Focusing on one business objective such as conversion rate of your website can drive success in the short term. But websites are today’s shopfronts and if your ‘shop’ isn’t giving customers what they need, in the long term, they’ll go elsewhere. Understanding the online user intent of your web visitors is key to building a long-term relationship, which can be profitable and show your customer’s you understand and support them.

Understanding user intent

Academics have highlighted that user intent is “a broad concept…Intent is akin to a goal, and expression akin to a method of interaction…Intent is concerned with how the goal is expressed, because the expression determines what type of resource the user desires to address his or her overall goal.

Search engine marketers successfully build on the concept of intent to shape the words and phrases that bring people to a digital platform. But too often, intent is then forgotten about with landing pages displaying ‘one-size fits all’ content and offers. Using AI which works in real-time can help shape your digital sales platform so that the user is communicated with, not sold to. By building a digital relationship with a user and not just treating them like a number, you are likely to see improved conversion rate and a longer life value from each individual.

If a person is in the ‘looking’ stage of their journey – seeking inspiration on potential future holidays – they are likely to respond better to a wider range of information than someone who is in the ‘booking’ phase, where they have a clear idea of what they want and are there to make the booking. By serving content and imagery which best reflects a user’s intent, travel companies can improve their online conversion rate and embed a sense of understanding between the user and themselves.

Four stages of user intent

We define the user intent according to the four key stages of the travel booking journey as Looker, Planner, Booker and Customer. Understand the motivations and present relevant information for each stage of the user journey and you can transition a user from Looker to Customer seamlessly.

Lookers are at the first stage of their user journey – they want inspiration and are open to travel product ideas. Their early visits won’t drive your key website measurements of conversion rate or sales value, but if your site speaks to their needs in the early stages they will be recurring users and ultimately you’ll reduce churn. Then they’ll return and move through their purchase journey with you to become Planners.

Visitors who know their travel criteria and are considering the exact product are known as Planners. It’s important to gauge their intent early on in their engagement, reading key signals that indicate their shopping stage. Just because they are new to their platform, does not mean they’re at the beginning of their journey. Presenting them with relevant products is key to transferring them into the Booker stage. If they’ve decided they want a beach break in Greece, showing them a Roman city break will dissuade their interest.

Bookers are on your site to process their booking – conversion can be improved by ensuring they get all the information they seek at this stage. They have done their research and know where and when they want to travel. Showing them relevant products which are available and fit their personal search criteria is key to securing the booking over your competitors. This is the category most digital sales platforms focus on – but without being able to craft their approach to the individual user.

Customers already have a booking. It is vital not to forget about these visitors to your site: they offer the opportunity for upsell, add-ons and future bookings, but only if you present them relevant contents, products and services. Contextual engagement with customers is often overlooked, it’s important to remember that there’s no use presenting the same experience as a Looker, they’ll assume you have nothing further to offer.

The benefits of speaking to user intent

Your digital user journey should no longer be about an average user experience; it needs to seamlessly, and simultaneously, speak to all users on a one-to-one level, regardless of what their intent is at the time of their visit. AI reacts in real-time to user intent, helping you to create a selling process that inspires users without intruding or distracting. Tapping into an individual’s unique set of circumstances helps boost engagement at all stages of the buying process, whether they be a Looker, Planner, Booker or Customer.

In their bid to create the most customer-driven travel booking site, easyJet holidays were able to increase revenue and boost user engagement through the implementation of personalized search result lists, helping move Planners to Bookers. A 5% higher CTR and 5.23% uplift in booking revenue were evident during the launch of the personalization use-case on their website.

Expanding their site’s personalization from product information to include imagery, HolidayCheck was able to tap into Lookers and Planners seeking inspiration, and moving them through the buying process to Bookers. An initial seven-week trial period proved personalized teasers improved CTR (30% higher than random image selections) and an 82% increase in bookings.

By wrapping the digital experience around every user and responding to their engagement signals, travel companies are able to present the most meaningful products and messages at every step of the journey.

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