Social media domains continue to be visited late into the travel funnel, with users regularly connecting with a social media site within 15 sites of their final purchase destination, according to the new "Understanding the Travel Consumer's Path to Purchase" white paper from EyeforTravel and Jumpshot. The research found that on average, 20 percent of travel consumers visit a social media site immediately before purchasing a vacation.
This used clickstream data gathered through research partner Jumpshot's panel of more than 100 million customers, tracking consumers who made a purchase on an airline, hotel or online travel agent brand in Brazil, Germany, India, the U.K. and the U.S.
Last year, HOTEL MANAGEMENT gauged how consumers book travel today. More than 90 percent of the more than 40,000 consumers surveyed said they go to the internet to gather information before booking. This include social media.
In all countries and purchase paths measured, social media sites were visited in at least 15 percent of the cases, rising to just under a quarter of those booking on OTAs in the U.K. and U.S., the white paper revealed.
Additionally, 6 percent to 12 percent of consumers visited YouTube in their prepurchase path, pushing the usage of social media up further.
The white paper notes that travel marketers should "continue to view social media as a useful marketing tool up until the point of purchase, but with a focus on programmatic advertising targeting offers that will attract clicks in the latter sections of the funnel. This is especially so because there is a strong possibility that a brand can pick up considerable tracking data in these latter stages to fully personalize an ad."
Pushing for Control
Within the past year, hotels have started making bigger moves to try to get whatever market share they have lost to OTAs and other websites. Hotels have unveiled discounted rates for members of their loyalty programs, hoping these lower rates will elicit more direct bookings and build their loyalty membership enrollees. They have also launched ad campaigns, as Hilton did with “Stop Clicking Around,” to showcase the benefits of booking directly on a hotel's website.
But Gary Isenberg, president at LW Hospitality Advisors Asset Management in New York, believes it’s not just comparatively shopping across price that draws consumers to OTAs, but also the ability to compare service levels and the experiences of other consumers.
“The push toward direct bookings is too little too late now because the consumer is already educated,” he said. “Travelers want to experience the local environment and shopping across multiple platforms allows them to see what’s available throughout a single destination rather than a single brand’s offerings in that destination. Brand consistency isn’t as attractive as it once was.”