Online Travel Shopping Creates
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.
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%.