The 4 Seasons of Travel Purchasing

Nov 28, 2016  |  By Peter Billias  |  

Understanding the dynamics of social media is critical to the success of today’s marketer.  In our Digital Travelscape series, we will examine the changing tides in digital marketing to highlight emerging trends that impact how travelers make buying decisions.  Follow Civilian throughout this journey and discover new insights and approaches to your travel & tourism marketing.

Simple everyday tasks like hailing a cab, ordering food, even getting a date, have all become accessible with the tap of a screen.  Even more complex tasks, like booking international travel, can be done while sitting on your couch, communicating with only robots (beep boop beep).  This week, we break down the numbers behind the consumer mindset during the 4 types of “travel moments that matter.”

Let’s geek out.

In July of 2016, Google published a travel report titled How Micro-Moments Are Reshaping the Travel Customer Journey. This 40+ page report crunches the data for booking travel online, providing inferential statistics and in-depth insight on how travel-brand marketers have been cooking up innovative ways to more effectively capture new business.  In general, when a consumer is investigating travel options, there are 4 types of “travel moments that matter.”  Dreaming, Planning, Booking, and Experiencing.  In today’s blog post we will discuss each “moment,” summarizing the findings of Google and providing some of our own unique Civilian perspective.  We encourage you to read the full report which can be accessed above.

4 Seasons of Travel Purchasing

Dreaming: Every traveler’s adventure begins as a dream.  This is the time spent searching online (~60% from a mobile device) for information (aka inspiration) about destinations that excite them.  During these moments, when it comes to making an impact on consumers, there are some important trends to keep in mind.

  • 33% of travelers haven’t decided on a specific destination;2
  • 67% of travelers are more likely to book with a travel brand that provides relevant information for the destinations they’re interested in;2
  • Pictures of a destination are important to more than 50% of leisure travelers;3
  • 64% of people watching travel-related videos do so when thinking about a trip;
    • 60% use these videos to narrow down their brand, destination, and activities;5
  • The most popular type of travel videos watched on YouTube are travel video blogs;6
    • 86% from YouTube creators, 14% from brands.4

Therein lies the opportunity.  Although video blogs carry significant influence over consumers, travel brands make up a small percentage of the community.  Try partnering with a social influencer to differentiate yourself from the competition.  These online superstars promote their very own user-generated content related to your brand, and provide the authenticity and trustworthiness consumers desire.  As a bonus, you get exposure to the thousands (maybe millions) of subscribers that person has. Win-win!

Additionally, “best time to visit [destination]” searches are on the rise.  Marketers should look for creative ways to interact with consumers and provide them with the information that they need.  A simple yet effective example of this would be to publish a blog article with that exact search title (i.e. Best Time to Visit Costa Rica), pushing relevant information out while leaving a positive impression of your business on the consumer.

Planning:  The key influencers during these moments are price, accommodation reviews/availability, flights, travel schedules, and activities.  Similar to the “dreaming” moments, consumers want/need convenient and relevant information when planning.  With the majority of searches coming from a mobile device, travel brands must ensure that their websites and apps are up-to-date and mobile friendly.  Optimize your brand to appear when consumers are entering common searches containing “hotels/car rentals/flights/activities” and your [destination].

Booking: The research has been done, information gathered, and the moment of purchase is upon us.  Up until this point mobile devices have dominated our micro-moments.  Oddly enough however, more than half of travelers make the switch to a desktop to double-check prices, and ultimately book.  Google blames anxiety and the limitations of mobile functionality as the reasons behind this shift in the purchasing process.

  • 69% of leisure travelers worry that they’re not finding the best price or making the best decision;1
    • Only 23% of leisure travelers are confident they can find the same information on their phone as a desktop;1
  • 54% of leisure and 69% of business travelers say that mobile limitations and user friendliness are the main reasons for booking on another device;7
  • 88% of travelers with smartphones would switch to another site or app if yours doesn’t satisfy their needs.8

Given the impatience and insatiable need for rapid information of today’s consumer, it comes as a surprise that travelers switch devices to a desktop before finalizing their booking.  This “device swap” leaves the door open for competing travel brands to persuade the consumer in a purchasing direction other than their mobile path.  To combat this switch, travel brands need to focus on delivering peace of mind to the consumer.

Some recommendations to accomplish this include:

  • Offering mobile booking assurances which guarantee that the consumer is getting the best possible price, or perhaps allowing customers to cancel with no penalties (restrictions pending)
  • Eliminate mobile booking roadblocks:
    • One-click booking
    • Assistance with traveler forms
    • Alternatives for finishing the transaction (click-to-call button)
    • Use Book on Google
  • Optimize your mobile sites and app.
    • 52% of travelers with smartphones switch sites or apps because of extended load times
    • 45% would switch if it takes too many steps to book or get desired information


Experiencing:  The itinerary has been set and we’re off!  Our job as a travel brand is over, time to celebrate!  Well, not quite…

  • 85% of leisure travelers decide on activities only after having arrived at the destination;3
  • Almost 90% of travelers expect their travel provider to continue sharing relevant information while on their trip;2
    • 67% of travelers feel more loyal toward a travel company that shares information during their trip and improves their travel experience.2
  • Only 23% of travelers say they have downloaded the app for the travel brands that they use most.2

Again, that final bullet point is a golden opportunity for travel brands.  Encourage consumers to download your application and provide them with useful and relevant information throughout the duration of their stay.  Strive to act as a virtual tour guide for travelers.  Word-of-mouth and brand loyalty will increase, especially among first-time visitors, if your travelers have access to insightful, local resources.

To briefly summarize the travel marketing advice we’ve gone over today:

  1. People want their information, FAST.  Provide relevant, useful, and engaging media for your travelers.  This is a never-ending process that begins with the “dreaming” moments, works through “planning, “booking,” and extends well past “experiencing.”
  2. Place an emphasis on video, particularly user-generated content such as a vlog.  Travel brands lack a presence in this area.  Elevate your business by coordinating with a social influencer or build your brand’s vlog from scratch.
  3. Travel is a mobile device dominated industry.  Optimize your websites and applications to function seamlessly for travelers on-the-go.
  4. Above all, focus on addressing problems faced by the consumer and offering solutions specific to your travel brand.

Civilian understands what sparks and fuels consumer movements in the travel & tourism sector.  Our weekly blog posts will explore the effects of social influencers, curating immersive escapes, the mobile first mindset, leveraging social sharing, and more.

Interested in more? Find the next installment of the Digital Travelscape Series here.

Social media is cool, and we bet you are too.  Let’s be friends, contact us.

1 Google/Phocuswright, leisure traveler study, base: U.S. leisure travelers, n=930, Oct. 2015.
2 Google/Ipsos Connect, travel playbook omnibus, n=1664, among U.S. travelers 18+, Apr. 2016.
3 Google/Ipsos MediaCT, “The 2015 Traveler’s Road to Decision,” base: U.S. leisure travelers, n=3,500, Aug. 2015.
4 Google/Ipsos MediaCT, “The 2015 Travelers Road to Decision,” base: leisure travelers n=3,500; base: business travelers n=1,500, Aug. 2015.
5 Google/Ipsos MediaCT, “The 2015 Traveler’s Road to Decision,” base: U.S. leisure and business travelers who watched/commented on travel-related video, leisure n=1,230, business n=87, Aug. 2015.
6 Google/Pixability, YouTube travel study, YouTube analysis, Global-English, Apr. 2016.
7 Google/Ipsos MediaCT, “The 2015 Traveler’s Road to Decision,” base: U.S. leisure/business travelers, n=599, Aug. 2015.
8 Google/Ipsos Connect, travel playbook omnibus, base: U.S. travelers 18+ who use a smartphone, n=1,304, Apr. 2016

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