Conversion Rate Optimisation for Travel

The average conversion rate for a travel website is 4%. That’s pretty low.

Professional or financial services, and media or publishing operations achieve 10% - so what do you need to do to reach those dizzy heights?

Well, we’ve got a bit of experience in this industry and want to help. Read on to discover our top 5 CRO techniques for travel companies, and learn how they could benefit your business.

Why travel companies need good CRO

All online companies need good CRO – fact. However, travel companies need to work a little harder than most.

Why? Well, the travel industry suffers from having a very long and ungainly purchase path.

There are hundreds of different touchpoints: including comparison sites, desktops, mobile, online ads, offline ads, social media and more!

There’s also a huge emphasis on browsing and comparing deals – probably more so than in any other industry.

This is because most travel purchases are a hefty investment. Think about it; flights, hotels, excursions and transport – they all add up! Visitors aren’t just going to click on the first site they land on. In fact, Nielsen research found that travellers spend an average of 53 days, visiting 28 websites in over 76 sessions! That’s one heck of a lot of research!

This long path to purchase means lots of potential drop-off points. Here are just a few that come to mind:

  • Complex search parameters
  • Lengthy and precise checkout processes
  • Multiple forms to fill out

If the user gets frustrated by any of these, they could suddenly give up and go back to one of the other 28 sites they looked at … and that's not what you want!

But, it’s not all doom and gloom for travel companies – they do have something going for them; personalisation! The entire premise of a travel site is tailoring results to visitor requirements. Use this to your advantage, and with a couple of CRO tweaks you’ll be well on your way to improving your conversion rate.

How CRO can help:

Over 95% of traffic to hotel, airline and package-tour websites leave without completing the purchase process. This is because the customer journey isn’t optimised or in line with their requirements, so they drop off.

You need to make improvements and efficiencies to combat this – this is where CRO comes in.

The aim of CRO is to ensure that when a visitor comes to your site, they’re engaged and take your desired action. It guides them down the conversion funnel, in the same way as cabin crew direct passengers to their seats.

CRO tailors the journey to customer preference. In the future, the use of AI will enable this to be done on an individual basis in real time, but for now it must be done manually and through extensive testing.

Done well, CRO will streamline operations and increase conversions (namely purchases) so will improve revenue. So, it’s definitely worth trying!

5 CRO techniques for travel companies

1. Improve your search function

The search bar is integral to the success of your travel site. If it’s a bit dodgy and doesn’t deliver specific or relevant results, you can wave goodbye to your visitors.

It should be easy to use and deliver what your audience wants to know. That’s why you should focus on four key parameters:

  1. Date
  2. Location
  3. Budget
  4. Number of people

You can add in other things if you want to be really precise, but these are the main ones to concentrate on.

To improve usability, include drop-down menus for calendar and locations, and pre-define budget categories. And, for that personal touch, save visitors’ booking history and populate past search parameters for convenience. This will really help if they’ve returned to your site after an extensive research period!

2. Test the layout of your search results and your entire website

Visitors have taken the first step – inputting data into your search bar – now you need to provide what they want to see, in an appealing and informing format.

The resulting page should be clear, concise and easy to read. Don’t give them too many search results to trawl through as visitors might get overwhelmed and abandon ship!

Be sure to keep an editable search bar at the top of the page, so they can alter their search without hitting the dreaded ‘back’ button.

Remember, this should all be optimised for mobile viewing, as many people browse destinations using their phone.

For the individual search results, you need to give the reader all the information they need to make a decision. Each query should include:

  • Price
  • Brand name (e.g. British Airways for flights, or Holiday Inn for hotels)
  • General location
  • Star rating

Try A/B testing to explore different design elements (colours, shape, size, buttons etc) to find out which your audience responds to best.

3. Use a progress bar

As we’ve said, the travel booking process can be long and off-putting. So, it’s your job to make it as simple as possible.

A progress bar is a great way to do this. It separates the process into easy-to-manage, identifiable stages. It shows users exactly what they need to do next, and outlines their journey down the conversion funnel (not that a visitor would call it that!).

4. Personalise the process with reviews and recommendations

Take advantage of the fact that your website creates personalised content for every visitor and turn it up a notch.

Use personalisation tools and user analytics software to identify the behaviour and booking patterns of individual visitors. Areas to look at could include:

  • Wi-fi at the hotel
  • Sea-facing hotels
  • Family trips only
  • Boutique hotels, no chains
  • Spa included
  • Close to attractions

From there, your search feed can be personalised to match these requirements.

Simply stick a badge on the thumbnail image that states this venue has a feature they liked (say, wi-fi), and it will attract attention and mark this entry as relevant in an instant.

Crank the personalisation up even further and include a ‘recommended for you’ section. This will only work if they’ve booked with you a few times – otherwise you won’t have the data – but including it can really make a difference.

It’s important to make sure reviews are visible on these pages, and those towards the bottom of the funnel. 81% of international travellers say their booking decisions are influenced by online reviews, while 49% of travellers won’t book a hotel without them, so it’s worth encouraging your customers to leave reviews at all opportunities!

5. Remove all ambiguity

Any information or process that’s vague and open to interpretation is a barrier to conversion.

For example, if you ask for an age and then divide it into three sections (child, adult and senior), you’re bound to get a 17-year-old saying they’re an adult. However, they won’t be able to take part in any adult (18+) activities.

Look through your content and your entire customer journey, and think about anything that could be misinterpreted.

While you’re at it, see if you can spot opportunities to employ conversion copywriting techniques that imply:

  • Exclusivity – ‘just for you’, ‘invitation only’, ‘be the first’
  • Scarcity – ‘limited offer’, ‘today only’, ‘while they last’
  • Lack of risk – ‘guaranteed’, ‘no obligation’, ‘secure’
  • Power terms – ‘save’, ‘discover’, ‘understand’

This will help encourage visitors to move to the next stage of the conversion funnel.

FABRIC8 Case study: Expedia

So, we’ve told you a bit about the techniques, now let’s see them in action! Our client, Expedia, was in need of a little help improving their conversion rates.

The problem

We discovered Expedia’s city break travel guides had an unusually high bounce rate – almost 90%!

We took a closer look at these pages and found there was no real reason or cue to keep people on the site, to push them to additional content, or to jump into the conversion funnel via the main site.

The hypothesis

We proposed that breaking the customers’ reading flow by introducing a visual cue would alert them to other (potentially interesting) content before they finished the article. This would disrupt their usual behaviour and encourage further engagement.

By placing the visual cue after the first paragraph, customers would have read enough of the article to become sufficiently interested, and to continue reading after being made aware of other content options.

We decided to use a bar of images and links to other guides, hotels, car hire and activities that related to the same destination on our test page.

The results

  • For pages that included the visual cue, bounce rate was reduced by around 115%
  • Click-through to the Expedia site was increased by 100% for customers that saw the cue

We also gained some crucial insight into Expedia’s customer behaviour:

  • Customers wanted to engage with Expedia, but were unaware of the related content available to them
  • Customers were most interested in the ‘activities’ link – suggesting they had already booked flights and hotels for their holiday. They were looking for things like tours, scuba diving lessons and other exciting things to do.

These insights helped us continue with future tests and completely optimise Expedia’s conversion funnel.

FABRIC8 can provide similar insights for companies spanning the entire travel sector and many other industries. Through in-depth analysis and years of industry experience, we can help your business improve its conversion rate and grow – can you really turn that down?