bd4travel unveils early autumn intent and demand trends as part of its #comebackstronger campaign to help travel companies on the road to recovery.

Key Findings:

      • The overall search traffic has dropped 27% between August and September.
      • Nearly a quarter (22.6%) of Planners (those with an appreciable likelihood of booking in a future session) are not even assessing a single product – indicating they do not find a promising offer.
      • At the same time, the proportion of Bookers (those who are likely to book within the next 24 hours) has increased by 10%. Although on a low quantitative level, this is representing a high for 2020, even eclipsing January by +50%, and up +260% compared to April (the lowest proportion recorded all year).
      • 71% of Customers (those who did a booking) had only interest in one product, compared to 37% last year. Consequently, bd4travel noticed the strongest conversion rate since lockdown, it increased by 23%. If users know what they want and if it’s available, they instantly book it.
      • Greece and Greek Islands still lead the pack of the most booked destinations, but their dominance started to fade in September.

(Visitor data up until 30th September 2020)

Visitor Booking Intent

Intent behaviour continued the trends that emerged in August. While we experienced a drop in traffic volume, with few new Lookers, Planners and Bookers proportions remained strong – their share across the entire audience grew significantly even compared to pre-Covid conditions. 

bd4travel measures the level of live booking intent for every visitor, with each identified as a Looker, Planner, Booker or Customer. By capturing extensive behavioral user data, bd4travels predictive analytics and AI-driven decisioning technology enables a deep understanding of your visitors intent and interest in real-time – in order to automatically present the most relevant information and a personalised selection of offers. This encourages a quicker decision-making while improving the user experience.

We are beginning to see the impact of the second Covid-19 wave take effect as more travel companies cancel holidays, airlines reduce routes, and new destinations are added to the red-list.

The overall traffic to travel websites decreased 27% between August and September. However, predictive intent analytics can identify where travel companies should be focusing their efforts now – to make most use of the residual traffic. “Nowcasted” visitor analytics on traveller demand and intent, provide these additional insights:

    • The share of the four visitor intent stages remained relatively consistent since August, compared to the very dynamic “intent roller coaster” of the late summer season.
    • While Lookers remain consistent with August at 69% of all visitors, Planners continue to represent a strong proportion of visitors at 22.64%, only minimally down on August.
    • Bookers have further increased in September by a further 10% compared to August. The proportion of visitors that are Bookers now represent a larger proportion than at any time in 2020, eclipsing January by +50% and up over 260% on April.
    • Customers returning to the site have picked up by over 80% compared to last month.

Planners engagement

Planners offer the biggest opportunity to travel companies right now, as they represent nearly a quarter of all visitors and are more likely to lead to bookings than Lookers. Planners are not yet decided but have an appreciable likelihood of booking in a future session. They are usually doing various searches, are comparing offers or go into detail of various side contents. Often, they also enter the site pre-informed from other websites and do only a few pageviews to check out the website’s relevance for their interest and needs.

By comparing the current Planner behaviour with September 2019 based on sessions per user / products looked at, we can see:

    • The biggest change on last year is the number of products visitors are looking at. Nearly a quarter (22.6%) of users are not assessing a single product.
    • It seems many Planners are looking for very specific travel product and destination information – and drop off quickly if they are not instantly presented with relevant contents and products.
    • Planners are looking at significantly less product overall.

Customer engagement

Customers seem to have had a very clear idea of what they wanted to book. For travel portals, it is essential that promotions and offers target clearly the four intent stages to deliver an enjoyable user experience that enables visitors to find the specific products they seek:

  • Instant bookers are up 205% compared to last year – they know what they want and they’re ready to book. 
  • 71% of Customers have only interest in one product, compared to 37% last year. They are spending significantly less time browsing alternative options.

 

These findings are in sync with the behaviour of the current Planners described above: In the context currently dominated by the Covid-19 pandemic, most users do not want to search themselves through an entire and extensive product portfolio or search for mandatory information regarding accessibility, safety or availability. 

The fall in product searches reflects the restrictions in product availability and traveller awareness of where they can travel on currently available air bridges. Today, users either already have a clear idea of their product of choice – or they want an offer that is clearly meeting their key requirements. Travel portals need to facilitate a barrier-free usability to access these information and need to promote the right offers matching those requirements.        

Destinations

We see significant change in choice of destinations due to air bridges and product availability, as we list the Top 5 destinations of September 2020:

Noting session activity

We see that the number of sessions are almost 70% below last year. However, what we see of most interest is the flattening out of week visitor peaks. Lockdown, movement restrictions and higher flexibility in working hours is bringing consumer behavioural change that marketing teams need to consider closely.

In the “old normal”, we saw some typical behaviour on websites that for example indicated that many people searched for inspiration during the week and did the booking on the following Sunday. These patterns are not that significant any more, meaning that any promotional marketing activities rather need to be synced with the current stage in the booking funnel of the individual user – and not according to the day of the week or other commonly perceived behaviour patterns of the past.

September booking behaviour and conversions

While there is a fall of -65% in bookings compared to September 2019, the number of bookings last month showed the following:

  • September saw the strongest conversion rate since lockdown, with a 23% increase. 
  • It was also one of the strongest booking months since March, achieving 85% of the bookings secured in July.
  • Although later in the year, the average booking price has not changed significantly – we noticed just a minor decrease.

The very good conversion rate we saw for September is also reflected in the number of “instant bookers” mentioned above. It again appears as though users are very clear of what they want and do not need a lot of sessions and time to search for it. Furthermore, with a higher proportion of visitors categorised as having a higher level of travel intent, emphasis should be placed on supporting travellers that are confident and ready to book. 

Providing personalized information on the decisive aspects which a user is seeking for, can turn a Planner into a Booker and a Booker into a Customer. This can be achieved by “listening” to the manifold digital signals a user provides and understanding these with the help of real-time  algorithms. But the true benefit only results if you are able to select and present the most relevant contents and messages that help guiding the user through the booking funnel. For example these can be up to date cancellation policies, service commitments or specific product attributes relevant for their individual decision making.

Recovering visitor engagement

In August we noticed that the number of pageviews per session increased, but this trend does not seem to be continuing as we hoped for – probably due to the very focussed customer behaviour described above. Whereas availability checks are still steadily increasing, reflecting the strengthened proportion of Planners and Bookers on site.

Hotel star category

We see a slight increase in interest for 4 and 5 star properties representing 78% of bookings in 2020 compared to 75% in 2019. bd4travel notes that booking prices have little changed, therefore customers are getting slightly higher value for money.

Adapting your promotion to buying stages

Travel companies need to be responding to visitor intent by presenting the most relevant messages to maintain engagement and capture what bookings are available:

  • Lookers – Show only safe and available products, communicate your or the travel provider’s (beneficial) cancellation and covid-19 policies clearly.
  • Planners – Show them the most relevant and available products only, as we saw above – with visitors searching for less products, you have a smaller window of opportunity.
  • Bookers – Ensure their preferred product is highly visible or easily accessible and communicate the most important messages relating to cancellation – present only the most relevant alternative products.
  • Customers – Consider how to engage with existing bookers, ensure cancellation policies and destination updates are highly visible, and complement their booking with the most relevant ancillary products.

Tracking and monitoring what all your users are doing on your sales platform and how they interact with products and promotions will provide insights to their readiness to book. At bd4travel, we use data to understand at what stage each buyer is at in their individual booking journey, letting you actively target personalised messages to each user, ensuring your messaging is relevant to their needs. 

Taking marketing actions that respond to live user data means you can provide a better user experience while driving specific actions and promotions to improve conversion.

Speak to us to find out how we can help your sales platform perform better for each user.

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