Tuesday, 7 February 2017

OTAs are winning the battle for the customer

Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) are leading the competition when it comes to online engagement, particularly with regards to mobile traffic, according to new research from EyeforTravel and Jumpshot.

Over the last 18 months, hotels and airlines have been on a drive to win customer loyalty, but EyeforTravel and Jumpshot’s new Understanding the Travel Consumer’s Path to Purchase white paper shows they still have a long way to go. According to both clickstream data gathered by Jumpshot from more than a quarter of a million travel purchases and EyeforTravel consumer surveys, OTAs are winning more bookings than travel suppliers, and by a noticeable margin. 

In Germany, the UK and the US OTAs represent the largest vertical, taking a greater number of bookings than airline and accommodation brands. In the US, the paper compared clickstream data tracking purchases made on Booking.com, Expedia.com, Airbnb.com, Hotels.com, Delta, Southwest, United, Ryanair, Easyjet, Lufthansa, Emirates, Marriott, Hilton IHG and Wyndham. It found that OTAs were responsible for 42% of the bookings made in the period measured, against 39% for airlines and just 19% for hotel brands. 

In the UK and Germany, consumer surveys of nearly 4,500 travellers presented in the paper revealed that OTAs controlled 46.5% and 47.1% of the bookings made on web browsers across all devices in the two countries. 

Even when consumers finished their purchase on a hotel or airline site, they were more likely to have visited an OTA site along the way than a hotel or airline site. For example, 33% of German consumers who bought a flight through an airline also visited an OTA along the way but just 13% also went via a competitor airline brand.

Not only this but traffic is increasingly heading towards mobile, where OTAs are convincingly ahead. OTAs across the five countries studied – Brazil, Germany, India, the UK and US – all saw higher conversion rates than airline or hotel brands in the study. Alex Hadwick, Head of Research at EyeforTravel, emphasised how important this is going to be: “Mobile optimization is going to be critical for the survival of all travel brands. Firstly, mobile is in the ascendancy, becoming the primary means of travel research over the last year or so and this will increase as younger consumers, who are heavier mobile users anyway, become more prominent in travel consumption. Secondly,  search engines are also becoming more mobile-focused in how they rank sites. This is especially important as 9 out of 10 consumers visit a search engine in the final 15 sites before purchase, according to this research.”

EyeforTravel and Jumpshot tracked more than a quarter of a million travel purchasers across five countries through clickstream data and consumer surveys to build a picture of the path to purchase. The white paper details the how, where and why of the decisions people make before they book, and identifies what travel brands should be doing to capture market share.