From inspiration to great vacation: Understanding the travel shopping journey


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Online shoppers are increasingly savvy – and willing to spend more online. According to Forrester Research, online shoppers in the U.S. will spend $226 billion online in 2012 – and that number will climb to $327 billion in 2016.

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From inspiration to great vacation: Understanding the travel shopping journey

  1. 1. Tweet this Email thisFrom Inspiration to Great Vacation:Understanding the Travel ShoppingJourneyTake a walk with a traveler as he goes from dreaming tostaying to sharing. Learn how to reach them every step of theway and drive more bookings.
  2. 2. Tweet this Email thisThe online travel shopping journey 2Planning and shortlisting 3Getting social 6Visually engaged 8Hooked and booked 9From journey to destination 10Learn More 11
  3. 3. Tweet this Email this- 1 -Online shoppers are increasingly savvy – and willing to spend more online.According to Forrester Research, online shoppers in the U.S. will spend $226billion online in 2012 – and that number will climb to $327 billion in 2016.Forrester says this continued growth is spurred by consumers’ greatercomfort level with purchasing online, as well as broader web shoppingcapabilities with mobile and tablet devices.1Traveler shoppers are no different from average shoppers. They use theinternet for research and for purchasing more than ever. Eighty-three per centof leisure travelers use the internet as part of their travel planning – and 65 percent begin researching online before they’ve even decided where or how totravel. 2Travel consumers are also comparison shoppers. They use all sorts ofinformation to help with their decision-making and that information is foundon many different websites, across many different platforms and devices . Infact, mobile browsing of travel websites has more than doubled in the past 12months to an average 20.5 per cent of all traffic surveyed. 3In order to reach these shoppers with an engaging and motivating story,it’s imperative that hotel marketers ensure their hotels are well representedacross the board – on their own websites, on travel websites, and on socialmedia. Not only that, but they have to be accessible across all device types.Hotels that fall behind will miss out on engaging with potential customers, andwon’t see the bookings that their more savvy competitors do.Understanding travel shoppers – not just what they’re looking for in a hotel,but also how they shop and how they connect online - is a key step inlearning how to deliver the best possible online experience to prospects.
  4. 4. - 2 -Tweet this Email thisThe online travel shopping journeyLet’s take a look at Brian Smith, a married 35-year old in Macon, GA. Brianhas been a regular internet user for more than a dozen years, he is active onFacebook, gets all of his news online, hits for the latest Bravesand Falcons updates and loves to shop at Amazon – in other words, a fairlystandard web user.Brian and his wife Marie are celebrating their fifth wedding anniversarynext month, and Brian wants to do something nice for Marie. He boughther earrings for Christmas and arranged an amazing surprise party for herbirthday. What could he do this time that would be different?Last year, 49 per cent of travelers started researching online after seeing anonline ad4. While browsing the internet, Brian sees an ad from one of thepopular travel websites, and that makes the light bulb go off above his head.A trip would be perfect, he thinks. Marie’s been swamped at work and shecould definitely use some time away to relax. Of course, Brian has a budgetto consider, and they both have to be back at work on Monday, so nothingtoo exotic – but a weekend getaway to the big city sounds about right.The plan comes together in Brian’s mind – a weekend where Marie doesn’thave to lift a finger. They could take a 90-minute drive to Atlanta, enjoy anice dinner at a fancy restaurant, and maybe see a show. Then start the nextday with a room service breakfast, a spa visit and poolside cocktails in theafternoon.
  5. 5. - 3 -Tweet this Email thisPlanning and shortlistingBrian’s eager to start planning, but he also doesn’t want to miss tonight’sBraves game. Grabbing his smartphone, Brian heads to the living room towatch the game and continue his brainstorming. This multi-screen approachto web use is becoming more and more common; in fact, Google says 90 percent of users move sequentially from one screen or device to the next whenaccomplishing tasks5.In addition, we’re using devices simultaneously. Brian’s use of his phonewhile watching TV is particularly common – 81 per cent of us use oursmartphone and our TV at the same time6.As the Braves take the field, Brian’s trip planning is taking shape. His searchbegins on Google, just like 87 per cent of all global internet searches7. Whenit comes to travel, Brian’s also pretty typical – 83 per cent of leisure travelers(and 76 per cent of business travelers) plan their trips online; 96 per cent ofall leisure travelers start their hotel planning with a search engine8; and 47 percent start that planning on their smartphone.Figure 1: Where Web Searches StartUnfortunately, the initial “blast” of information Brian faces is prettyoverwhelming. Last year, 70 per cent of survey respondents said “irrelevantdata” was the biggest problem with search engine results9, and a Lifehackerpoll found three-quarters of users saying that Google’s results were becoming“less useful.” 1090%of users movesequentiallyfrom one screenor device tothe next whenaccomplishingtasks5- Google
  6. 6. - 4 -Tweet this Email thisGoogle itself isn’t necessarily to blame – it’s just that everyone is on theInternet now. It’s no secret that people are researching, shopping andbooking online, and sites such as TripAdvisor and Expedia display massiveamounts of information. When faced with so much information, is it anywonder that it takes the average travel shopper more than nine sessions –and visits to more than 20 websites – before booking anything? 11In Brian’s case, it takes him three browsing sessions, before he’s even ableto narrow his list to a handful of hotels in the area with rooms available in theprice range he wants. Each browsing session consisted of multiple visits totravel sites and reading multiple reviews.With a shortlist of six properties in hand, Brian gets serious about finding ahotel that offers the experience he – and Marie – will enjoy most. Necessitiesinclude fine dining – either on-site or within walking distance – and proximityto a theatre or nightlife. A pool would be ideal – a tropical destination mightnot be in the cards right now, but Marie loves the sun.The next day Brian takes his car in for an oil change and, using his iPad whilehe waits, decides to try and narrow his list even further. Again, Brian’s a fairlytypical user today, but just three years ago, he wouldn’t have been – in 2009just eight per cent of leisure travelers used a mobile device to access travelinformation, but that number jumped to 38 per cent in 201212.Figure 2: How Leisure Travelers Access Travel InformationSource: Google/Ipsos Media: The 2012 TravelerBrian visits the website for each of his shortlisted properties, and right away,The Georgian Terrace hotel in Atlanta stands out on his iPad. He’s drawn in bythe large pictures and engaging videos, and the easy to find links and buttonsmake it simple for him to find all the information he needs. Two hotels on hisshort list don’t even have a smartphone site, and attempting to navigate themjust frustrates Brian so he crosses them right off the list; a third has a tablet-It takes theaverage travelshopper morethan ninesessions andvisits to morethan 20 websitesbefore bookinganything- Google
  7. 7. - 5 -Tweet this Email thisoptimized site, but it’s clunky, lacking the essential features that he has cometo expect from a hotel website and Brian can’t even get the videos and virtualtours to load.Figure 3: Deterrents to Booking OnlineSource: Google/Ipsos Media: The 2012 TravelerHotels with tablet-optimized sites clearly have a leg up – especially sinceGoogle expects travel queries from tablets to rise 180 per cent in 2013.13His car ready to go, Brian makes a note of his final three hotels and resolvesto do a little more research from home.Later that day Brian again Googles each of the hotels still remaining on hisshort list, looking not only at their websites, but also at each on TripAdvisorand through social media. While all are well-represented online, withfavorable reviews and photos, once again The Georgian Terrace’s storystands out. While the other properties all look similar on TripAdvisor, TheGeorgian Terrace links to a mini-site with videos and tours, plus they have afully functional Facebook page with even more photos and videos. No matterwhere Brian finds The Georgian Terrace online, the experience is consistent– and engaging. He can clearly see it offers plenty of restaurant choices,both on-site and nearby; it’s walking distance to the Fox Theatre; and it has arooftop pool and patio that looks ideal for a relaxing afternoon in the sun.Googleexpects travelqueries fromtablets to180%in 2013- Google, Ipsos
  8. 8. - 6 -Tweet this Email thisGetting socialAs a regular Facebook user, Brian is particularly impressed with The GeorgianTerrace’s Facebook page. In addition to making use of Facebook’s latest“timeline” layout and photo galleries, The Georgian Terrace offers a tour andbooking app with videos and panoramic photos that give a Brian a true feelfor the experience of staying there and reinforce his excitement about theirtrip.The Georgian Terrace alsouses Instagram, has itsFacebook page linked toits Twitter page, and hasfeedback from guests andfans on its wall. In fact,Brian sees a familiar faceon the wall – it’s Michelle,his former next-doorneighbor. Brian hasn’tspoken to Michelle in afew years, but he knowsshe has good taste – andshe’s written a glowingreview of her sister’swedding reception at TheGeorgian Terrace.That’s the final motivatorfor Brian, and it’s nosurprise – word ofmouth still counts fora lot when it comes totravel. According toone survey, 81 per centof travelers find userreviews important whendetermining which hotelto stay at during their trip,and nearly half said theywon’t book a propertyunless it has reviews14.Another survey of Facebook users found that more than 50 per cent ofrespondents indicated that seeing friends’ vacation pictures inspired them tobook a trip to that particular place15, while one-third of survey respondents inthe UK indicated they changed their hotel preference after checking in withsocial media16.81%of travelers finduser reviewsimportant whendeterminingwhich hotel tostay at- TNooz
  9. 9. - 7 -Tweet this Email thisFor hotels, it seems clear that social media is an important driver of bothengagement and revenue. In a recent survey, 71 per cent of hotels indicatedthat social media has improved customer engagement, and 50 per centsaid they have generated direct bookings from social media.17In addition, a2010 Cornell University study suggests that conversion rates from Facebookreferrals actually exceed those from other online travel sites18.Figure 4: How important will Social Media be in five years?Source: World Travel Market: 2011 Industry ReportOverall, Brian finds a consistent message between the TripAdvisor reviews,Facebook comments, and the hotel’s own words, giving him confidence thatThe Georgian Terrance is the perfect place for him and Marie to spend theiranniversary.
  10. 10. - 8 -Tweet this Email thisVisually engagedOn his lunch break the next day, Brian uses his smartphone for a final bit ofresearch, this time on Travelocity. When he clicks on the Travelocity medialink for The Georgian Terrace, he sees even more videos and pictures,further connecting him with the hotel’s story. From multiple devices, acrosstravel sites, Facebook and their own website, The Georgian Terrace deliverspanoramic photos, tours and videos that provide a consistent, engaging,visual experience that connect Brian to the their story.It can’t be overstated just how much of an impact video is having on travelshoppers online.28 per cent of leisure travelers have viewed a video online in 2012– up from21 per cent three years ago – and 57 per cent of those viewers watched avideo when deciding on accommodations. Overall, 62 per cent of videoswatched come directly from hotels, airlines, cruises and travel serviceproviders19.For travelers, no matter how they engage with a hotel online, they want to seeimages, videos, and details that help them understand what the hotel offersand what they can expect during their stay – in other words, whether thehotel is the right fit for them.62%of videoswatched comedirectly fromhotels, airlines,cruises andtravel serviceproviders- Google, Ipsos
  11. 11. - 9 -Tweet this Email thisHooked and bookedThirty-seven per cent of leisure travelers reported booking online in 2011–up from 28 per cent in 200920and 66 per cent of leisure travelers surveyedin 2012 indicated they plan to spend more time shopping around andresearching before booking travel (up from 59 per cent in 2011) 21.For Brian, his mind is made up – he’s found his hotel. He’s not quite readyto book though; he still has to confirm his dates and make sure he can gettheatre tickets.The good news is, when he is ready, Brian knows he has multiple options forhow to book. Thanks to The Georgian Terrace’s multiple booking options,he can book from just about anywhere – the hotel website, his smartphoneor tablet, from the hotel’s Facebook page, or through a travel site such asTravelocity.Being a savvy shopper, Brian uses all of the above to make sure he’s gettingthe best possible rate. When he’s satisfied that he’s got the right price, rightdates, and his dinner reservations and theatre tickets lined up, Brian bookshis trip and heads downstairs to tell Marie of their anniversary plans! Ofcourse, he also takes the time brag about his awesome anniversary surpriseon Facebook and Twitter, posting links straight from the hotel’s smartphonesite to his social media accounts.Figure 5: How users use mobile to book travelSource: Google/Ipsos Media: The 2012 Traveler
  12. 12. - 10 -Tweet this Email thisFrom journey to destinationWhile we won’t pry into the details of Brian and Marie’s romantic anniversaryweekend, we can confirm that the internet continues to play a role throughouttheir trip. Travelers are more connected than ever. Thanks to the mobile-optimized site, Brian knows it would only take a couple of taps to get in touchwith the hotel if needed and Marie can use the tablet-optimized site to takethe virtual tour of the hotel on the car ride there.Brian also uses his smartphone to get directions to the hotel and checktraffic, while Marie uses hers to check the weather and make sure they canspend the afternoon by the pool.Of course, travelers’ connectivity to the hotel doesn’t end when they checkout. As Brian and Marie wind down their romantic getaway and head backhome, Brian posts a fond farewell to Atlanta on Facebook through hissmartphone, and Marie’s already thinking about what sort of review she’sgoing to leave on TripAdvisor. She may even write it on the iPad during thecar ride home!
  13. 13. - 11 -Tweet this Email thisLearn MoreVFM Leonardo’s VBrochure™ is an ideal solution for hotels looking to deliverconsistent, visually rich, optimized online experiences to travelers. Withpowerful features and an easy-to-use web interface, VBrochure™ helpsyou tell your hotel’s story in a visually compelling, engaging manner, acrossmultiple sites and devices.Contact us today to learn more about how VBrochure™ can help you build agreat online experience for your
  14. 14. - 12 -Tweet this Email thisSources:1. Internet Retailer: E-retail spending to increase 62% by 2016 ( Google/Ipsos Media: The 2012 Traveler ( Nucleus: Witnessing the Birth of the Mobile era ( Google: The Five Stages of Travel ( Google: The New Multi-Screen World ( Google: The New Multi-Screen World7. Karma Snack: Search Engine Market Share ( Google/Ipsos Media: The 2012 Traveler9. SearchEngineLand: 89% Find Search Engines Do Good Job Finding Information, But “Noise” Is Issue( Lifehacker: Over 77 Percent of Lifehacker Readers Say Google’s Search Results are Less Useful Lately( Google: The Five Stages of Travel12. Google/Ipsos Media: The 2012 Traveler13. Google/Ipsos Media: The 2012 Traveler14. TNooz: Understanding the Importance of Hotel Reputation Management ( Forbes: How Facebook is Shaping Your 2012 Travel Decisions ( World Travel Market: 2011 Industry Report ( Eye for Travel: Social Media and Mobile Strategies for the Travel Industry ( How Travelers Use Online and Social Media Channels to Make Hotel-choice Decisions, CornellUniversity: Laura McCarthy, Debra Stock, and Rohit Verma Ph.D. ( Google/Ipsos Media: The 2012 Traveler20. Google: The Five Stages of Travel21. Google/Ipsos Media: The 2012 TravelerVFML_WP_SHOPJOURNEY_0101