Digital Travel

Online Travel Shopping Creates Purchasing “Stickiness


Increased Web site usability, improved digital travel purchase and personal data secu­rity, and greater confidence in self-pro­curing the “best” deals are solidifying the Internet as not only a valuable travel information resource, but also a criti­cal and convenient purchasing channel. Nearly three fourths of online travelers (72%) shop online and more than two thirds (68%) usually purchased via the Internet.


Online travelers have become channel loyal when shopping and purchasing leisure trav­el. Almost 85% of online travelers use one channel for both purposes (see Table 4a). In fact, the Internet has become so ingrained in their vacation process that two thirds (65%) of online travelers rely on it for both shop­ (19%) remain committed to offline channels for all of their vacation information and buying needs. Less than 10% of all digital travel users utilize a different channel for shopping and purchasing travel.


Digital Travel

This purchasing loyalty extends to all travel components. At least eight in 10 online travelers used the Internet to purchase indi­vidual and (the more complex) bundled travel components after shopping online. The greatest switching between shopping and buying occurs between online travel agencies and airlines. Because air is per­ceived as a commodity purchase, online travelers are easily swayed by lower prices to purchase directly from an airline. This “switching” (55%) occurs at a rate almost double that of other components such as hotels (31%) and car rental companies (24%) (see Table 5). Retail travel agencies are not viewed as a competitive threat to online travel agencies, as only 16% of online agency shoppers have switched to that channel.

Online shoppers are more loyal to sup­plier Web sites than online travel agency sites, as only 44% of online supplier shop­pers would switch and purchase travel from an online agency (see Table 5a). This loyalty extends to offline channels as well, as one third of all supplier Web site shoppers loyal to suppliers prefer to trans­act by telephone. This behavior exempli­fies not only real brand equity, but also the increasing ability of metasearch to drive supplier direct purchases, the pull­ing power of bonus miles for online sup­plier bookings, and the utility of offering two channels (Web site and phone) for purchase. With online purchasing becom­ing more routine and Southwest Airlines setting the precedent to discontinue bonus credits for online bookings, suppli­ers will need to revisit other strategic and promotional tactics to prevent churn to online travel agencies.

Overwhelmingly, the strongest rationale for buying travel via a different method than the one used for shopping was lower prices. Half of all digital travel shoppers (51%) switched to an alternative method when purchasing travel for this reason (see Table 5b). The next two most influential forces, convenience and selection, were each at less than 10%.