Every January millions of UK holidaymakers soften the blow of returning to work, and critically low Vitamin D levels, by booking their annual holiday. In fact, we’ve become so predictable, that travel agents and online pure plays have coined the first weekend in January as ‘Sunshine Saturday’, as millions of us plan our escape to the sun.
For online booking engines, aggregators, flight, ferry and hotel brands, this triggers a post- Christmas bookings spike, and the opportunity to capture a large portion of annual revenue.
Taggstar is an expert in increasing conversions during an online booking spike. We’ve just come through Black Friday and the cyber weekend, and are fast hurtling towards Xmas, and then the January sales.
2019 will be our fifth year in online travel, providing social proof messaging for large brands like TUI UK & Ireland and First Choice. Our analysis shows that, given the volumes of consumers online, displaying social proof (such as sales volumes, views, add-to-basket volumes, reviews and more), during sales peaks, gives you higher potential to increase average order values, basket volumes and conversion rates. By way of an example, we’ve seen that the travel brands using Taggstar have measured conversion rate uplift of up to 5% by using our advanced social proof messaging.
With millions of potential customers online, and with travellers checking deals on multiple sites, read why this is the one online travel technology that will help your holidays, hotels, flights and ancillary extras stand out and convert.
How Do You Rate as an Online Travel Agent?
ABTA industry research shows that trust and respect for the advice of high street travel agents is still high. And this makes sense. Holidays are big ticket items and time is short. There are plenty of stories of hotels that turn out to be building sites, poor food and noise. Moreover, the shifting political and social agenda in some countries has made us sensitive to choosing some destinations. This isn’t a risk that any of us wants to take with our precious, and limited holiday time.
In response, early online travel adopters have understood the importance of replicating that assistance online, where there isn’t a high street advisor at hand. Reviews and ratings are starting to be used on travel sites, and we’re starting to see messages like ‘trending’ and sometimes sales volumes added to some products. This is basic ‘social proof.’
When Social Proof Isn’t Social Proof
Travel sites that aren’t using on-site product messaging are missing a trick. Imagine walking past an empty restaurant. The food might be 5-star, but there’s nothing and no-one to tell you this. It’s the same with travel websites that aren’t using social proof. There’s nothing to tell potential customers why they should choose one hotel, destination, flight or hire car over another.
Consider that, according to PhocusWright, the number one most influential factor when a consumer is choosing a travel or tourism website or provider is recommendations from family or friends, based on word of mouth on positive experiences. And that’s what social proof messaging does. It takes aggregated trends about what people like us have done, and displays them as bite-sized product information.
Moreover, even at this basic level, on-site product messaging is important to improve the online customer experience and to help would-be travellers to find what’s right for them. When there’s nothing to tell them how popular a hotel or destination is, our A/B testing has statistically proven that the site (or product pages) displaying trend messaging, are far more likely to convert customers, than a site without these trends.
It’s All In The Data
As we’ve said. We consider reviews and sales volumes to be the bare minimum when it comes to adequate online social proof. It is possible to display richer trends about views, add-to-basket volumes, demographic data and even social media content, to further optimise the online customer journey.
At all levels, specificity is critical to improve consumer satisfaction. To increase levels of trust in your advice, and to provide the a virtual service to replicate that of a high street travel agent, we advise that product messages are correct and accurate. This allows consumers to see factual trend messages about specific travel products. This reduces ambiguity and increases your brand authority.
Consider, for example the difference between, ‘Trending Destination’ and ‘143 others have booked this hotel in the last week.’ The social proof injected into the second message validates exactly why the hotel is a good choice. It’s specific and, if derived from a real-time data feed, accurate. This is a great customer experience. And one that a high street travel agent would be hard-pushed to match.
Taggstar does this by using a purpose built algorithm to collect aggregated, anonymous, real-time online shopping trends, such as what other travellers have looked at, bought or added to basket. This allows us to display real-time factual messages on your website, that you and your consumers can trust, about product popularity, sales, stock scarcity and other product information, at planned times in the online user journey.
We’ve spoken to some online travel brands, and seen many more examples, where general social proof messages like ‘trending’ can be upgraded to specific, data-driven product messages. This is where sites can increase their opportunities to increase sales.
It’s What You Say and How You Say It
On the high street a travel agent will help and advise potential travellers, tell them about best sellers, recommended destinations, answer their concerns about safety and support, and whether it’s a good choice for families or lone travellers like them, about facilities, budget, special needs.
You can do this online with access to rich data, and by planning a content roadmap that takes into account the frequently-asked questions from your customer base, and the information that they want to know.
Taking social proof messaging to another level, Taggstar allows you to ‘layer’ a combination of messages throughout the online journey to build a more complete picture for the customer as to why the destination is a good choice. You can for example show how many rooms are left, how many are being looked at now and how many have booked in the past 48 hour window. Experimenting with message combinations allows you to compare the pattern that’s right for your customers.
By taking into account your customer base, their concerns, demographics for example, you can also create bespoke messages which complement a specific marketing campaign to meet your commercial objectives.
More Than the Product Pages
Where a travel website is using some form of social proof, it’s common to see product messages used on their search results page and accommodation details page. It’s where you’d expect the customers to look. But, the opportunity for high average order value, and therefore higher revenues, comes from selling ancillaries. This is important in an industry where travel sites work on low margins and ancillaries are a major opportunity to increase revenues.
Taggstar’s travel customers are seeing higher conversions when they use social proof throughout the online shopping funnel. This includes tagging extras like insurance, legroom, priority boarding, car hire, food and drink, excursions and childcare with messages. It also extends to the checkout page, where there is a high likelihood of churn. It’s at this stage that you want to reinforce why the destination, accommodation, transport choice or add-ons are an important buy using the trends and opinions of previous users.
Best for the Customer and Best for the Business
In the wake of the largest travel aggregators, many online brands are dipping their toe into product trend messaging and reviews. But it’s not just about showing product trends.
Taggstar’s analysis has shown that both conversion uplift and sales are better when travel sites use a combination of messages throughout the purchase funnel, on all products including ancillaries and especially at that critical checkout stage, when people waver before entering their card details.
Whether you aren’t using any social proof on your travel site, or if you’re looking to improve your current experience and increase conversions this coming January, read our new travel white paper about the benefit of using social proof messaging throughout your online journey.
To add social proof to your travel site today, contact Taggstar.