5 important things all travel websites should test

Posted by Alex Purkiss on February 28, 2017

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.”
– Saint Augustine.

In 2015 direct spending by business and leisure travelers in the U.S. averaged $2.6 billion a day, that’s $108.1 million an hour, $1.8 million a minute, or $30,033 a second. Numbers like these can really make you wonder if your Travel Site is up to par? The only way to find out if your site is fully optimized is to test it thoroughly and continuously. After all, you can’t improve what you don’t measure, so here 5 important things all travel websites should test: 

  • A Clean Checkout Funnel : Your booking process should be simple and intuitive. It should be clutter free and without obstacles. Let’s face it, you’ve got the visitor this far in their online journey that they are obviously interested in your product and you want to get them to finish line as seamlessly as possible. The best practice here is to remove any distractions that may lead them out of your funnel. Removing any temptations to wonder such as the navigation bar in the checkout would be an example of this. Another thing to consider here is being careful of when and where you show a promo code box or link. Seeing a promo code box automatically makes the user think there is a deal to be had out there even if there may not be, and before you know they are Googling for Promo Codes. At which point they can easily become distracted from completing their purchase with you and may even complete their purchase with someone else with a promo code. Consider perhaps showing them any current promo codes you may have via a modal which fires on click of a page element. This will keep the user in the checkout and increase likeness of a conversion.
  • Deep Linking: This is a powerful acquisition and retention method which takes the user straight into the depths of your site. Via this method you can perhaps bypass the Homepage and Category levels and take the user straight to the PDP of interest for example. The most common way to get a deep link into the hands of a consumer is via an email which would usually contain some content about a specific deal or product with a Learn More CTA, clickable image, or link. Here is an example of a deep link: The DreamWorks Experience On Royal Caribbean which as you can see takes the user straight the informational page about this experience, eliminating the need for the user to try and navigate to this page via a regular homepage link such as Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines
  • Scarcity and a Sense of Urgency: The mindset of a travel site user is that they want to get the best deal on the resort, location, or destination they are interested in. That’s a natural mindset for any ecommerce user. We have found this is more so for Travel site visitors however. Time on site is usually longer on a travel site than on any other vertical. We find that when booking travel users do a lot research and looking around before Purchase. Yes, there is a certain amount of dreaming thrown in too if its for a vacation. So you want to make them think that what they are looking at is in short supply and they should hurry up and purchase before the deal, or availability, is gone. Simply testing a “Limited Seats Available” or “Only 5 Rooms Left” message will give the user a sense of urgency to purchase something that they don’t want to miss if they don’t act in time. In turn, it will give you data on which message resonates the best with your users.
  • Push Risk Inventory First: Every travel product is a perishable commodity. If a hotel room for tonight is not booked today the earning potential of it will be lost as it will go empty, for example. If you are able to utilize a ranking system where you can push inventory that is at risk of not making money, like a chartered flight for example, you should definitely test promoting those items first. Here are just a few ways you could experiment with this: Test the location of the risk products on your site, test the wording of those products to make them stand out more, or simply test listing them first in a deals section for example. Naturally the more creative you get with this idea, the more interesting the data will be. Not testing or promoting these items will inevitably let your perishable commodity go bad more frequently.
  • No Surprise Hidden Fees or Taxes: When and where to show taxes or fees is a delicate balancing act. We have found through numerous usability tests that people sometimes get shocked by taxes and fees suddenly being added at the end of their booking funnel journey. Naturally taxes and fees can vary greatly within the travel industry depending on the product, and showing a product without taxes defiantly makes it far more attractive. However, the majority of our test subjects wished that they had known the impact of taxes and fees a little earlier in their journey as they have in their mind the maximum amount of money they wish to spend. So testing when, where, and how this information should be purveyed is highly encouraged for an optimal customer journey through your site. If you surprise them with large fees right at the very last step of the process, you are likely to cause a negative knee-jerk like reaction and lose the booking.

At the end of the day you want to capture the attention of your visitor and increase your booking rates. The above is just a starting point as naturally the list of things one should and could test can be quite lengthy. Testing your site should be fun and most importantly informative. Let us know if you would like to hear more on this subject or even if you would like to share great tests that worked for you.

Topics: Test and Optimization

Written by Alex Purkiss