A few weeks ago Econsultancy published the first half of my in-depth look at how Expedia converts visitors into customers.
Part one looked at traffic from organic search and direct type-ins, while this article concludes my analysis with a look at traffic from PPC and social (organic and paid).
Scenario #3: Organic social media traffic
Our Texas man now decides to skip Google search altogether. Instead, he casually browses Twitter for news and a bit of travel inspiration.
That’s when he stumbles upon this tweet from Expedia:
And lands on this page:
How does Expedia turns this visitor into a customer?
Let’s find out.
The landing page
On Expedia’s Twitter profile, the homepage advertised isn’t Expedia.com; it’s viewfinder.expedia.com – Expedia’s travel blog.
There are no direct prompts, pop-ups or links to turn traffic from the blog into customers. Instead, the blog is focused more on building the Expedia brand.
Landing on the blog, you see that there’s a separate tab for “Destinations”. One of the destinations listed here is New York City:
Clicking on this link in the dropdown menu, you see a list of blog posts for different things to do in NYC:
Note that there still isn’t a call-to-action here – the goal of this blog is to educate and entertain users, not to push them products.
Once you click on a blog post, however, you see two things:
1. A hotel deal highlighted in the sidebar (although for some reason, this post shows a deal for Salt Lake City, not New York City).
2. A link to ‘New York City’ within the first paragraph of the post.
Selecting a flight
If you click on the ‘New York City’ link in the blog post, you’ll land on the flight booking page:
Two things to note here:
- The default landing page is “Bundle Deals”, not flights or hotels.
- The landing page title is “New York Vacations”.
Expedia assumes that since the user is coming in from the blog, he is looking for vacation packages and not just a separate hotel/flight deal.
The landing page is heavily customized to focus on New York City. There’s a short description and custom video about the Big Apple:
A travel guide:
And a list of top rated hotels and flight deals:
The landing page ends with a CTA for booking flights/hotels/rental cars:
Searching for a flight/hotel
Since the landing page is for “New York Vacations” and not just flight tickets, using the search takes us to a different landing page for selecting a hotel and a flight:
This is pretty much a masterclass in conversion optimized design:
1. Upsell: Expedia subtly reminds you that you can have a more comfortable trip by upgrading your flight class.
Since Expedia knows that you are searching for vacation packages, comfort and not cost is likely your top concern.
2. Countdown Timer: The “Deal of the Day” with the countdown timer is a great way to show scarcity and compel action.
3. Social Proof: By showing the number of people viewing a listing right now, and the total number of reviews, Expedia gives you social proof of the hotel’s quality.
4. Scarcity: “Only 2 tickets left” is a good example of how Expedia uses scarcity (real or artificial) to compel action.
After you select a hotel, you’ll be asked to pick a room on a new page:
Note the number of ratings/reviews on this page. Expedia has collected reviews from Tripadvisor, its own platform, as well as a “% Recommended” rating.
All of this is compelling social proof for choosing a hotel. After all, research shows that travelers read up to 12 reviews before selecting a hotel.
If you want further proof of the hotel’s quality, you can scroll down further and see “Verified Reviews” from Expedia’s own customers:
After you’ve selected a hotel, you’ll be asked to select a flight for your vacation package.
This page is decidedly different from the flight selection pages we saw earlier. However, these changes are largely cosmetic; the user experience remains largely the same.
There’s not much to note here except for the “Best Price Guarantee” banner and textbox, as well as the “Only 3 Tickets Left” scarcity alert.
Booking the flight/hotel
Once you’ve selected the departing and returning flight, you’ll have to confirm the booking.
This page is again different from the flight confirmation pages we saw earlier:
There’s the usual “Best Price Guarantee” banner and the scarcity push at the top of the page, but we’ve covered that already.
There’s also a visual indicator of your savings – something most retailers now do as standard.
However, there are a lot of upsells here as well. Scroll further down the page and you’ll see upsells for car rentals:
Followed by upsells for different local activities:
And just before you click the ‘Continue Booking’ button, you’ll see a prompt to purchase travel insurance as well – something Expedia seems to push heavily for most customers.
Paying for the flight
After entering the passenger information, you’ll be taken to the payment page.
This is similar to the payment page we saw earlier, except now the travel insurance upsell is pitched even more strongly:
Besides the conversion-focused design and copy choices we covered earlier, there are a few more things that stand out here:
- The “Don’t Miss Out!” FOMO warning is highlighted in an even bolder text.
- The more expensive insurance – $53/person – gets prime screen real estate, as well as more compelling copy and visually arresting design (bold text, yellow checkboxes, and green background).
- Notice the “Most Popular” tag right next to the more expensive insurance package.
The rest of the payment page is still the same with a simplified payment process and a prompt to create an Expedia+ account.
On to paid channels…
That covers the customer journey for users coming in from one social channel – Twitter.
This leaves all users acquired through paid advertising. So below, we’ll see how Expedia captures and converts PPC traffic.
Scenario #4: Paid search traffic (AdWords)
We’re back to our Texas guy, except that he’s now abandoned social media as well. Instead, he goes back to look up flights to NYC on Google.
Because he just wants to book flight tickets, he starts off by searching for “flight tickets”.
One of the first (paid) results he sees is Expedia:
Let’s see how Expedia converts this visitor into a customer.
The landing page
After clicking on the ad shown above, this is the page you’ll see:
This is exactly the same as the search feature on the Expedia homepage which I’ve already covered before.
After entering your flight route, and hitting ‘Search’, you’ll see the same flight selection page as you saw earlier.
Interestingly, if you’ve stopped by this page before, you might see an alert notifying you of any price changes, like this:
Booking the flight
Once you select a flight, you’ll see a flight summary on the next page:
This is just like the page earlier (note the “41 people…” social proof pop-up).
The rest of the booking process is just the same, so I won’t dive deeper into it.
What this breakdown shows is that Expedia uses the same process to convert a user from paid search as it does for an organically acquired user.
There is, however, another popular paid channel for getting customers: Facebook.
In the final scenario, let’s look at how Expedia captures and converts users through remarketing on Facebook.
Scenario #5: Facebook ads traffic
The allure of Facebook’s distraction-machine is ever constant, even for our Texas guy booking a flight to New York.
Instead of finalizing his purchase, he decides to look at what his friends are doing on Facebook.
After scrolling through his feed, he sees a familiar logo as a “sponsored post”:
This ad is a result of Expedia’s remarketing efforts. Expedia tracks every user on its site and knows when someone skips out on a purchase.
Thanks to retargeting, it can reach these people again as they browse the web, particularly on Facebook.
How does Expedia convert this user into a customer? Let’s take a look.
The landing page
Let’s take a look at Expedia’s Facebook ad again:
Expedia knows that the last hotel you looked at was Hotel Sofitel in NYC when you were searching for vacation packages.
So this is the first hotel it shows you in the Facebook ad.
Clicking this hotel’s link takes you straight to the hotel booking page. Here you’ll have to enter the date of your journey to see room prices:
Take note of the alerts at the bottom of the page. These act as social proof, showing the customer that there are actual people viewing and booking this hotel.
Booking the hotel
Once you’ve selected the dates, you’ll be taken to the room selection page.
Interestingly, instead of highlighting the more expensive option for $520 (which even has a ‘sale’ tag on it), Expedia pushes the $468 option.
Also note the “It only takes 2 minutes” label right below the booking button – Expedia wants to assure you that booking the hotel wouldn’t eat into half your day.
Once you hit the ‘Book’ button, Expedia will ask whether you want to pay online or at the hotel itself.
Choosing the online payment option takes you to the payment page:
You’ve seen this page before, but I still want to highlight a few things:
1. Scarcity trigger at the top of the page compels action. Expedia asks you to “act fast” else the price of the hotel might change.
2. Sign-in bribe in the form of Expedia+ gives users a reason to sign-up for an Expedia account.
3. Social proof reassures customers that others have booked this hotel recently.
4. Security assurance right before customers enter their payment information helps negate customer fears.
So that’s it for Expedia’s Facebook ads conversion strategy – at least one of them.
Understand that a company like Expedia would likely have hundreds, if not thousands of conversion funnels. You’ll likely see different variations of the pages above if you were to go through this exercise yourself.
What you should take away from this teardown is how Expedia uses conversion focused design, copywriting and psychology tactics such as scarcity and social proof to convert visitors into customers.
These principles hold true across verticals. It doesn’t matter whether you’re running a three-person startup selling shoes or a billion dollar ecommerce store, you can use the same CRO principles to increase conversion rates.
For more on this topic, see: