More and more travelers are researching and booking online. How can tourism businesses take advantage of this trend?
To make informed and smart decisions about your digital marketing strategy, you need data on website traffic, consumer behavior, and eCommerce performance.
In other words, you need to make friends with data using web analytics tools.
Based on recent industry surveys and consumer studies on online travel booking trends, we know that:
- Internet is the number one source of travel information and inspiration.
- More and more travelers around the world are booking online (and via mobile devices).
- Travelers find information in various ways, including social media, peer reviews, search, advertisement, and more.
Online Travel Trends & Why Analytics Matters
Because there are many different paths travelers take before booking - to get inspired, to find travel options, to get to know your destination, and to learn about your travel offerings - you need to pay attention to the whole "customer journey", not just where they end up when they make the decision to book a trip.
And that's where analytics comes in: to help you better engage travelers along the paths of their customer journeys, and to make sure as many of those paths as possible lead to purchase.
For all aspects of your digital marketing efforts, you need strategic and data-driven approaches in order to optimize the time and resources you invest, and to achieve improved results.
How Do Travelers Search for Travel Information?
It probably comes as no surprise that most travelers are on the Internet when looking for information about travel. While in-person sources (such as recommendations by friends and advice from travel agents) are a key part of how travelers find information and inspiration, increasingly, travelers are turning to their screen to seek information.
According to the 2013 study by Google - "The 2013 Traveler" (Think with Google) - 61% of the travelers surveyed identified the Internet as the main source of inspirations for personal or leisure travel, and 80% said they use the Internet to plan leisure or business trips.
How Do Travelers Book Their Trips?
In addition to researching and finding inspirations online, more and more travelers today are booking their trips online. Not only is this a growing trend worldwide, in many markets the trend is increasingly shifting from desktop to mobile.
According to the European Travel Commission (ETC)'s Digital Portal (Digital Trends > eCommerce > Travel Booking), in North America, which is home to the world's most mature online travel market, the revenue generated in the U.S. online travel market in 2014 is expected to reach US$145.22 billion. In Western Europe, the second largest online travel market in the world, many countries are also experiencing growth in online travel booking: for example, annual online travel sales grew 18.3% in Italy and 13.8% in Spain in 2014. In the UK, over half of all consumers are booking their holidays entirely online. In Asia Pacific, online travel sales is projected to grow from $91 billion in 2013 to $126.6 billion in 2015.
Travel Weekly's Consumer Trends 2014 Report highlights an explosive growth in mobile bookings. In the US, 38% of travelers used a mobile device to purchase travel in 2014, compared to 23% in 2012.
How Do Travelers Get To Travel Decision-Making?
As travelers search, plan, and book online, they are inspired and influenced by many different marketing channels, and interact with your website content at different points along the path towards purchase, or the "customer journey".
The Rundown report by Think with Google shows that different marketing channels (e.g. email, display ads, paid search ads, social media, etc.) influence the customer at different points in the path to purchase.
See the interactive chart here to find data on the Travel industry and for a specific country. Based on Google Analytics data, this chart shows how likely it is that a marketing channel serves as an "assisting interaction" - meaning that the visitor to your website coming from that channel is in an early stage of their journey, becoming aware of your brand or becoming interested in your product - or as a "last interaction" - or the last step the customer takes before making a purchase.
While this is a simplified representation of a more complicated reality of individual customer journeys, it's helpful for tourism businesses to learn about the general trends for a target market, as well as website-specific patterns (which marketing channels effectively refer traffic to your website, how site visitors interact with your content, and how onsite interactions lead to purchase) so that you can better target your marketing efforts.
That's Why Analytics Matters
To take advantage of the growing online and mobile travel booking trends, and to effectively engage travelers along the paths of their customer journeys, you need data on your customers, and on your marketing performance.
Using web analytics tools such as Google Analytics, you can gather, monitor, organize and analyze critical data about your website and your marketing channels that will help you to:
- Get to know your customers: Using the data you gather about your website users and customers, you can gain important insights into your customers' onsite behavior, preferences, and purchase patterns. For example, by analyzing which pages engage customers effectively and which pages don't, you can better inform your website design and content marketing efforts. And by comparing the performance of traffic coming from different markets, you can target your efforts more effectively to improve your regional marketing reach.
- Improve your performance: Using data to analyze website traffic and sales conversion goals, you can make more informed and smarter decisions to help improve your marketing and sales performance. For example, by monitoring your online booking and conversion numbers, you can identify strengths and weaknesses in your eCommerce strategy. And by analyzing patterns in online customer interactions, you can assess the value of each action serving as assist or last interaction more accurately.
Google Analytics, which is the most widely used web analytics tool, offers these and many other ways to analyze and measure your website and online marketing performance.
How tourism businesses can take advantage of this important tool to improve marketing results and to increase online bookings is the focus of our course "Measuring for Success with Google Analytics". If you're interested in learning more about how to make the most of Google Analytics for your tourism business, you can see the course preview video, and sign up and bookmark the course for later or start taking this on-demand course at any time.
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