Changing digital travellers. How can travel marketers keep up?

This past July (2018), McKinsey senior partner Alex Dichter spoke at the Google Travel Executive Forum held at San Jose, California, on the changing travel-purchase journeys; the role of organic search results; the increase in omnichannel purchase journeys; and how travel companies can use this data for competitive advantage.

A version of this article appeared on Mc

Digital revolution over the past few years opened what psychologists call the ‘paradox of choice’ in front of the travel shoppers. For travel marketers, it is vital to readjust to these changes in order to thrive in the travel and tourism market.

Travel is a high-anxiety, complex purchase

Choices are good. However, the more choices we have, the more undecided and anxious we feel. In the case of travel purchases, you can’t return your purchase.

The above data shows that finding ‘travel accommodations’ is complex and involves many touchpoints.

Touchpoint in customer journey indicates how many times a possible shopper gets in contact with your brand – before, during or after they’ve purchased/used your product/service.

For example, the average purchase journey for a single hotel room lasted 36 days with 45 touchpoints across different search engines and involves multiple devices (omnichannel).

Role of search

Most of the consumer purchase journeys include research and comparison over multiple websites and devices before making a purchase. According to the clickstream data on user behaviour, during 2017, 23% of the accommodation searches started on search engines, while in 2018, it scaled over to 31%.

However, if you are to assume that travel shopping journeys that got started over search took longer time to convert, we saw the opposite. The travel purchases that started with search led to a booking much faster than those started on a website of various travel agencies.

Omni-channel shopping journeys

The above statistic shows the total number of mobile phone users worldwide between 2015 and 2020. Unsurprisingly, we can see a 10% year-on-year increase in cross-device travel shopping journeys, that’s either on the smartphone or across devices.

However, the data showed that the cross-device journeys took a longer time to convert than the single-device journeys. On multiple devices, it took approximately five extra days, 55% more sessions and 45% more digital touchpoints, says in an analysis of the McKinsey report by Think with Google.

How can travel brands keep up with today’s evolving customer?

  • Embrace travel-purchase journeys
    While you might want to improve your conversion rate, instead of jumping right into sales, help your curious customer to explore, get inspired and choose.
  • Relevant content at moments of indecision
    The online travel market is already facing a lot of noise. Instead of going with the flow, grab the attention of your potential customer by being there at their moments of indecision with the relevant product/service. For example, if the digital signal of the traveller suggests they are travelling with kids, make sure they see the ad for your hotel’s connecting rooms first and not the cocktail bar.
  • Omni-channel marketing
    With the changing expectations of digital traveller, it is important for travel and tourism companies to invest more in online marketing. It is bad for your brand if it looks pretty much as they did ten or fifteen years ago! We suggest creating natural and impeccable experience across all platforms.

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