Warm Up with the Basics
Let’s start with a warm up! In this session, I will cover the basics of what’s going on in the industry in terms of hotel shopper behavior, specifically where and how they’re researching hotels today.
Like all online shoppers, those shopping for travel are looking for rich visual experiences that help them better understand and feel comfortable about the purchase they are considering. They also want to do it on many different web sites throughout what is a non-linear and very complex shopping journey from research, to comparison, purchase, post purchase and sharing.
A typical guest will use more than two dozen touch points to research a trip. This means that there are a lot of opportunities to grab their attention and make a great impression.
Figure 1 is a chart that shows some of the key sites consumers find helpful during their planning process, which is when choices are being made. The actual booking process follows. Paul Brown, head of Global Brands at Hilton refers to the planning process as reaching consumers during their “point of decision” vs. point of booking.
Consumers are going to different sites for different reasons and at different stages of the travel shopping journey. Here are the results from a 2011 benchmark study by Atmosphere Research Group.
84% of travelers will visit brand.com or several different brand.coms to get the hotels direct perspective. Also note that 83% will also visit an OTA (online travel agency), like Travelocity, to see what hotels are available in market. Similarly, 83% will go to a traveler review site like TripAdvisor to read what others are saying, and 81% will check out a metasearch engine like Kayak to compare the prices.
The point is that hotel shoppers go to many sites in unpredictable ways looking for different things based on how they view the experience of that site.
What consumers see about an individual hotel must be consistent, relevant and interesting across all the sites they are using otherwise the hotelier risks not even making the shopping list of possible hotels to consider in their decision. Compare figures 2 and 3 to see the difference in the consumer’s visual experience.
Another trend we can’t ignore is the fact that the lines between corporate and leisure travel are blurring. Both travel shopping segments (business and leisure) want immerse, visually-rich presentations. In fact, 93% of business travelers watched travel related video online last year (89% of leisure travelers).
There is also a misconception that business travelers aren’t interested in researching their stay. The evidence suggests otherwise. 56% say that they plan to spend more time shopping around and researching before booking business travel in order to find good value for their money. 69% also say that they would like to stay at an upscale or luxury hotel if the price is right which demonstrates that business travelers are also looking for value.
Challenge: Check out the experience you are providing hotel shoppers across the web – is it consistent, relevant and interesting? If not, make it a priority to kick your visual presence up a notch.
 Research from the Google Think Travel conference; The Traveler’s Road to Decision, 2011