Google updates the UK customer journey with latest travel data

Google updates the UK customer journey with latest travel data

By Travolution
By Travolution

The number of websites UK travel consumers look at before booking has dropped considerably, according to the latest Google data.

Nigel Huddleston, head of travel at Google, told the Abta Travel Convention in Croatia this week that the average is now 11 compared to around 20 just a few years ago.

However, the rise of mobile means around four to five sites may be added to that figure, he said. Mobile has a far smaller conversion rate and most firms adjust their figures to take account of this.

However, Google insight shows just how important mobile is becoming, with sharing – such as photos on holiday or ideas before booking – now becoming part of all of Google’s ‘Five Stages of Travel’.

“The fifth stage of travel – sharing – is now part of the entire process. People are sharing ideas at the very earliest stages of travel,” Huddleston said.

“We have research to suggest 86% of smartphone owners share photos on holiday and people look at social media every single day when on holiday.”

On desktop three out of four people use search and in any given month an average of 44% of the UK adult population is looking for travel online.

That figure is highest in February (48%) and lowest in September (39%), and on average people take 73 days to research their trip before booking.

In looking at 11 different sites, the average person completes 17 individual online sessions. Huddleston said this pointed to the increased important of brand association.

He said in the past a customer would return to a brand three times during the search and book process. A couple of years ago that figure was two.

The Google data shows that mobile and tablet accounts for 30% to 40% of total queries and four in ten people book offline.

In terms of research, 45% do it exclusively online, 8% exclusively offline and 40% combine the two, while the remainder do none.

Huddleston said: “We are one of the most sophisticated internet economies in the world, especially when it comes to travel.

“While the internet is really important in the initial search and journey overall, visiting stores and travel agencies comes up in the list of most influential aspects when it comes to purchase decisions.

“People want validation of their choice. If they want a family holiday by the beach they want to be two miles away on the other side of a motorway.

“Is it offering good value for money? Nobody wants to go on holiday and find out the person next to them has got it cheaper than they have.”

Delegates were told that, although advanced, travel has lost its leadership position online to the retail sector.

“One reason was we were forever trying to push our customers to the booking point when they were not ready to book. Very few sites do a good job of inspiring the customer.”

Huddlestone picked out easyJet’s recently launched Inspire Me tool as a good example of something he said Google was seeing more of.

Google has seen a huge rise in tablet traffic but around a third of this is being done while the user is sitting on the sofa at home, probably watching a second screen, the TV.

Huddlestone said the Brits love their smartphones and while it is more difficult to get conversions on these devices, sectors like hotels and some OTAs are doing well.

The data shows while 26% of Brits use smartphones to research, only 12% go on to buy on the device. Smartphone package holiday bookings account for just 3% to 4% of the sector.

Google is seeing increased use of other visual functions like maps and photo tours. It has added flight routes to Google Maps and 360 degree tours.

Voice search is the next big thing, Huddlestone said, before demonstrating how the experience is becoming a lot more intuitive and semantic.

“Technology is improving and we are trying to be a little bit more human in the ways we interact, a little bit like if you went into a travel agent.”

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Mobile could pose biggest threat to travel stores of the future

Mobile could pose biggest threat to travel stores of the future


By Travolution
By Travolution

The move by technology giant Apple to establish a high street presence should provide the inspiration for the bricks and mortar travel stores of the future, but mobile could emerge as their biggest threat.

The fourth annual WTM Vision half-day conference in London debated the future of the high street with David Burling, managing director of Tui UK and Andy Washington, managing director of Expedia taking part in a panel debate.

Burling used the example of Apple, which has a network of stores throughout the UK in prime locations showcasing its products, as an example of how the future of the high street might look.

“The travel agency has evolved and it will keep evolving. If you have bookings that can be transacted across different channels the stores of the future may be different from the stores of today.

“What is clear is that the quality of the service and advice that good travel agents can give is still very important.

“Channels are becoming more blurred. The technology will become more available for consumers to start the booking in one channel and finish it elsewhere.

“The strength of the retailer is really around the product knowledge and customer service but there is also a role for the stores of the future offering more inspiration at the very early stages of the booking.

“Who would have believed that Apple of all people would have decided to open a load of retail stores?”

Mike Greenacre, former managing director of Co-operative travel  and a delegate at today’s event agreed.

“I very much agree with Dave about inspiration. The high street has greatly evolved and I think it will continue. The big change that will come is how retail stores embrace this technology.

“Where there is an Apple store it’s the busiest shop in town by a long long way.”

However, Andy Washington, managing director of Expedia UK, said: “The biggest threat to the high street us mobile.

“What’s stopping me going into a high street store getting them to do all the work and then googling it on my mobile to find it cheaper?”

Burling said Tui UK’s strategy is based around its differentiated product offering that stems from its close partnerships with hoteliers that has seen it develop a number of resort concepts.

“We want to be involved in designing a particular hotel experience with our partners. By doing that we get a better consumer experience, better repeat business and better reviews.”

Burling said concepts like its Splashworld water park resorts were showing “huge growth”.

“It’s identifying the customer requirements and working with hotel partners. We can do that because of our scale.”

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Google says shift to mobile warmed up as Britain basked

Google says shift to mobile warmed up as Britain basked

By Travolution
By Travolution

The recent warm weather in the UK has help to accelerate the move away from desktop search to mobile, according to Google.Giving an update this week at the latest Travolution Editorial Advisory Board meeting Robin Frewer, Google’s director of travel and finance, said mobile growth was continuing.

Tablet growth is particularly marked at 100% year on year, said Frewer, while mobile is growing at 70%. Overall, mobile now accounts for just over 40% of travel searches on Google, with tablet accounting for 18%.

“This is driving people to think about mobile in a different way,” Frewer said. “While it was sunny people were willing to travel and they were searching but they might start on a mobile and finish on a desktop.”

Tracey Cheffey, executive producer at Travelzoo, said in the first week of June the site saw a 40% increase in mobile traffic.

Operations and IT director at Attraction World, Russell Parr, told the meeting that mobile traffic, including tablet, was now at 30% compared to just 12% a year ago.

Frewer said the warm spell had seen demand for travel reduce but Parr said that there were good signs for 2014 with a significant shift to early bookings.

And Andy Washington, Expedia UK managing director, said the online giant had seen signs of the short-haul Mediterranean market come back after an initial dip.

“The market has come right back. Even though we have had hot weather there is still pent up demand that will keep the market up.

“One tour operator I looked at has 1,600 holidays to sell in the next week, one had 1,600 to sell the next day. There is still plenty of availability in the school holidays. Prices are pretty good.”

Washington added that during the slump at the start of the heat wave – which On Holiday Group chief executive Steve Endacott claimed was as high as 20% – mobile traffic dropped by half that of desktop.

Mark Maddock, UK managing director of, said the switch to mobile has been most acutely seen for its lifestyle product including restaurant, spa and theatre bookings. He said this was sitting at 60% and outpacing mobile share in travel.

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