Travelers face many options when booking a trip. From airlines to accommodations and cruises and attractions, there is no shortage of experiences, and booking options are endless. OTAs, travel agents, tourist offices and travel brands themselves are competing for the same travelers, so the booking process needs to be informative and intuitive.
According to a Travel Statistics Report by TrekkSoft, direct website bookings declined in 2018 while marketplace bookings increased. This means travel brands are still receiving the travel bookings, but they are giving away margins to affiliates.
Direct bookings offer the highest margin and greatest access to the traveler, leading to brands wanting to capture as much of these bookings as possible. Therefore, the booking process must be optimized. This post shares seven experiences that eClerx Digital designed for a client to test user experience.
Setting Sail with an Optimized Online Booking Process
One of the world’s top three cruise liners was seeing heavy drop offs during the guest online booking process and asked eClerx Digital’s digital analytics team to evaluate, identify contributing factors and recommend actions for improvement.
Through the evaluation process, eClerx Digital defined five unique actions guests were required to take to complete their cruise booking. In the first phase, the team focused on the 5 micro steps within Step 1 of the booking funnel.
- Step 1A – Funnel start – guest selects their dates and stateroom type
- Step 1B – Confirm guests
- Step 1C – Select departure date and state room type
- Step 1D – Review state room type details
- Step 2 – Enter guest details
Once the steps were defined, the team was able to calculate the booking abandonment rate between steps. By reviewing the digital analytics the team saw the greatest drop-offs occurring between Steps 1B and 1C (41%) and between Steps 1C and 1D (35%).
Once booking abandonment rates were understood, eClerx Digital was able to recommend and conduct experiments to test booking process optimization.
Experiment No. 1 – Collapse the Terms and Conditions
By collapsing the Terms and Conditions from the date and price window in Step 1B (Confirm Guests), travelers will be less distracted and will be more likely to convert to Step 1C (Select Departure Date and Room Type).
The Terms and Conditions section was collapsed and a note along with a plus sign (+) was added to indicate expandability.
Only 3% of visitors expanded the Terms and Conditions section, and conversion rates decreased compared to the original format throughout the booking process and in all regions.
Terms and Conditions are more important to visitors than expect and may be playing a role in the booking decision making process.
Experiment No. 2 – Change Booking Path
The itinerary shown in Step 1A did not provide the information that visitors needed to make a booking decision. By presenting pricing and availability before the user enters the funnel, the user is more informed of the trip leading to more bookings.
Visitors were shown the available dates and pricing tab after a search rather than being shown the itinerary tab before entering the funnel.
Visitors were more informed and as a result 2X more visitors went into the funnel immediately after viewing the price/date versus those who viewed the itinerary first. Europe benefited most from the path change.
Visitors require pricing and availability information to make a purchase decision more than they need itinerary details. The new path was immediately adopted.
Experiment No. 3 – Exit Intent Message
Visitors were unable to find the information they needed to make a cruise booking decision, and by creating an exit intent message with form fill, the cruise line could reengage visitors.
To reengage a visitor, a pop up modal with a “Need Help Planning” message displayed when a visitor exhibited exit intent. The pop up was limited to 1 time during a 24-hour period and a maximum of 3 times total to one visitor.
33% of visitors exhibited exit intent and over 50% of those visitors engaged with the pop up form. Less than 1% completed the form, but the Bounce Rate/Abandonment Rate decreased by 16%.
This client has a huge opportunity to convert a lost visit into a lead with the use of an exit intent form. The form itself should be simplified to encourage completion.
Experiment No. 4 – Use of Urgency Messaging
Creating a sense of urgency such as “Last Chance,” “Only One Room Left,” or “Top Seller” will cause visitors to book for fear of missing out.
Added a “Last Chance” badge to the display image.
Funnel start conversion increased by 1.4% and was consistent across all regions.
Urgency messaging performance was highly dependent on the season, audience, and offer. Recommended to use strategically as a technique to drive demand while maintaining trust.
Experiment No. 5 – Reduce Page Clutter
Too much information and too many elements on the Dates and Stateroom page is distracting to visitors and reduces conversion.
Remove potentially distracting elements, rewrite copy to be more straight-forward, and align larger call to action buttons to the left instead of right.
Conversion between Dates & Stateroom and Date & Price decreased by 9%.
What marketers thought to be distracting content proved to be important to visitors. Further iterations of this test are necessary to determine what information is important and remove distracting content.
Experiment No. 6 – Easier Access to Room Floor Plan
Accessing the room floor plan in the current path required a “default package” selection. With information easier to access by making all stateroom images clickable, visitors will be more likely to convert.
Made all stateroom pictures clickable with pop up of floor plan.
Overall improvement in conversion and exit rates. Latin America saw the most significant conversion rates between Steps 1B and 1D while exit rates following Step 1B decreased by 29%.
The hypothesis was proven correct. Making floor plan of the room more accessible improved conversion rates.
Experiment No. 7 – Hide Ship Deck Detail
By hiding the ship deck detail during the stateroom selection step, will reduce clutter and focus the user on the primary CTA, leading to an increase in conversion.
Hid the Ship Deck Detail and eliminated the step that allowed guests to choose a room number. A clear call to action button available for visitors to view the detail, if interested.
All regions saw a 1.5% lift in conversion from Step 1D (Select State Room) to Step 2 (Enter Guest Details).
Information provided regarding stateroom location was not helpful for the majority of travelers, and likely caused friction in the booking process.
Charting a Course for Continual Improvement
These booking process optimization tests identified several key learnings.
- Shortening the path to checkout increased conversion to funnel
- Urgency messaging works, but highly situation dependent
- Reduce cognitive load works, but it’s important to be careful about what is removed
- Adding detail to content helps, depending on how it is added
- Regions behave more differently than similarly
As the seas are constantly change, so does the optimal online booking process. The experiments above demonstrate that some assumptions were correct while others were not, and several pointed to future testing opportunities. Travel brands must constantly evaluate the traveler booking process to ensure as little friction as possible to keep conversion rates and guest satisfaction high.