How Can Travel Marketers Connect With Online Travel Shoppers In The UK

The booking journey for online travel shoppers in the UK is complex. Travel continues to be a thoughtfully considered financial decision.  For travel marketers, understanding it can inform how, when and where to most effectively connect with British digital consumers.

Snapshot Of The British Digital Travel Consumer

Destinations and travel companions

Online travel shoppers in the UK are two times more likely to book international trips than domestic ones. Extended trips are also of more interest to them with 59% of travellers booking trips lasting one to two weeks in duration. In addition to booking trips abroad, British travellers tend to travel with another person. The vast majority, or 88% of those travellers booking online, elect to travel with a companion. For 63%, that companion is their spouse or significant other. There is a generational divide, however, when it comes to travel companionship. With just one in four millennials travelling with friends, younger travellers opt to travel alone more frequently than Gen X and Baby Boomers.

Digital content consumption

Of the 50 million people who use various digital devices in a month, three out of four of them engage specifically with travel-related content.

As overall digital consumption increases across categories, more people are spending more time interacting with travel content online. In the UK, digital travel content accounts for 2.4 billion minutes per month of people’s time, representing a 44% increase year over year compared to 2015.

A multi-screen audience

Mobile continues to be a resource for travellers, and British travellers are no different. With the largest digital reach across mediums in the travel category, mobile reaches two million more users than desktop. Clearly, online consumers in the UK are turning to their mobile devices to plan travel. Nearly half, or 49%, of smartphone owners used their device to help plan their most recent trip. More than three in five tablet owners, or 63%, opted to use their tablet when in the planning and consideration stage.

UK consumers are not just relying on mobile, but the data indicates multi-device consumption is growing. Whereas 34% of people in the UK reported using multiple devices to engage with travel content in 2015, that percentage jumped to 49% — nearly half — in 2016. This shift represents a 44% increase in multiplatform use compared to just a year ago.

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Travel shoppers in the UK are darting between multiple devices during the pre-trip journey. With this in mind, it is imperative for travel brands to connect with consumers across screens too. With nearly half of UK travellers not prescribing to any single screen, travel brands risk leaving consumers behind if they fail to create an integrated, multiplatform marketing strategy.

Resources for destination selection

More than half of British online travel shoppers begin their research with multiple destinations in mind — 54% are still considering multiple destinations when they begin their travel booking journey.

For those who are debating destinations, recommendations from friends and family and online travel agencies are the top two strongest influencers at 18% and 15% respectively.

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Search engines as well as recom­mendations from friends and family are highly influential at the beginning of the journey, with both being used by 68% of consumers in their initial plan­ning stage.  However, travel shoppers rely on these resources less as they approach booking.

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Drilling down further into where British travellers initially look for inspiration — in other words, the first resource they use when deciding on a destination — offline resources include recommendations from friends and family (15%) and travel books/magazines (4%). OTAs and search engines, both of which account for 12%, lead the online resources. Airline sites claim 10% while 6% of people turn to hotel sites initially.

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The advertising impact

British travel shoppers are tuned in to digital content, including advertising. Advertising influences 30% of online travel bookers who are considering more than one destination.

The digital advertising landscape is crowded — travel advertising accounts for just 2% of all display advertising in the UK. However, targeted travel

advertising can be highly effective. Ten percent of ads shown to online travel bookers during their 45-day booking path are travel specific. When compared to the total population, where 2% of ads are travel related, it is apparent that targeting techniques effectively reach consumers.

Shifts in advertising exposure during the online booking path

British consumers who book a trip online will also see more ads during the course of their booking journey. Week-by-week data shows that overall exposure — including all ads, not just those served directly on travel sites — intensifies as travel shoppers get closer to making their final purchase.

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More than half of British travel bookers recall advertising when they start their booking journey. But, on average, that recall drops to just 16% right before the booking decision is made as impressions increase. Digital travel consumers continue to engage with travel sites, but advertisers face increasing competition for shoppers’ attention.

Three Key Insights For Travel Marketers

  • Create efficiencies for travel bookers with compelling content that can be accessed across devices. The digital travel industry in the UK shows tremendous capacity to connect with consumers across desktop and mobile devices. While mobile outpaces desktop use for travel content, consumers move fluidly across devices. This means it is imperative for travel marketers to create responsive content that connects with travellers and accounts for their device agnosticism by providing a cohesive, integrated experience across screens.
  • Leverage online channels and partnerships that provide efficient and scalable reach through all phases of the consumer journey. Since more than half of online travel bookers begin their purchase journey with multiple destinations in mind, advertising has the opportunity to reach and influence consumers’ final decision. In addition to recommendations from family and friends, a significant number of travellers use OTAs and search engines to choose a destination.

Throughout the purchase path, bookers consistently use OTAs, airline sites and hotel sites, relying less on search engines and personal recommendations as they get closer to making a purchase decision. Accordingly, marketers should create a fully integrated approach that accounts for shoppers’ use of various resources as their booking journey progresses.

  • Consider shopper habits and influential touch points throughout the entire booking journey to determine marketing objectives and create an integrated strategy. At the initial point of inspiration for consumers, ad penetration is lowest and recall is highest. This represents an opportunity for travel advertisers to influence and maintain share of voice. Advertising influences nearly a third of travellers who have multiple destinations in mind, and those who book travel are five times more likely to see travel advertising than non-bookers. By understand the entire path to purchase, travel marketers can effectively target and connect with online travel shoppers as they research, plan and book.

Source: ‘The British Traveler’s Digital Landscape’, Expedia MediaSolutions

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