In the travel industry, a customer’s online purchasing behavior is a complex digital landscape. Therefore, there are many important shopper insights that require analysis.
This is for numerous reasons. One of the principal factors is that compared to other products, the average travel booker will spend a longer period researching their purchase. Furthermore, omnichannel distribution travel companies present customers with a multitude of options. OTAs and comparison sites inundate customers with a seemingly unlimited list of resources, products and packages.
This is particularly the case in the 45 days leading up to a purchase. It is during this period that shoppers will consume the most content – on average, a customer will visit 38 travel sites, 15 of which they will visit in the week prior to booking. In an era where independent research has superseded the travel agent, online shopper insights are crucial to effective marketing strategy.
Attribution: The key to shopper insights
As such, hotel industry marketers and sales personnel must know exactly where potential customers are looking. In addition, they must know which channels they are visiting and how they navigate from inspiration to purchase. It is also important to recognize which attributes of the customer’s online shopping journey influence what they ultimately purchase. Consequently, the supplier needs to be able to collect and process all the relevant data about the interactions and behaviors that lead to this final decision. This data is key to better understanding the complete customer journey and devising an informed marketing strategy.
To answer these questions, we must look to the complex concept of attribution. Attribution is the process of identifying a set of user actions – otherwise known as ‘events’ – that contribute to an outcome. Utilizing an attribution model can help marketers to identify the various points in a booking journey that transform a looker into a booker. Once the events are identified, a value is attributed to each of these markers. Whilst this concept may seem fundamental, a recent Forrester Study found that a full 15% of digital advertisers in the hotel industry do not use any form of attribution to assign credit to channels or partners.
Breaking down attribution: Inspiration, research, consideration, purchase
Given how complex the travel consumer journey is, it is important to break down and define the various phases. To effectively apply the concept of attribution to gain shopper insights, the customer journey should be broken down into 3 sections. These are:
Inspiration is simply where the consumer begins. Generally, this will be the first website they visit to gain an idea of the kind of flight, hotel or holiday package they wish to purchase
Research and consideration
Research and consideration is the most complicated part of the journey. Consumers can take multiple pathways through this phase, including visiting OTAs, comparison websites, other third-party agents, meta search and hotels’ direct channels.
The purchase phase is where a shopper will initiate a transaction, or where the booking is made. This is the stage of the journey with a single, definable point.
In terms of the final interaction – the purchase – a hotel’s website will generally receive 61% of the bookings. The remaining share of bookers will use an OTA, with the remaining 9% booking through meta search. Although the critical point of the journey is the purchase, the inspiration and research phases cannot be ignored. As a result, hotel marketers should implement a multi-phase approach to optimize engagement, reaching consumers at every stage of the customer journey. This will encourage a larger proportion of consumers to convert.
Increase intelligence: Implementing the attribution framework
Considering the complexity of the online research process and the various factors that ultimately influence a purchase, it is obvious there is a need for a deeper understanding of consumer behavior. Attribution provides a framework within which to analyze the character and importance of each phase of the customer journey. With the right data handling tools and partners, travel companies can begin to build a targeted and effective marketing strategy.