Catchi managing director Cornelius Boertjens is an expert on optimising websites to operate so that they convert more of your online visitors into customers.
We chat with Boertjens about what travel agents need to be doing to improve their conversion rates and the common mistakes he sees.
1. Why is conversion rate optimisation (CRO) important for travel agents to consider?
The travel industry is a highly competitive industry and keywords on Google Adwords are getting more and more expensive. This means travel agents can no longer simply rely on buying keywords and running search engine marketing campaigns to drive traffic to their site. You also have to also ensure the site and landing pages you are driving the traffic to is converting these visitors into leads and sales (e.g. bookings). People do shop around a lot and when they land on your site, it’s up to you to ensure they stay. Travel agents who do this well have a distinct advantage over the ones who don’t as they are the ones growing their business and experiencing positive ROI on their digital campaigns.
2. What mistakes do you see many/some travel agents making with their websites?
One of the big mistakes we see is trying to show everything they offer on their homepage, often using a slider image – which, we know for a fact from years of optimization work, decreases conversion rates. This often comes from having an offline mindset when working on their website. It’s not uncommon to see brochures being replicated online, having a list of all the offers and deals on the page.
Another mistake we see them make is copying each other so they become just another booking site. We see them focus on selling flights for example, but people often just use that to find a fare comparison and then go to the airline’s website directly to check if they really got the best deal (and then book on the airline’s site) or they go to the big international sites like Expedia and Hotels.com. Even the combination of airline bookings with Airbnb is a threat to travel agencies (mainly for short stays and business trips). Globally, around 75% of all travel is booked online and the 25% of travel booked offline is mainly focused around the more complex (and expensive, higher margin) trips with families to multiple locations. If this is the case, why aren’t travel agents’ websites doing a better job in educating visitors regarding their unique value proposition, explaining them why they should book via them and not an OTA? Instead, most seem to compete on price alone, which is pretty hard to win/convert visitors.
Last but not least we see travel agents embrace mobile by making their sites mobile responsive, which is good. However, nowadays you really want to start optimizing for the experience and not the device. Mobile is mainly used to start researching potential destinations (e.g. someone stands in the rain at the bus stop and wonders how much it would be to spend a week in Fiji). By getting a better understanding of desktop vs mobile behavior, we can start optimizing and personalizing the mobile version for what the visitors want in a certain situation (where they are at in the buying cycle).
3. What are your top 2 suggestions for travel agents who want to increase their leads/sales through their website? What should they work on with their site, if they only have limited time/budget?
Above all you should really start using conversion rate optimization if you don’t do so already. Implement an A/B split testing tool and make sure you run split test to optimize the site, continuously working on improving your site. You will also need to make sure you don’t offer them too many options and that there is always a clear call to action to complete the purchase and a “next-best-offer” if they decide to bail out.
4. You did a lot of great work with Air NZ in helping optimise their website – any learnings from this client related to our audience that you could share with us?
One of the big learnings from working with Air NZ is that the right images can have a huge impact on a deal’s conversion rate, but you often don’t know which image this is unless you use A/B split testing and create different variations to test the effectiveness of each image. With some experiments, just replacing the image with a (tested) better image increased conversion rates more than 10%. Another big learning is that you have to have proper ecommerce tracking in place and gather heat map and screen recording information on top of that, feeding learnings from this back into your optimization programme. But it’s all worth it!
5. Personalisation is a huge trend at the moment – making sure your direct marketing is personalised to different segments of your target market. What advice do you have for travel agents around this?
I would highly recommend travel agents learn everything there is to learn about personalisation and advanced online segmentation before jumping on the bandwagon. You will need to get a proper plan in place before you start personalisation. What does success look like? Get some proper help and advice from people who have done this before, although they might be hard to find as there are currently only a handful us in New Zealand and Australia who have experience with creating effective personalisation programmes. As a business, we constantly bring people over from overseas to help our clients set up CRO and personalisation programmes because there is so much demand for it.
Cornelius is the managing director of digital conversion specialist company, Catchi. He and his team of 12 help medium to large businesses convert online traffic into online sales and leads. Catchi has offices in both Auckland and Sydney and counts Genesis Energy, Air New Zealand, Southern Cross Health Society, Les Mills International, Ticketek and Mitre 10 among its customers. Their work with Spaceship Rentals resulted in a 25% increase in online sales; Stray saw a rise of 28% in their e-commerce conversion rates; and Consumer’s overall revenue had a huge uplift in just 9 months. www.Catchi.digital