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Many vacationers visit online travel agencies (OTAs) to shop for packaged deals, an unsurprising notion since these sites typically work with hosts of suppliers to bundle together airfare, accommodations and auto rentals at discounted prices. For example, Millward Brown Digital conducted a study in March 2013 for Expedia Media Solutions, analyzing the web travel-planning activity of more than 100,000 US package bookers in the 45 days leading up to their purchase on an OTA site, and found that nearly half of total visits during this booking period were to OTAs.
These numbers could suggest that package bookers are choosing to visit and book on OTAs because they don’t want to conduct extensive research, easing a complex and often convoluted digital travel shopping experience. But the Millward Brown Digital research found that these travel planners were actually quite discerning: These package bookers made nearly 40 visits to travel sites on average before making a purchase—which also included visiting air, car and hotel sites separately, ostensibly to compare prices à la carte.
In addition, these travelers’ research was spread out over the six-week study period. While they averaged the greatest number of travel site visits in the week of booking—15.5—they went to an average of 12.1 sites in the two weeks preceding that home stretch.
The study also found that travelers visited nearly as many retail sites on average—36.6—as travel sites in the six weeks before booking a packaged vacation, as well as more than 20.9 financial services sites. These visits are not correlated, but because of travel’s lengthy path to purchase, retargeting has become a popular tactic among travel marketers. For advertisers seeking to redirect previous visitors back to their travel shopping carts, understanding where else these customers are most often directing their web attention is essential.
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