Studies have shown that the online travel industry suffers from one of the highest shopping cart abandonment rates. According to Econsultancy, around 81% of travelers abandon their bookings online, compared to 68% in retail. This represents a huge revenue loss for online travel companies, which make significant investments into building their brands. Yes, many of those 81% are just looking around or doing research or comparing prices across different sites but if they are looking then remember they will be buying sometime soon too. So the question is: how do you keep them engaged over a period of time so that when the time for decision comes, they buy from you.
10 ways in which an online travel business can minimize booking abandonment
Before we answer that question, let’s look at some of the reasons why people abandon shopping carts in the first place. One of the major reasons is – ‘poor online experience‘
Some of the issues users often face on online travel sites are:
- Poor navigation
- Complicated checkout
- On-site technical issues(script errors/slow site loading speed/unresponsive design etc)
- Lack of payment options
The other major reasons behind abandoned bookings are Window shopping and a lack of provision for saving carts. As we mentioned above, you will always get window shoppers on your site and there’s not a lot you can do about that. What no travel site does is like what the e-commerce sites like Amazon do. You can add items to your cart and not sign them out.
So lets talk about some of the things you can do to minimize cart abandonment:
- Ensure your site has a user-friendly and mobile responsive design: Your site may be the first touch point for many of your customers, and if they struggle to use it, they will go to another site. So you need to make sure that the layout is very clear and easy to use. You also need to have a design that is mobile responsive, especially your booking engine and checkout page to be optimized for handheld devices, as a large number of people have started to make bookings on their smartphones and tablets and this number is going to go higher and higher.
- Save user shopping carts: Just because a customer doesn’t book instantly doesn’t mean you’ve lost them forever. Many users out there like to save items in their shopping cart and book them later. They don’t want a system where they can’t save their desired items into a cart, forcing them to search and add the same items all over again to book. They want a system where they can save flights/hotels/vehicles etc into a cart, and when they come back, they get updated prices for those items, saving them a lot of time and effort.
- Gently remind them of their saved carts: If you do allow users to save their carts, and they don’t checkout within 24 hours, don’t be afraid to send them a gentle reminder that their cart is sitting idle. You can send them a personalized email telling them that they’re seconds away from booking that flight or hotel for their ideal trip. If the price of the item(s) in the cart has dropped, notify them. The price could be the one thing keeping them on the edge and if in the meantime they find a better deal elsewhere, they’re very likely to book there. Saving their cart and notifying them of a price drop can make them book with you instead of your competitor. With reminders you need to be careful though that you’re not too pushy, as that’s likely to put them off.
- Display product availability upfront: Displaying the number of rooms left in a hotel, or the seats left on a flight can also motivate them to book instantly. Availability can be displayed both on the search results and on the checkout page. If they have saved the cart and haven’t completed the transaction within 24 hours, notify them of reduction in availability as people tend to respond to scarcity, I.e they are more likely to buy something urgently when they know it’s scarce and may not be available soon. Showing availability upfront also saves customers the frustration of searching for an item and then finding out that it’s not available. If their desired flight or hotel is not available, you can suggest them similar options as alternatives.
- Show number of bookings and customer testimonials on the cart and the checkout page: If the consumer has reached the checkout page, but is on the fence regarding whether they should complete the transaction or not, displaying the number of bookings you’ve sold for the flight, hotel or a package that the customer has added to the cart can be just the push they need. If you have Tripadvisor reviews integrated, you can also show reviews/testimonials related to their selected item on the booking page. This will tell them that other people who bought the same item from you had a good experience, which would inspire confidence in your brand. This can be particularly crucial for first time buyers, who may not be very familiar with your brand.
- Make the checkout process as easy as possible: As we mentioned in the beginning, one of the reasons why people abandon bookings online is a complex and time-consuming check out process. A very high bounce rate on the checkout page is usually a strong sign that your checkout process needs work. When asking for customer details, make only the most important information mandatory(eg name, email, date of birth, bank details etc) and leave all the other information optional. You can always ask for additional information later. Having a single sign-on feature would make the process even quicker for them as their details will automatically be pulled in from Facebook/Google etc and the form filled automatically so they won’t have to waste time filling it every single time. This option will also enable you to capture customer data which would help you personalize their booking experience. During checkout, you should also assure users that their information won’t be shared with third-parties and will be held in the strictest confidence. In addition, store the customer information and every additional traveler information for your CRM and easy retrieval on subsequent bookings.
- Offer multiple payment options: Each customer is different. Somebody might prefer to pay via bank transfer, another user may prefer paying by card, while somebody else might prefer to book online but pay in cash in person. For card payments, one user may use Visa, while another may use Amex. So it’s important to offer your customers as many choices as possible. If you don’t provide them with their preferred payment choice, they will most likely go to another site that does. You don’t want to lose customers because you only give them one way to pay!
- Display security logos and your contact info: It’s advisable to show third-party web security logos on the payment screen, such as VeriSign, as this would assure the user that their payments will be secure and help build trust, especially for users who are skeptical of booking online. Having your phone number and a customer support email address on the checkout screen will also help, as it would allow customers who are doubtful about something to contact you for more information. If possible, integrate a live chat feature so customers can get instant online support.
- Don’t hide any costs: One of the reasons a lot of customers abandon their carts is because the final price they are shown is different from the one they see on the search results page. All fees and charges, small or big should be shown to the customer upfront, so that they don’t get disappointed when they are ready to checkout. Price transparency builds trust and the lack of it kills it.
- Lastly – Test, Test and Test! : The importance of testing your site for bugs and UI/UX issues cannot be overemphasized. Testing should be a continuous process and not just something you would do before launching your site/app. Regular testing allows you to identify issues quickly enough for you to fix them before they cause too much damage. Monitoring the checkout page in particular for errors is essential as that can result in direct loss of sales. If you’re a small to mid-sized business with limited staff, it may be difficult for you to do continuous quality checks in-house. So it’s advisable to outsource your IT operations to an expert travel technology provider who will look after all your online travel portal needs, right from development to constant Quality Assurance and maintenance.
Conclusion: While a 100% conversion is implausible for any business, online or offline, you can certainly minimize your booking abandonment rate by deploying the methods discussed above. Most of these techniques don’t require a heavy investment and are quite easy to implement, but their effect on your bottom line can be huge. Customers WILL trust you and they WILL book with you, as long as you are able to inspire confidence and make your online booking process safe, secure and as easy as possible for them.
TravelCarma offers complete online booking systems, including attractive web portals with rich features like storable shopping cart, social sign-on, trip planner, multiple payment gateway support and a lot more. We’ve helped hundreds of clients across the world sell their travel inventory online and maximize conversions. To find out how we can help your travel business make more money, get in touch with us on firstname.lastname@example.org or visit us on www.travelcarma.com