5 eCommerce Challenges in Travel that Social Proof can Fix Today

21 Aug 2017

In a competitive travel market, it’s important that customers are confident that they’ve made the right decision across every element of their holidays to avoid disappointment and post-holiday complaints. More confident customers are also more likely to buy, and to go for higher-ticket products.

With competition always fierce, we’re delivering social proof product messaging to travel e-tailers who have become more sophisticated in their use of digital tools to optimize website conversions and overall spend.

We’re supporting some huge online brands to use social proof messaging to help their sites with eCommerce challenges that are specific to online travel. Our real-time messages provide detail about the number of purchases and other trend information about a particular hotel, destination or packaged holiday.

Here’s five top challenges:

1) High abandonment rates on high-end holidays

The dynamics of shopping on an online travel site versus a high street store are a challenge when it comes to convincing travelers to choose an expensive or luxury destination. Online customers don’t have the third party reassurance of talking to a travel agent face-to-face. If they’re in doubt, they’ll churn and move onto a cheaper location or to an alternative site.

We’re also still in times of relative austerity and exchange rate fluctuations. Consumers are very careful with their cash and while they’re are happy to shell out on small treats, high-end packaged holidays need more consideration. In these conditions, the travel sites we work with do all they can to inspire confidence while the customer is onsite.

Social proof messaging works by giving the consumer as much information about product popularity as possible. It markets big ticket holidays effectively, to give the traveler more reasons about why they’re right to choose the long-haul destination or luxury villa, and why the price is right (ratings, reviews, trending information).

Using behavioral information like “32 people have chosen Mauritius  in the last 24 hours” and “51 people rate this hotel 5*,” potential buyers have extra on-site support and third party reassurance to justify buying a major item.  By presenting a message that “1,853 people booked the Maldives in the past week” for example, you’re communicating that it’s a popular destination and that (even on more expensive breaks), they might get a bargain.

2) You need to reduce customer conversion time

It doesn’t matter whether the customer is buying online or on the high street, taking a long time to buy a holiday is normal. Research shows that customers might visit a holiday site nine or more times, prolonging the window between holiday research and sale.

This browsing is also likely to be spread out. We know that people visit a site or multiple sites when they’re unsure about an item, and that they’ll do this in bursts. The 2016 academic paper, “The Empirical Economics of Online Attention” (University of California, Harvard Business School and Indiana University), found that online sessions are typically ‘bitty.’ They’re done before dinner, before bed or heading into work. This makes influencing decision-making even harder for online travel agents.

With small windows of opportunity to effect the sale, social proof messaging gives customers the maximum information and provides an incentive to buy while they’re on-site.  It is also effectively used to create a sense of urgency when inventory levels are shown. We work with one all-inclusive package holiday provider to show popularity and scarcity messages such as “Only 5 rooms left on this date”, “100 people have looked at this hotel in the last hour” and “70+ people booked this destination in the last seven days.” These nudge the retailer’s customers to buy quickly.

3) You need to increase confidence in unfamilar destinations and reduce post-holiday complaints

Annual holidays are a big ticket item and no one wants to make a mistake with the most important fortnight of the year. Looking over recent cases for the Advertising Standards Authority, customers’ breaks have been spoilt by misinformation about local amenities, about on-site facilities, rooming and the destination itself.

From the point of view of the travel retailer, there is also the task of attracting travelers to new or unfamiliar destinations, or to places historically considered high-risk. Millions book through online travel sites, which become the target for any complaints if things are not as described or as expected.

Social proof messaging can help by giving travelers as much product information as possible while they’re on your site, setting expectations about quality and appropriateness from the start. Taggstar can also integrate with third party review data to summarise important information according to traveler type. A family holiday buyer for example might see a message that “100% of customers rated this destination 5 * for child friendliness,” providing important pre-sales customer support.

Where travel agents have holidays in less popular or marginal destinations, Taggstar provides customers with a real-time view of (for example) how many people booked there in the past month and how it was rated. Using factual information about whether crowd is choosing an unfamiliar destination or that they are starting to return to somewhere that was once considered high-risk, our messages can encourage buyers to consider new places or somewhere that they may have discounted because of safety concerns.

We’re working strategically with online travel agents to plan an experimentation roadmap to test and prove the effectiveness of different messaging types in reducing complaints and increasing satisfaction. 

4) Fierce New Years sales competition

More summer holidays are sold in the first few months of the year – most in January. There’s also been an upswing in last minute holiday bookings in uncertain economic conditions. In the face of this competition, the digital customer experience has become more important at each stage of the holiday buying process, from inspiration through to experience review.  One early adopter we’re working with already has a number of tools in play to improve conversion rates but specifically asked us to put social proof messaging in place before its January rush.

Our messages are shown throughout the web booking journey to influence sales at each stage. They’re proven to retain people on the site longer so that less people churn to competitors, and we also know that conversion rates in the peak sales month of January increased by 2.6% specifically because customers had seen Taggstar messages. That’s millions in extra sales revenue during the most critical month of the year.

5) Customers reseach on your site but buy elsewhere

The same 2016 academic study found that website browsing has become ‘filler activity.’ We’re online in between more important tasks like cooking, homework or socialising, but it’s not sustained. In these conditions, it’s normal that your customers might research a holiday on one site during one session, then buy on another in a different session. Of course, you want to be the site that they buy on and, in these short windows of attention, social proof messaging gives travel agents extra power to nudge buyers to complete the sale before they jump offline.

Review data is proven to be most effective for influencing travel sales.  We’ve formed partnerships to pull credible third party evaluation and recommendations from powerful travel review sites. We have partnered with BazaarVoice and are about to add another partner that can deliver personalized e-commerce advice to support customers who’ve wavering about whether a destination or property is right for them and their party.

Read our blog: Five E-Commerce Challenges in Retail That Social Proof Can Fix Today.

Find out more how Taggstar could support your travel e-commerce business, and ask about our free trial.  Contact us here. The leading international travel agents using our SaaS software can’t be wrong.

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