Over the last few years, the travel industry has had a tumultuous time, but nothing has compared to the impact of Covid-19. There may be a lot of unknowns right now, but one thing is for sure, hotel owners need to come out fighting for their survival.
With over 20 years’ experience in business and primarily in digital marketing, my advice is that they should use this time wisely to think about the strategic imperatives related to their digital transformation especially in relation to mobile.
Consumer expectations (or rather the decrease in tolerance of a mediocre experience) and increasing use of smartphones are amplifying the need for mobile speed. We all understand as businesses the need for speed when it comes to mobile performance – no one wants a slow loading mobile web page, but it has always been very difficult to quantify the impact that speed has on business performance and ROI.
We instinctively know as consumers that digital experiences that are responsive and tailored to our needs have a direct impact on our behaviour, but there is a surprising paucity of research into the consumer impact of the cause and impact of this.
The empirical research in this field that is still quoted today is from Amazon studies dating back to 2006, and an Intuit study from 2013 that refers to the benefits of page loading time being reduced from 15 seconds to seven seconds. Today, we are measuring the commercial impact of 100milliseconds of delay as reported in ‘Milliseconds makes Millions’ our new report which analysed the travel, retail and luxury sectors.
Travel planning and buying:
The digital journey to booking travel is technically demanding on the consumer, as onsite tools need to be used to check prices and availability in the process of choosing the right slot or package. Typically, the task of booking has firm criteria of date windows and destination before the buyer gets to an appraisal of cost and luxury.
This consideration can lead to travel sites having long pages, multiple options, and enticing visual images to cross- and upsell, and in comparison to other sectors, consumers were more tolerant of these delays, due to a seeming acceptance of the need for travel sites to have more data.
However, there is clear evidence that reducing page loading speed encourages consumers to progress to the next stage in the funnel. Mobile traffic is growing in the travel sector, but conversion rates are way behind due to a range of factors, including consumers preferring the security and accuracy of finalising their experience on the phone with a sales consultant or on a desktop website. However, businesses should consider the broadest measures of behaviour when consumers are researching and comparing, prior to purchase.
Our headline finding is that just a 0.1s improvement in site speed across four core speed metrics – Max Server Latency, First Meaningful Paint, Estimated Input Latency, and Observed Load – delivered a 10.1% increase in conversion rate, a decrease of 5.4% in bounce rate on the product listings page, a 3% increase in page views per session and a 1.9% up lift in average order value.
The study shows that it is the combination of these factors that creates the uplift, because a combination of performance features drives positive change in progression through the purchase funnel on mobile devices.
When we looked at the actual journey a customer takes through the travel conversion funnel progression uplift can be seen incrementally culminating in a 2.2% increase in check-out completion. A 2% increase was identified at the add-ons stage where travellers’ are configuring their trips i.e. adding dinner and spa reservations or selecting room upgrades. So we would suggest that site speed has its greatest impact in the customisation & ancillary purchases steps of the funnel, after the visitors have chosen their base options, and so travel brands may need to prioritise the optimisation of this section of their user journey.
It’s a journey…
Brands that achieve efficiency of performance on their mobile sites do not do so by accident – they make the benchmarking of their site’s speed a priority across an organisation and introduce it as one of their primary performance indicators. They adopt a mobile-first mind-set, introduce the right processes, and allocate resources to constantly monitor and optimise speed. Improving site speed has a positive impact in pushing mobile users to transact, spend more and visit more page views per session.
Most crucially, to be successful you need to be careful not to be sucked into merely measuring your own mobile site, but you need to benchmark your performance against your competitors.
Consumers have a choice, and they want satisfying browsing and content consumption, simple paths to purchase and lots of credible help when faced with a barrier in their journey. If your site is slower than your competitors’, then these demanding consumers will desert your site and find one that works better for them – it’s as simple as that.
By Richard Wheaton, managing director, fifty-five London