Consumer engagement trends continue to evolve, in turn changing how travelers interact with online resources during the path to purchase. For hoteliers, this has made it difficult to determine which sales and marketing efforts lead to demand.
A custom study from Expedia Media Solutions and comScore found that Americans made 140 visits to travel sites during the 45-day period prior to online travel booking.
The study also showed that airline site, hotel site and online travel agency (OTA) usage is consistent throughout the purchase path, but OTAs account for more than 30 percent of total site visits, the highest engagement across travel site categories. Travelers are visiting OTAs for inspiration, research and booking.
Despite the consistent usage of OTAs and other online travel resources throughout the purchase path, changes in the online travel market are causing hotels to rethink their relationships with OTAs and take a closer look at the impact on bookings from listing their properties with OTAs.
One outcome of listing/and or advertising on an OTA is additional bookings on the brand’s own website, a phenomenon known as the billboard effect, first referenced in a 2009 study.
A later study examining consumers’ online pre-purchase research also found that approximately 75 percent of consumers who made reservations with a major hotel brand had visited an OTA website in advance of booking directly at the brand dotcom.
A new 2017 report by Chris Anderson Ph.D., “The Billboard Effect: Still Alive and Well”, shows that the ability of a second-party channel to influence an eventual reservation may have dropped slightly, but the billboard effect still occurs. This inference can be drawn since many consumers visit an OTA prior to booking direct.
Contrary to research suggesting that the billboard effect is dead, this new study’s results show that reports of its demise have been considerably exaggerated.
Per Anderson’s report, booking a hotel online remains a complex activity for all but the most loyal of hotel shoppers. While almost 39 percent of direct bookers start their travel research on a hotel site, 31 percent of consumers who start their search at a hotel site end up booking at an OTA.