February 23, 2012

The future of travel search


The use of advanced destination selection and content customization tools to attract and inspire consumers earlier in the travel planning process is key to gaining competitive edge in the years ahead, according to a new study on online travel shopping behaviour released by Amadeus.

A new industry study released today, "Empowering inspiration: the future of travel search", identifies trend-setting consumers' behavior and motivations when shopping for travel online and identifies their experience during the destination selection, shopping and booking processes. The study also details the key trends and predictions for how consumers want to be able to search for travel online in the future.

The Amadeus-commissioned study, conducted by travel industry research authority PhoCusWright Inc., surveyed 4,638 travelers in the U.S., U.K., Germany, India, Russia and Brazil. In addition to consumer insights, PhoCusWright conducted 18 executive interviews with thought leaders around the world to gain industry perspective on where travel search is headed.

Although the travelers under review are not representative of the mainstream consumer, they have the most sophisticated shopping needs and represent the early adopters whose current behaviors and preferences are leading indicators of behavior in the future.

Key findings include but are not limited to:

The frustrations and pain points travelers face when planning and booking travel

All consumers face frustrations during the destination, shopping and booking process, however, those in emerging markets are more frustrated than their developed counterparts. For example in the shopping process, 47% of U.S. travelers experience frustration online, compared to over 78% of Russian travelers. This is due to information overload and the lack of confidence that they are getting a good deal.

New ways in which travelers would like to search for travel

In the developed markets, nearly 50% of travelers had a particular place in mind, whereas in the emerging markets, it was only about a third of travelers. Catering to these travelers is advantageous, as attracting shoppers earlier in the purchase funnel broadens their audience and reduces their reliance on search and referral traffic. Furthermore, more than four in 10 travelers across the markets are flexible about travel dates, thus tools that help determine where and which travel dates have the lowest price have widespread appeal. It is time to think outside of the traditional city pair/travel date box.

How travelers want to use mobile devices and social networks when planning and sharing travel experiences

Three in 10 travelers in Europe currently have no interest in using their mobile phones for travel-related activities, but U.S. consumers show levels of interest comparable to emerging markets for mobile features such as alerts, check-in, etc. Mobile device usage for travel is more than twice as common in emerging markets, most notably in India, where nearly 24% of travelers research destinations online on their phones.

Looking ahead, the report also looks at how new technologies may change travel planning in the future, including but not limited to:

The truly private ¨private sale¨: Marketplaces around the world have been flooded with promotions, deals, and now flash sale brands that tout discounts with no context of whether an individual would be interested in the product. As consumer segmentation and behavioral targeting to consumers becomes more sophisticated, sellers will be able to microtarget promotions to specific consumers, offering products that are actually relevant for the buyer.

Cumulative ¨intelligence¨: With hundreds of options, online shoppers are overloaded. Eventually, programs will learn from an individual's behavior over time by observing and aggregating common patterns. Microsegmentation will help companies analyze behavior and deliver increasingly intelligent results.

Smart systems and virtual private assistant: Devices will become smart and interconnected, and will store and make sense of information consumers look at. The program will recognize and process inputs from the sites consumers visit and what they do on them, and will act as an assistant on the consumer's behalf.

Stephane Durand, Director, Online & Leisure, Amadeus, said, “Amadeus commissioned this study to understand how consumers will search for travel in the future. To effectively support our customers, we need to understand the developments that look set to affect both the future of travel search and the success of travel sellers' business. Today, we stand at the forefront of a technological evolution in travel that we refer to as Online Travel 3.0 which recognizes the power shift from suppliers to retailers and to end consumers.”

Durand continued, “There are clear opportunities for travel sellers to inspire and convert consumers while alleviating degrees of frustrations along the way. For example, the use of advanced destination selection and content customization tools to attract and inspire consumers earlier in the travel planning process is key to gaining competitive edge in the years ahead.”

Carroll Rheem, Director of Research, PhoCusWright, said, “Megabrands…are applying enormous talent and imagination towards solving traveler problems. It is mission critical for all travel retailers…to understand and adapt to how consumers want to make travel decisions, not just how they have made them in the past. This study [illuminates] the things companies can’t see in their clickstream and conversion – desirable elements their websites currently lack.”

Download the "Empowering inspiration: the future of travel search" at Amadeus