Brits see brand websites as better for research, but does that lead to booking direct?
Consumers in the UK are highly likely to research and book travel online. According to Google, 80% of travel products in the UK are researched or purchased online, the highest figures for any country in the world.
Furthermore, data from international research firm Deloitte showed that 86% of overseas and 91% of domestic travel transactions in the UK are now “digitally influenced.” That means even if the final purchase wasn’t made online, almost nine in 10 travel purchases are influenced in some way by digital channels such as websites, social media, peer reviews and smartphone or tablet apps.
Research also shows that UK travelers that book air travel online often lean toward purchasing directly from suppliers. According to Kantar Media Compete’s “Online Shopper Intelligence–UK Travel” survey from April 2012, approximately 96% of UK consumers book their air travel online, with more than 65% of those travelers going straight to the airlines’ websites to buy tickets.
Hotel bookings, however, are much more fragmented. Nearly 30% of UK travelers booked their most recent hotel stay directly from a hotel brand website, while approximately 30% booked from either an online travel agency or an online hotels aggregator.
But even though a lower percentage of hotels were booked on suppliers’ sites than on intermediaries, respondents overwhelmingly said they believed hotel websites provided better information and researching experiences than online travel agencies. More than 40% said that hotel websites were more reliable than other booking channels for speed, price accuracy, ease of booking, ease of making changes, accuracy of information and experienced travel. In comparison, only about 10% of respondents thought OTAs were better at providing these services.
The only category that was even remotely close was “first-time travel.” Thirty percent of consumers believed hotel websites were better for this purpose, while 22% thought OTAs served this function best. This was likely due to OTAs’ meta-search capabilities, which allow consumers to compare numerous travel experiences alongside each other as they start to make their travel decisions.
UK consumers find hotel websites’ detailed information more agreeable when it comes time to decide on their travel purchases. But despite seeing hotel website information as more reliable, they’re still just as likely to book online with an intermediary. With that said, 15% of consumers who responded to the survey booked their hotels on the phone, which is important to note as another form of direct purchase.
These consumer trends are telling for travel marketers, whether they represent a brand or a third party, because they speak to the importance of catching “lookers” as early as possible within the purchase funnel. Even though they find hotel website information more valuable, it doesn’t appear to increase their tendencies to book on those sites. If suppliers are aiming for online bookings through their direct channels, they need to consider how not only to attract, but also to catch travel researchers who are passing through their sites but not closing the deal there.
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