version-controlled A/B testing to find out where customers are checking out.

Reach back after rejection
Booking holidays can take up to 45 days with people visiting as many as 38 travel sites before committing, so even the best functioning sites will lose travellers at the final hurdle. This is where travel agents can make significant gains on the competition.

Given the role played by research in the booking process, those abandoning ‘almost bookers’ are far from lost causes – quite the opposite. They’ve showed solid intent at this stage, so proactively reaching back out via email or retargeting ads will oftentimes be welcomed as an extension of customer service.

So there you have it, five top ways for travel agents to reduce booking abandonment rates online that actually work. Abandonment rates may be high but as the number of bookings made online continues to skyrocket, this points more to the opportunity for travel agents to win back bookings than the threat of losing them.

Ve Global is a marketing and advertising technology business that operates from product discovery through to purchase.  

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