The UK’s online shoppers show very little brand loyalty when it comes to booking holidays online, with 90% using a different travel provider every time they book, according to a new report.

Tealeaf’s ‘The ebooker: understanding how travel customers use the web’ report contains a survey of 2,000 UK consumers, looking into their habits and motivations when booking holidays online. It suggests that providing excellent customer experience online can be the key differentiator. 

Researching and booking holidays online

The internet is now a key part of the holiday research and booking process. 37% of British adults said they conduct all of their holiday research online, and 26% make their booking online. 

Holiday research online can be a lengthy, and most start their search tow to four months in advance of purchase, visiting an average of four different travel sites during the process.

Online holiday bookers also require plenty of reassurance, as they revisit the website three to four more times before completing the transaction to double check details and build confidence in their choice. This suggests that travel websites need to make details clearer, and also provide clear contact details so they can answer any customer questions. 

What customers want from a travel website

60% of respondents said price was the most important aspect of a positive online experience, while 32% cited that the destinations on offer were important, while 23% are looking for a wide range of holidays. 

However, other factors cited by respondents related to website usability. 44% felt that an easy to navigate site was crucial, while 23% wanted an error-free experience when searching for and booking travel online. 

Brand loyalty

Just 12% of respondents said they book their holidays with the same operator every time, and many will book different parts of their holidays on different sites to get the best deal. Just 14% said they book all the components of their holiday on the same site. 

What features do customers want to see on travel sites? 

Travel sites can help to convert customers by providing information to help them decide on a destination. 

Customers are keen to see more user generated content on travel websites, with user reviews, 58%, independent reviews (53%) and user ratings (42%) the most important features. 

Photography and video can also be a valuable tool for holiday sites. 35% want to see official pictures, 26% favour user generated photos and videos, and 8% official video. 

How can travel sites appeal to these ‘ebookers’? 

In such a competitive marketplace, when customers have very little brand loyalty, online travel firms need to provide the best possible customer experience, but also need to be flexible enough to appeal to different kinds of customers. 

According to internet psychologist Graham Jones:

Holidaymakers want one of two things – an escape or a new experience. Online, the website must match those desires if it is truly to connect. But it must do more than that. Travel websites also need to build trust and confidence – which are powerful motivators for ebookers.  A site which lets you down or performs badly is naturally going to impact your confidence in the brand’s ability to deliver a perfect holiday.

‘The ebooker: understanding how travel customers use the web’ can be downloaded here