Travel portals have to assume every booking journey of any site visitor who starts to plan their trip when they land on a site for the first time. But, Google’s travel customer journey study shows that users could have as many as 7000 digital touch points prior to their purchase. Of course not all touch points take place on your portal. A user might arrive at the beginning or middle of their travel research journey, or only when they’re prepared to book.

At BD4, based on the analysis of millions of travelers on many travel websites, we’ve found there are four distinct stages in the travel booking journey. At each stage, the user has a different perspective and goal. Users are more likely to progress, and ultimately book, on your platform when they have been delighted by their experience in their current stage.

The ‘Looker’ – starting the booking journey

The ‘Looker’ wants to be inspired. They haven’t decided where to go yet, but are already dreaming of potential experiences and destinations. Before they can take the next step, they have many decisions to make and wrestle with different, sometimes even conflicting ideas. They may not even have a set duration or time of year for their travels.

One study found 65% of leisure travelers don’t know where or how they want to travel when they start their search. The ‘looker’ stage is the least defined – but is your greatest opportunity to show off the wonders of what you can offer. Let us introduce you to some ‘lookers’ on your site:

Kate loves fine dining. She wants to be near 4-star restaurants on her next trip, either in May or June. She’d like to know more about travel destinations in southern and northern Europe.

Daniel wants to take a trip the week after Easter. He doesn’t know where he wants to go, but has a set budget. He’s interested in sport-focused trips and places that are less popular with tourists. He searches for ideas about where he can fly to on his dates within his budget.

Today, most travel portals provide a 100% identical experience for Kate and Daniel. This is due to the lack of knowledge about what resonates with each individual visitor. We all know most travel portal users don’t log in and are anonymous until they make a booking. However, with their diverse needs, they would very much value individual shopping experiences during their search.

The ‘Planner’ – knowing the cornerstones

Second stage of a Travel Booking Journey

The ‘Planner’ has already selected the cornerstones of his trip. He’s made some basic decisions, such as choosing dates, specific hotel characteristics or a dedicated destination. But he is still willing to consider alternatives or options that offer him something better than what he has discovered so far during the booking journey.

Let’s take David, who wants to go on a trip with his family during a school holiday. He wants a hotel with several outdoor activities nearby and is after discounted rates. He hasn’t decided on a specific destination to stay in, but his dates and family requirements are fixed.

He isn’t ready to book yet, but is open to suggestions about hotels, things to do and possible packages. He can’t travel on other dates, so cheaper deals on alternative dates won’t help him.

Instead, he needs relevant results related to his interest in outdoor and family-friendly activities. Room style or location might be important. But, if the only offers he sees are related to different dates or exclude family-related content, he might become frustrated and leave.

The ‘Booker’ – ready to book

Third stage of a Travel Booking Journey

The ‘Booker’ has made up his mind, and is ready to book an offer and give payment information – within the current session or at least within the next 2 days. They aren’t interested in different destinations or dates, but might consider different hotels or offers. Some are ready to book based on the findings of their last session, while others are still open to upgrades or the addition of a luxury option.

Like Toby, who is traveling to Paris in the last week of May to meet up with good friends. He hasn’t decided if he should rent a car or save money to spend during the trip by relying on public transport.

This stage of the booking journey is a time for a clear comparison of elements important to the individual user. At the moment, most travel portals show comparisons based on price alone. But Toby might put more importance on location, room type or even the type of gym facilities available at the hotel over price.

When a portal can’t offer several options for this type of comparison, the user misses out on his ideal trip and the portal misses out on a valuable sale.

The ‘Customer’ – beyond the booking journey

Fourth stage of a Travel Booking Journey

Once a user buys a package, your relationship with them as a retailer obviously doesn’t end. But even before a user returns to your site to search for their next trip, they come back to check specifics for their current trip.

This could be anything from verifying their check-in time, checking potential price changes or to do a search for the available hotel facilities. If they find a different offer for a similar trip during these return visits, they might wonder if they should’ve chosen another package. Others just want reassurance that the price hasn’t gone down.

This is a time when the portal can reach out and remind the user of the value of their package or even offer help with upsell options. When you know what the user needs when they return to your portal, you serve them better, improve their experience and can potentially upsell them.

Robert booked a weekend trip with his wife to a nearby city. He’s driving himself and wants to add a romantic package to his hotel booking. He heard great reviews from friends about the hotel’s spa, and is debating between that and a romantic dinner package.

Many portals would try to upsell a car rental to the trip, but that’s completely useless to this user. When a portal determines a user’s interest in activity add-ons, he receives a better experience and the portal makes an additional sale.

Each user requires a personalized experience along the travel booking journey

Every user on your site needs different suggestions and recommendations during their session. To help the lookers, planners, bookers, and customers on your site, personalize their customer journey.

Don’t serve each user with ‘average’ offers, such as a discount 3 star-trip to Mallorca. When your site is easy to use, and provides personalized and helpful inspirations, users are more likely to come back for another visit to continue their booking journey. Capture those touch points on your site instead of sending people to your competitors.

Experience how easy it is to provide real-time personalization

BD4 helps you personalize the user’s experience in real-time, without requiring a login.

With machine learning, our system not only gives you in-depth information about each anonymous user in real-time, it also serves them relevant offers, content and services which correspond to their current stage within the booking journey.

See how easy it is to provide real-time personalization to improve your customer’s experience and ease decision making by registering for a demo.

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