New Study Reveals the Impact of Travel Site Performance on Consumers

Akamai Technologies, Inc. has released key findings from a research study examining consumer response to travel site performance. The study, conducted by PhoCusWright Inc. on behalf of Akamai, is based on the feedback of 2,763 U.S.-based travelers about the status of their current online expectations and key elements of the online consumer experience. Overall, the results show that site performance is critical, as travelers expect quick page load times for travel web sites, and that active loyalty program members are more likely to have certain key negative reactions to technical issues.

Key findings from The "Consumer Response to Travel Site Performance" study conducted by PhoCusWright and Akamai include:

*    Three second rule— 57 percent of online shoppers will wait three seconds or less before abandoning the web site.
*    Younger travelers are less patient— Generation Y and younger travelers are less patient than older travelers when it comes to page load times, as  65 percent of 18-24 year olds expect a site to load in two seconds or less.
*    Prevention is key— A third of travelers would be less likely to visit a site after experiencing technical problems like slowness or errors on the page.  Business travelers are slightly more likely to have a negative reaction.
*    Loyalty is not forgiveness— Active loyalty program members are more likely than other travelers to indicate that they would not likely be influenced at all by technical glitches at 34 percent. However, the remaining 66 percent are actually more likely than others to have strong negative reactions.
*    Travelers tend to be multi-taskers— 59 percent of consumers do something else when waiting for a travel web site to load.  Nearly one in five (19 percent) open another travel site in a new window when made to wait.
*    Hidden fees may cost you— 43 percent of online shoppers have abandoned a booking because the final product price and/or fees were higher than they were willing to pay.

The study also examines travelers' reactions to technical issues. Findings reveal that many travelers are guided by their previous experiences with a particular web site, and for just over a third of consumers (34 percent), a technical glitch will lower their likelihood to visit a site again. Business travelers and loyalty program members are less tolerant of technical problems, and are slightly more likely to have a negative reaction to them. Research shows that these groups of online shoppers are also the most valuable customers for online travel sites. Thus, the stakes for site performance and streamlined, transparent transactions are even higher for companies targeting these segments.

"Travelers have an inherent penchant for intensive shopping because travel is not an everyday purchase— it's expensive and experiential," said said Carroll Rheem, director of research for PhoCusWright. "Therefore, travel companies that do not invest in speed and reliability essentially drive customers to their competitors."

In addition, findings state that consumers not only have varying patience levels, they also react to waiting differently. As with page loading times, the study finds significant differences when looking at results by different age groups. Younger travelers are more likely to engage in other activities— with 56 percent of 18-24 year olds waiting for loading compared to 77 percent of seniors. These results suggest that a poorly or slow-performing travel site can drive valuable shoppers away.

"The key takeaway from this study is that functionality, speed and usability standards for travel sites are moving forward, and travel companies must continually invest in these fundamentals to stay competitive, deliver revenue and satisfy customers," said Pedro Santos, chief strategist of e-commerce for Akamai. "We believe that travel web sites that can't deliver a fast, engaging and reliable experience are going to lose transactions and customer loyalty."

One of the additional industry trends that PhoCusWright discovered during this project is that smartphone adoption among travelers will increase significantly in the next few years and will cross the halfway point among travelers in 2010. Consumers are still in the early stages of mobile usage for travel with six percent who uses mobile apps or sites when shopping for travel.

PhoCusWright fielded the online consumer survey January 12-28, targeting the general U.S. population that has Internet access and travels for leisure. To qualify for participation in the study, respondents had to indicate that they had taken at least one leisure trip at least 75 miles from home in the past 12 months that included paid accommodations and/or air travel. Additionally, consumers were required to have played an active role in planning their leisure trips. As the survey instrument was online, it is assumed that respondents have Internet access.


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