Promiscuous online travel consumers - how do we retain their loyalty?

Comscore and Google have recently announced the results of a survey into 20,000 UK online consumers and their behaviour in purchasing travel online. The research revealed that on average:

  • 20 million people in the UK used the internet to research their holiday in the first quarter of 2007
  • Consumers visited 22 (yes that’s right – 22!) websites before purchasing.
  • Made 12 travel related searches using a search engine.
  • Took 29 days from the time of the first search to make a purchase.
  • Visited the site they eventually purchased from 2.5 times, rising to 3.9 times for tour operator sites.
  • 54% of shoppers started the research process with a generic term (e.g. ‘flights to jersey’) rather than a branded search term such as ‘Easyjet flights to jersey’
For me, the key issue that comes out of this research is how fickle the online shopper has become when it comes to brand. The real challenge is trying to keep consumers loyal to your brand/website during the 4 week shopping process.

For repeat customers it’s fairly straight forward. If your data capturing systems are good enough then you should be able to communicate directly via e-mail and develop your relationship on a one-to-one basis. Encouraging first time visitors to book through your site is a much tougher challenge. Google predictably responded to the survey by suggesting the key is to improve your rankings on search engines and spend more on online advertising.

The other big development in this area is the growth of meta-search sites such as and These sites operate by taking a consumer search enquiry and going off to individual travel company websites & providing a comparison of price and availability, thereby reducing the workload of the online shopper. These sites are likely to provide a greater challenge to Google as they provide a one-stop shop.

Sadly, it looks likely that brand-equity, which has never been that great in our industry, is going to become even less relevant.

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