The time between Christmas Day and January is peak holiday booking time, as anyone who saw an ad break on Boxing Day can probably attest to.
In fact a recent report by Hotels.com predicted that traffic to UK booking websites would peak at 8pm on 28 December, a Sunday night which for most people would be their last evening before heading back to work the following day.
The Sunday night surge isn’t uncommon. Skyscanner revealed last year that it sees a regular spike in searches on its mobile app at the end of each weekend throughout the year. Whilst the peak time for flight bookings is Monday lunchtimes between 12pm and 2pm on a desktop computer.
Clearly we’re happy to research holidays on a mobile device, but not quite ready to commit to paying for one on our smaller screens. It’s either that or the Monday morning grind is just what we need to tip us over the edge.
According to the Telegraph, Thomson and First Choice reported record traffic over Christmas and Boxing Day, with nearly 940,000 researching holidays on the internet. A 30% rise on last year.
To ‘drill down’ into the stats even further, the most popular time for holiday searches on Boxing Day was apparently between 9pm and 10pm during the Birds of a Feather Christmas special. Although this may be down to the characters flying off to the Canary Islands rather than a desperate need for viewers to find something better to do while it was on.
In order to capitalise on this December to January peak, travel companies need to make sure its websites are making the online customer journey as quick and painless as possible and that holiday information is easily accessible and searchable.
Let’s take a look at some key features that travel sites should have.
Straightforward search filters
Such as these from Secret Escapes, which serve you destination results updated in real time based on the boxes you tick.
Mr and Mrs Smith has a predictive search which provides results based on hotel names, the city as a search category and other hotels within that city.
Huge beautiful images
Airbnb showcases its users locations incredibly well with screen-filling glory. You’re also not bombarded by rows upon rows of thumbnails, just a handful of well-chosen pictures, which you can cycle through at your own pace.
An integral part of all retail experiences, consumer reviews are an effective sales drivers, and a trusted source of information for users, unfortunately very few hotel brands seem to use them as our editor Graham Charton discovered in September.
Graham went on to suggest that people know sites like TripAdvisor exist and, if sites don’t have reviews, they’ll find them there anyway. Certainly aggregator sites are less concerned about negative reviews than hotel chains.
Hotels.com uses review scores on the homepage and search results pages, with links to the individual reviews via the text…
Search results can also be filtered by star rating.
If you haven’t settled on a destination yet, a favourites list is a very helpful tool, which allows you to remember the places that briefly took your fancy earlier in your search.
Voyage Prive has a favourites button clearly positioned at the top of each listing, as it recognises that a great deal of its customers are browsers without a set destination in mind.
Simple, idiot-proof calendars
Skyscanner has a great easy to view calendar for arrival and departure dates, which pops out off the departure and return fields. Also note the bright green selection colour which stands out clearly, the retention of previous and next months days and simple today, tomorrow and in a week buttons.
Clear pricing without hidden fees
Nothing makes a visitor bounce quicker than unexpected charges and taxes. Despite its insistent, upselling tactics, EasyJet is clear about its pricing throughout the customer journey.
Use evocative and interesting copy
Many different operators are offering holidays to similar, if not identical destinations, so stand yourself out from the crowd with some well written descriptions.
As discussed in five evocative examples of ecommerce copywriting Onefinestay has a particularly poetic leaning.
Google map integration
It’s helpful to see available holidays laid out on a map, especially one that’s fully interactive and lets you see the details of the destination selected with an arresting image.
Finally let’s go back to Graham Charlton and his post on Airbnb…
Creating a great user experience is wasted if your checkout contains various barriers to purchase and travel sites do have a habit of over-complicating checkout.
Airbnb deals with registration well, making it as painless as possible, and continues the good work with a clear and simple checkout form.
The form is well designed, data entry is easy enough and there are no unnecessary form fields or conventions on things like postcode formats.