FOOLPROOF UNEARTHS THE 5 KEY DIMENSIONS OF ONLINE TRAVEL SHOPPING

Foolproof has unveiled the five key dimensions of online shopping for holidays and short breaks that travel companies need to address if they are to have a successful ecommerce business. Coined “the five dimensions of online travel shopping”, Foolproof’s Online Shopping Survey identified the factors that have the most significant bearing on online travel shoppers’ buying decisions:

1. Availability: how information about availability of accommodation is presented. Shoppers have two principal frustrations; one is that destination searches are too specific or require local knowledge; the second is that calendar tools are not flexible enough to cater for different dates and destinations.

2. Price: how information relating to price, dates and destinations is presented. Shoppers are interested in how prices differ depending on when and where they want to go. Being given the ability to ‘triangulate’/look at a range of dates and prices in different destinations allows shoppers to identify cheaper times to book and provide them with a much more rewarding decision-making process.

3. Specification: how information about different options is presented. People nowadays expect to be able to get detailed information about their accommodation, resort and surrounding area to help them decide what suits them best. Travel companies need to load their sites with good quality photos, detailed descriptions and maps so that people can better plan their trips. Those that ignore this demand will lose sales to competitors who do.

4. Opinion: how information from other travellers is presented. The demand for word-of-mouth recommendations and user-generated reviews is huge amongst today’s travellers and can be real deal-makers or breakers. Companies should actively encourage, and make it easy for, customers to return from holiday and post their comments and ratings. Sites like Trip Advisor already offer this so companies need to do the same and not give a shopper a reason to leave their site in search of this information.

5. Time: the amount of time it takes from multi-session, multi-person shopping to actually book a holiday. A holiday is a very considered purchase made over several online shopping sessions by more than one family or group member, but most sites do not appear to be able to tailor their offerings to shoppers at different stages of the decision-making process. People often forget the sites or pages where they originally found information. Sites need to cater more for repeat visits by making it easier for people to save itineraries that they can return to and offering relevant quick access to information they have previously accessed, for instance through emails containing links.

Ballard summarises: “Prolific growth in the online travel market has not yet created any clear winners. Shoppers’ expectations aren’t currently being wholly met so travel companies who really want to be successful need to build their online offering around users’ expectations in the five areas we have identified.

“Consulting real users is the key to unlocking online sales performance. Companies need to invite customers into the design process to inform new thinking and validate functionality. They need to take a disciplined approach to identifying and eliminating blockages in the sales funnel and any new solution should be tested with real users to drive out efficiencies in sales conversion.

“Foolproof’s Online Shopping Survey has clearly pinpointed the five areas that offer companies the biggest payback. In terms of who is going to come out on top, well that’s still up for grabs but the sooner companies address these issues the better chance they have of becoming travellers’ trusted favourites.”

For further information please contact Rob Davies on 07709 366310 or rob@oooc.co.uk

Editor’s notes:

Foolproof is the UK’s 2Nd largest user experience consultancy (source: Usability & Accessibility: A Buyer’s Guide 2007) that specialises in working with clients to improve the sales performance of their e-commerce sites. Its approach combines strong methodology with hard-headed commercial thinking. It was voted by clients as the No.1 supplier of Usability Services in Revolution’s 2007 Agencies and Suppliers Survey.

The 2008 Online Shopping Survey (OSS) on travel is based on the opinions of 2,003 respondents in an online poll through Ciao Surveys www.ciao-surveys.com followed up by 50 in-depth interviews where respondents spent over 21 hours shopping for holidays and short breaks online at over 167 sites. The OSS reports can be ordered from Foolproof on 01603 766800 or at www.foolproof.co.uk/oss.

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