English Corner

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How to stop online holiday bookers from abandoning bookings

Von Ben West

With so many travel bookings now conducted online, how does a travel agent, airline or other travel business prevent an abandoned shopping cart?

Buying something online is very different from buying in a shop. Online, it is so much easier to get distracted, have a change of heart, or abandon your booking with the intention of perhaps revisiting the site later.

According to UK behavioral marketing company SaleCycle, a massive 75% of online travel bookings fail to complete. There are numerous reasons: the potential holidaymaker may just be researching holiday options and not be ready to buy, they may need to consult fellow travellers before committing to a booking, there may be technical difficulties, the product may be unavailable or payment problems ensue, or the booking procedure may simply be too long and complicated.

Many online booking procedures include hidden extras that appear once you have selected. For a budget airline these could be seat allocations, insurances, baggage allocations, upgrades, car hire, hotel options, and payment card charges. Wading through all these can prove too much for some customers. The online booking may collapse at the stage personal data is requested: the customer may not have a mobile phone or want to divulge their number, for example.

Many travellers make purchases on their mobiles

Being more upfront about the final cost and reducing the amount of information to fill out and boxes to tick while booking can help reduce potential bookers jettisoning their booking.

Likewise, items like simple navigation of the site, a progress indicator, a ‘return to shopping’ link, a support telephone line and free delivery with a minimum order value all help retain online travel bookers.

Many travellers make purchases on their mobiles nowadays, so having a fully mobile-friendly website is vital. This means easy to read text, speedy downloads, optimally resizing from the full-size website, easy to use links.

The travel industry is particularly vulnerable to cart abandonments as planning a trip is often expensive, not vital and therefore not a decision taken lightly.

A recent survey by travel marketing specialist Boxever found that 67% of travellers surveyed spend weeks researching options before purchasing. This critical booking period will typically see items in the shopping cart for lengthy periods, getting removed or replaced, or abandoned altogether. Boxever reckons that cart abandonments are more than three times the value of what the travel companies are receiving.

Accoding to Boxever, online travel agencies see the highest abandonment rates (89%), followed by airlines (79%) and then car rental, hotels and cruise firms, which see drop-out rates of around 70%.

Creating urgency during the booking process

This period of indecision is an ideal time for travel providers to do all they can to influence buyers with personalised, value-added and timely offers.

The potential buyer could be targeted with emails, custom content, display ads and offers. Emails to those abandoning their cart could include enticing text and images of the destination they booked, along with a new offer or incentive. It is therefore a good idea to obtain the customer’s email address early in the booking process.

Boxever suggests that the travel provider could also bid on audiences for targeted display ads on other websites to remarket routes or similar routes based on a specific session abandonment. Therefore, for example, a customised ad reminding of the trip they were considering could appear when the person next logs into Facebook or another social network site.

The provider could customise the website experience for the cart abandoner’s next visit with imagery, holiday suggestions and offers based on their previous shopping sessions.

If the cart abandonment has been caused by a problem with the booking, such as a technical or payment issue, a speedy helpdesk pop-up helps keep the potential customer on board. Organising a call from the travel providers’ call centre, making contact to try and resolve the issue, is another wise move.

Creating urgency during the booking process is another good tactic, for example windows announcing ‘only two rooms left at this price’ or ‘75 other people are also looking at this flight’.

Incorporating as many of these tactics as possible will help retain or bring back many of the travel product online browsers less proactive travel companies lose - and convert them into sales.