The hospitality industry needs to do a better job of managing their websites if they hope to attract bookings, according to a new study by iPerceptions, a research firm whose clients include Wyndham, InterContinental Hotels, and Choice Hotels International.
iPerceptions Second Quarter Hospitality Industry Report— based on input from over 123,000 site visitors across hundreds of hospitality sites— shows that four in 10 visitors were unable to complete the task they set out to do on the site, most frequently online booking and reservations.
Over 40 percent of would-be bookers said that they abandoned the booking process because of a usability problem with the booking engine or because of a technical/navigation issue in another section of the website. The study also shows that those who are online are relying on search engines rather than brand loyalty to determine their path to websites.
“Although the hospitality industry is a pioneer and one of the largest online industries, there is much room for improvement,” said Claude Guay, CEO of iPerceptions. “Social media and peer networks are changing the way consumers find and interact with hospitality brands online. The Hospitality Industry Report gives marketers actionable insights to improve their sites and the way they engage — and convert — their online consumers.”
iPerceptions said these results are directly in-line with data Forrester Research unveiled recently that consumers are "fed up" with booking their trips online. Their research shows that 15 percent fewer travelers enjoyed using the web in 2009 than did in 2007 and that just one in three U.S. online travelers feels that travel websites do a good job presenting travel choices, down from 39 percent in 2008.
Key findings from the iPerceptions Hospitality Industry Report include an overview of the biggest barriers to online booking, showing that hospitality websites are still struggling to convert on booking intent. Only 60 percent of would-be bookers actually completed a reservation during the course of their visits, the report says.
“While cost sensitivity plays a role in this drop-off, the report data suggests that the barriers to conversion have more to do with usability and technical hurdles," the report said. "Over 40 percent of would-be bookers reported that they abandoned the booking process because of a usability problem with the booking engine or because of a technical or navigation issue in another section of the website.”
Other Key Findings
Low satisfaction among researchers and rate shoppers: The overall industry score for Bottom Line — the attribute that measures cost sensitivity — continued to be the lowest-scoring attribute, with a score of 6.72. With gas costs and unemployment rising, hospitality marketers must be more inventive with their pricing and promotion strategies.
Customer satisfaction correlated strongly with visitor loyalty: Although they composed close to half of the visitor population, first-timers posted a score of only 6.85, compared to a score of 7.56 for frequent visitors. Hospitality sites are struggling to satisfy this drive-by traffic; search engines drove the most visitors (56 percent), so aligning site content with the top search keywords is of paramount importance, iPerceptions said..
The full report can be found at www.iperceptions.com/en/resource-center.