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Maximize return through Web analytics
December 14 2009

The travel industry needs to spend an equal amount of time not just driving customers to Web sites but keeping them there to seal the deal.

LONDON—At the recent World Travel Market in London, travel industry experts gathered to discuss Web analytics and how seemingly minor Web site observations and adjustments can have a significant affect on business.

Cameron Jones, director of business development of Expedia, highlighted just how important it is for any business to have a fast-functioning Web site: “In 2006, people were willing to wait four seconds for the Web site page to load. Today it’s two seconds”.

Valuable customers can be lost by the smallest glitch in an online booking system. Jones’ presentation, “Don’t make me think, don’t make me wait”, emphasised that satisfaction certainly drives loyalty.

“In fact, 79 percent of the people who are dissatisfied with your Web site are less likely purchase when they come back to your Web site (and) 27 percent of people are less likely to go to your High Street store as well”, he said.

When using Web analytics, he stressed that it is important not to simply focus on conversion and that the travel industry needs to spend an equal amount of time not just driving customers to Web sites but keeping them there and making sure they seal the deal.

“Typically it is a lot cheaper to make the traffic that is already at the site work harder than it is to get more and more traffic to a site that isn’t performing very well”, said Vicky Brock, co-founder of Inverness, Scotland-based Highland Business Research. “If we can just get a few more percent of the 1,000 people that are already coming to do what we want to do, that’s way cheaper than buying another 5,000 as we haven’t improved the conversion rate”.

Brock adds that on average, Web sites have a success rate of only between 1 percent and 3 percent at the site-wide level.

“Not everyone who visited the site was intending to convert”, she said. “But there were a lot of people who were but because you made it a horribly difficult for them, a really painful and difficult experience for them ... something went wrong in that process. ... They dropped out despite their best efforts before the end and you lost them”.

She emphasised that it’s simple mistakes that lose potential revenue but without Web analytics most companies are unaware that such problems exist.

“The quick wins in the booking analysis process are the orders that are failing completely”, Brock said. “Whether you like it or not, every day a whole bunch of people come to your Web site, they try to do what they came for, they try to do what you want them to do and at the very end it all went horribly wrong. You probably don’t know it all went horribly wrong.

“They maybe tried again until it worked but quite often it’s a technical problem (and) they can try again as many times as they like and it still wouldn’t work. They probably called the call centre ... but the message never gets back. ... When you start looking at these failed orders you make money for nothing as people are already trying to spend it”.

How do you find where the process is going wrong for the high numbers of people who tend to drop out of a Web site at the booking stage? Brock said you need to replicate the booking process for the customer.

“It can be any tiny character that’s not working, or it could be on this day that the bank payment system wasn’t working. ... You need to do a quick equation to work out the percentage of bookings this is affecting and how much money they are worth”, she said.

Brock gives as example a travel industry client of hers who wanted to maximise revenue online. During analysis it emerged that the inclusion of a simple “illegal” character where the customer (in this case Brock) entered his or her mobile telephone number was affecting 0.3 percent of bookings in the shopping process. The problem, which unbeknownst to them had been blocking bookings for six months, took just two hours to fix and netted them an additional £25,000 (US$40,668) in their next banking period.

Jones says the process should be simple.

“You don’t need to be a mastermind to think about Web analytics”, he said. “You need to make sure that your Web site is self-evident, very obvious to the consumer and very intuitive to the consumer when they first arrive”.

While two seconds is the expectation in the marketplace for a Web site to be fully loaded, Jones said that in three seconds 40 percent of customers typically leave the site.

“Of those 40 percent, 67 percent actually go to one of your competitors and don’t necessarily come back to your Web site”, he said. “There’s value in measuring how long it takes pages to load”.

Jones said that more than half of business these days are actually investing in some Web analytics and the top five methods these companies are focussing on are A/B testing, multivariant testing, customer journey analysis, user testing and cart abandonment.

Jones recommends using multiple tools for optimum analysis. He also maintains that call centres can be critical to process. Expedia track the top ten 10 for people calling the call centre and if these relate to problems on the Web site they know what needs to be looked at. Costs can then be decreased and conversion rates increased by, for example, addressing these issues in a FAQs section on the site.

“If you have somebody focusing on conversion you’re twice as likely to improve your conversion count”, Jones said. “For us it’s a key focus and for our affiliate network we’ve hired someone to focus solely on conversion and already we’ve seen gains”.

COMMENTS   Show All
Trent Blizzard
12/28/2009 5:15:00 PM
If you spend money on driving traffic to your web site, why wouldn’t you invest in making sure that your site converts and that you aren’t losing bookings to your competitors. Going into 2010, hotel web sites should have more than a few analytics programs running including a heat mapping program that will show you where your visitors are clicking and where you are losing them. We found out that a web site wasn’t resolving on all screens as it should, so a certain group was totally missing part of the navigation. Analytics data can be a gold mine – just think what you could be missing out on!
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