Continuing our series looking at the customer journey from search to checkout, here we’ll be concentrating on the vehicle hire industry.
However as Google is changing its algorithm to rank mobile friendly sites higher than non-mobile friendly sites, let’s take a look at the journey from a mobile point of view.
As I switch Chrome to ‘incognito mode’ which is the most like a secret agent I will ever become, we can see how the mobile SERP shapes up for “van hire”, a term only slightly more popular than “van rental” according to Google Trends.
Europcar is all over this term, not just in the paid listings but also in the organic results.
Europcar’s ad here is a thing of multichannel beauty. There’s Google Map integration, a mobile specific message saying that it’s quick to get a quote using you device and an integrated click-to-call button for anyone wishing to speak directly to a customer service agent.
On a desktop SERP, a brand wanting to succeed in search really should be aiming for the top five organic results, or placement within the paid search area. However on a typical mobile screen a searcher may only see two to three results, and these will mostly be made up of paid ads.
Scrolling down the page, we have a full screen of local map results…
Then it’s not until the third full screen that we can see organic results, which are dominated by other major hire brands such as Sixt and Enterprise.
Europcar is also bidding for the alternative term “van rental”, but it has significant competition from Hertz.
However the landing page for Hertz is far from mobile friendly.
Hertz must have made a mistake here, as the company does in fact operate a responsive quote retrieval form, which is accessible directly from its organic result for “van rental”.
However for its PPC ad, Hertz just provides a non-responsive landing page that, although is relevant to the “£13 per day” message in the ad, provides an illegible non-mobile experience that would make anyone immediately bounce.
How long after the new mobile-specific algorithm change comes into affect will Google start to include mobile friendliness in its Quality Score?
Here we have attractive ad from Avis along with one from comparison site RentalCars.com.
Comparison sites are beginning to encroach on the paid and organic results for vehicle hire in the same way that they dominate insurance results, so companies will have this to compete with along with the algorithm change in the very near future.
Here you can see that half of the top four organic results (Enterprise is above the fold) are from comparison sites.
This term is significantly more popular than “car hire” and Enterprise as it has done throughout all these search terms, manages to occupy a high ranking despite little in the way of evident PPC campaigns. Clearly its SEO is doing all the hard work.
Of particular interest though is Zipcar, a company that like Hertz, has a PPC ad placed but offers a poor non-mobile friendly landing page from that ad.
And just like Hertz, Zipcar does in fact operate a mobile friendly site, but has chosen to serve a non-mobile landing page. As I write this on the day before Google’s algorithm change, it will be interesting to see if this problem persists after the update.
The best of the bunch here is Europcar, and as it’s the most prominent paid result let’s see how quick and easy it is for a customer to get a quote or pay for car hire via mobile.
Firstly there’s the large text, a handful of well-spaced options that aren’t too overwhelming and there’s a clear indictor showing how long the journey through checkout will take.
Geolocation is also available to make your choice of pick-up as quick as two taps. If you want a different location, you just have to start typing and it will auto-suggest options for you.
The scrolling calendar tool is also very easy to use. Although I always prefer a ‘tick’ symbol or an ‘okay’ rather than a cross as it’s not always clear that this will input the selection.
Vehicle options are presented clearly, and sorted cheapest to most expensive. Buttons are also obvious and easy to tap.
Throughout the journey, details of your hire are always clear, as is the navigation and extras are opt-in rather than opt-out.
Once you’re through to the final page, personal details and payment are entered into a single screen to ensure unnecessary loading times don’t interrupt the crucial part of the journey.
Auto-fill is also enabled to make things even quicker.
This is an exemplary mobile experience, and one of the easiest online forms I’ve navigated. Europcar’s competitors should really look to this as a benchmark, particularly those that have yet to start operating a mobile friendly site.