6 Key Web Optimization Trends for Travel Brands in 2021

Liam Burns
Written by Liam Burns
December 11, 2020

From lodging and transportation to attractions and food, travel professionals cater to tourists’ needs throughout the duration of their journey. Because the travel industry encompasses a variety of amenities, it’s one of the world’s largest service industries. Last year alone, it generated $9.25 trillion.

Unfortunately, this year’s spread of COVID-19 has had a far-reaching impact on this industry especially. Between travel bans, border closures, and stay-at-home mandates, the industry is expected to lose over $500 billion this year. Additionally, travel professionals must now determine how to navigate a business that’s all about face-to-face interactions without conducting business in person.

Due to health concerns and government restrictions, people are relying on digital interaction now more than ever to communicate, conduct business, and plan trips. However, online exchanges pose their own set of challenges. Digital experiences can be frustrating, confusing, and bring more questions than answers.

With 70% of customers abandoning purchases because of a negative experience, travel businesses must ensure a smooth, positive digital user experience. Through website optimization, travel companies can develop customer trust and loyalty, drive traffic to their site, and increase sales.

6 Web Optimization Trends for the Coming Year

By its very nature, the travel industry already faces a unique set of challenges. Guests are contacting them in person and online. Many interactions occur in real-time. Because it’s a global industry, communication occurs in different languages. Travel professionals already have to provide a consistent experience across multiple channels seamlessly.

Now, with the addition of the impact of COVID-19, even more attention must be given to online interactions. As the industry strives to recover from the effects of a worldwide pandemic, here are 6 trends for website optimization that the travel industry can anticipate for the coming year.

1. Differentiate through seamless online experiences

As more consumers are turning to the internet for their travel requirements, there’s an increased importance on the need for smooth online interactions. Because of this, travel companies must differentiate themselves from competitors by providing a positive user experience. Part of that is streamlining the digital shopping process.

Frustration is the reason 70% of customers will leave a website prematurely. Whether it’s inadequate descriptions or slow load times, the internet is fraught with opportunities for a negative user experience. That’s why travel companies must work to provide valuable information efficiently. Ensure the customer journey is clear of obstacles with a simple and pain-free experience.

2. Streamline user journeys with personalization

When it comes to making travel arrangements, there are infinite choices available to consumers. Online search results can be overwhelming. From airplane seat assignments and hotel rooms to car rental and dining preferences, travelers are asked to make decisions at every turn. This is problematic for two main reasons.

First, too many choices can lead to user frustration. While it’s true people want the freedom to make their own choices, choice overload can lead to negative results, like avoidance or regret. Second, these options can take users away from your website. People can then become so entrenched in a hierarchy of selections, they can’t find their way back to you. For these reasons, it’s important that your website helps simplify those choices while keeping people on your site.

Begin by collecting data about your visitors and use that information to tailor their options. Demographics, lifestyle, and geography are key factors in providing relevant suggestions for your website’s users. For instance, a couple seeking a romantic vacation rental can avoid scrolling through endless listings for family-friendly accommodations.

Providing more tailored search results gives people fewer reasons to stray from your site. Additionally, you can save users time, provide a more custom experience, and build customer loyalty.

3. Simplify user choice with metasearch results

One way to simplify the search process is by providing metasearch results. When a user conducts an online query, metasearch engines collect results from different sources and compile them into one aggregate listing. This makes for an easier, more efficient process for comparison shopping.

For example, a user can seek hotels in a certain town and access a list of options that provide property names, room rates, location, photos, and amenity listings. With all of this information gathered in one place, readers can quickly scan through information and find the option that best meets their needs.

There was a time when people relied on online travel agents to present them with travel options. Now, 39% of Millenials use metasearch for this purpose. By incorporating internal metasearch results with third-party listings (like Google and Yahoo), travel companies can deliver a more well-rounded experience to the digital user. 

Not only does metasearch help to provide a better experience for your users, but it also offers numerous benefits to your travel business. You can expand your reach of online exposure and get in front of more travelers. Metasearch allows you to promote your brand in a cost-effective way. It’s also becoming an increasingly popular method for travel planning among consumers, so it’s an extremely powerful online distribution channel.

As you optimize your website for the coming year, make sure you have the correct technology in place to handle metasearch results. This is a trend you’ll want to capitalize on in 2021.

4. Keep users engaged with multimedia

Part of the allure of travel is getting to experience new places and different cultures. It isn’t easy to decide on a destination based solely on written descriptions. While many travel companies are already incorporating beautiful photos of destinations and accommodations, the use of video is trending for 2021.

Video is a great way to give someone a sneak peek at an actual experience. After all, travel can be a big investment of time and money. No traveler wants to learn the hard way that they made a mistake in their plans. Video is an important element in attracting travelers and engaging them on your site. In fact, 54% of people want to see more video content from a company they support.

When including videos on your website, it’s important to deliver a multimedia experience that loads quickly. One of the leading causes of digital user frustration is delayed load times. This leads to a decrease in conversion rates. Research shows that after the first five seconds of a web page’s load time, each additional second brings a conversion rate drop of 4.42%.

Page load times can be lessened with data compression tools to decrease video file size. Removing audio from muted videos can also lessen load times. Instead of requiring file downloads, stream videos directly from your site. By providing multimedia experiences that enhance the user experience, you’ll increase engagement, loyalty, and conversion rates.

5. Encourage user-generated content

It’s one thing for brands to promote their own services, but there’s nothing like user-generated content to drive people to act. Online reviews left by other users influence the purchase decisions of 93% of consumers.

Reviews empower users to share their personal stories. This, in turn, gives credibility to services and minimizes risk for other potential customers. When making travel plans, many decisions must be made without personal experience to rely on. It’s helpful to hear from users with first-hand experience to better understand what someone can truly expect to encounter.

Posting positive reviews on your website can help increase conversion rates. One study found that 76% of people would pay higher prices for a service with above-average review scores. Whether it’s photos, videos, reviews, or descriptions, you’ll increase your chances for sales and a boost in ROI by including user-generated content on your site.

6. Design mobile user experiences

Today’s technology has been a game-changer for online transactions. Business is no longer conducted strictly from stationary computers. With the advent of smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices, the internet is accessible at any time, from any place.

In the past year, 61% of U.S. travelers have booked and paid for travel via their mobile device. Meanwhile, 64% of people use their device on the way to their destination. This confirms that the travel industry must optimize their websites for mobile accessibility.

With information so accessible, the line between business and pleasure is more blurred these days. Mobile devices enable people to work as well as relax on the go. Therefore, it’s important for businesses to design for mobile when it comes to web functionality. Travel companies must consider all avenues to enable consumers to build their self-guided journey.

At every turn, consumers can determine the outcome of their travel experience at the touch of a button. From booking a flight from a cab to making dinner reservations during a meeting, mobile solutions are the key to empowering consumers to develop the experience they want. Your website must be designed to reach people on any device, from any location, at any point in their user journey. Attract more business by broadening the avenues by which people can reach you.

Discover Travel Industry Insights in Decibel’s 2021 Benchmarking Report

The upheaval of this year’s global pandemic has put more emphasis on digital interactions. For this reason, digital channels are becoming the main source of business. Travel companies looking to grow their business and recover from the decline of the past year must create a positive digital experience through website optimization. Decibel’s recent report uncovers the latest trends in digital experiences based on 4.1 billion user sessions and gives insight into ways the travel industry can better optimize websites for growth and success.

See what strategies your travel brand can implement to improve online customer experiences drive business. Download your copy of Decibel’s report: Digital Experience & Conversion: Industry Benchmarks for 2021.

Topics: Customer Experience, Digital Experience, Travel, User experience
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