In the dog days of summer, the holiday season may seem like nothing more than a distant train whistle away – a faint warning of something to come, but that’s still too far off to matter right now. But in the digital marketing world, that whistle is loud, clear, and pulling into the station, because, let’s face it, it takes time to optimize a travel or hospitality site or app so that they are converting, booking, and selling at peak performance. This time crunch is especially relevant for the many companies that go into what’s called a “code freeze” period for the holidays, when all changes to their sites are suspended.
Here’s the point: if you want your website, mobile website, or app to be at its best for the upcoming holiday travel season, the time to start working with a digital agency who can test and optimize for you is NOW.
According to Forrester & Consumer Research, digital travel consumers think, act, engage, and book differently during the holiday season. Whether booking a flight, reserving a hotel, or planning a cruise, they want a quick, frictionless checkout experience that’s fast, easy, and secure and that they believe is giving them the lowest rate for their search results.
Any successful website or app is rooted in a deep and data-driven understanding of the user – their behavior, needs, and patterns – and builds a digital ecosystem that responds to these things in the best possible way at every point in their experience. So, an optimization strategy should begin and end with the user in mind, and to launch this strategy, sites have to start testing, optimizing, and converting as soon as possible to create a seamless ecosystem that facilitates bookings, sales, and conversions for the upcoming holidays (and beyond, for that matter).
But, the clock is ticking away for 2016… Here are a few things travel sites should be doing NOW to get their websites, mobile sites, and apps ready for the holidays:
- FIND THE RIGHT DIGITAL AGENCY TO WORK WITH
Make sure your agency has experience working quickly and efficiently to meet the holiday deadlines for travel/e-commerce sites and that they are able to optimize your desktop and mobile site within just a few months.
- START TESTING, AND FAST
Your digital agency should also be using well-known, trusted industry testing tools and conducting both A/B and multivariate tests on the most important pages of your site, prioritizing your checkout funnel. Start testing with an agency as soon as possible so they have time to use those testing insights to optimize your site before holiday booking reaches its peak.
- OPTIMIZE YOUR CHECKOUT FUNNEL
One word of advice: simplify. Test different intelligent forms to gauge ease of use. Limit the number of form fields, and be transparent about final cost at each stage of checkout (users hate to be surprised with hidden fees or add-ons at the end of the checkout process – it’s the #1 reason they abandon a purchase).
- DON’T IGNORE YOUR MOBILE SITE OR APP
Even though desktop still leads significantly in online bookings, mobile visits to travel sites are on the rise and predicted to grow significantly in the coming years as bigger brands streamline this experience for their users. According to the Adobe Mobile Travel Report in 2016, 52% of consumers resort to their mobile devices when researching and gathering information on travel booking sites. So, be aware of the power of your mobile platform to influence user purchases this holiday season (even if they ultimately buy on your desktop site) and make sure your agency optimizes accordingly. At the same time, they should also be helping you prepare your mobile site and app for 2017 and beyond, when mobile booking is expected to take off, becoming more and more competitive among major brands.