One of the contradictions of the digital world is that, historically, the process of researching and booking a holiday has been one of the most stressful things you can do online. Before you can even begin to think about relaxing in the sun, you have to navigate through a huge choice of options that all begin to look the same and hope that you get through the long booking process without making a crucial mistake.
As a result, one of the major challenges facing the online travel industry is high rates of booking abandonment. More often than not, making a booking is not an easy or pleasant experience and that is having a direct impact on revenues.
A high degree of frustration among travellers about their digital experience is a major factor for the rates of booking abandonment found on travel websites. According to a recent survey, 81% of people abandon online travel bookings. Although this is partly due to users window shopping, poor user experience is a significant influence and this is borne out by more recent research which reveals less than 50% of booking sites are providing the functionality holidaymakers want.
The scale of the challenge for travel companies is apparent because not only are they trying to keep up with customer demands they also have to keep pace with developments in technology. Mobile internet browsing has overtaken desktop but the usability of many mobile websites and applications is still well behind the usability of desktop websites.
Another study found that the travel industry is losing billions due to its failure to address the mobile challenge. It revealed that almost two out of five mobile shoppers have abandoned a travel booking on a mobile device due to poor mobile user experience, and estimates that in the UK alone some £2.7 billion was lost last year to travel companies after consumers scrapped a booking.
Despite this, bookings on mobile devices are growing and it is predicted that mobile will represent more than half of all online travel bookings in 2016. Last year, Abta reported there had been a significant increase in the use of tablets to book holidays online. One in four (24%) of online bookers said they secured at least one getaway via a tablet compared to 18% in 2014.
There are a lot of similar studies around with slightly different numbers, but the central point is that people take time over travel purchases, like to compare sites and value good digital user experience (UX) as a way of differentiating between service providers.
Always getting better
The travel industry has undergone huge changes over recent years, and there are some companies in the sector that are responding to changing customer demands effectively by recognising the importance of UX.