Most people think of the stages of travel as packing, driving to the airport and flying to their destination, without realizing that travelers first go through a multi-step purchase cycle. Whether a traveler is dreaming about their next vacation or actually experiencing it, your website can cater to the needs of visitors in each stage of the traveler’s journey. Keep these five stages in mind for your tourism website design.
As the saying goes, everything starts with a dream — and the traveler's purchase cycle is no different. Think about the last trip you planned. How did you decide where to go? Maybe a commercial or something on your dream vacation Pinterest board inspired you. Once the idea of a vacation got in your head, you started talking with your significant other, friends or family about your idea. This is the start of the dreaming phase of the purchase cycle.
Users in the dreaming phase are looking for inspiration. Content should create an emotional connection, catch the user’s eye and plant the seed that they need to travel to your destination. Imagery should create an instant connection, drum up the desire to visit and leave a lasting impression on the user.
While video plays a role throughout the entire traveler’s journey, the highest percentage of users watch videos during the dreaming phase. Short, scenic, story-telling videos will capture the user’s attention, create an emotional connection and make them want to have a similar experience.
Online users are heavily influenced by their peers and the content they share, which makes user-generated content equally important during this stage. Oftentimes, one user’s past experiences will spark the idea for another user’s trip. By providing users with this content, your website will likely become the go-to resource when the user moves into the research phase.
On average, users look at 20 different websites while researching their vacation, so it’s vital for your website to cut through the clutter and stand out from the competition. Search engine optimization and a focused content strategy will help bring the right visitors to your site. Most travelers begin the researching stage with a search engine, so it’s important that your site ranks high for top keywords. Your content needs to portray you as an expert on the destination to gain the user’s trust and build credibility so you become a reliable resource.
Your site should also be structured to help users naturally progress deeper into the site and provide them with detailed, relevant information along the way. Users in the researching stage usually have a general location or activity they want to base their vacation around, but they haven’t figured out the specifics. Related content will allow them to connect the dots and plan their entire trip using your site instead of using other sites to continue their research.
Simplicity is key in the booking phase. Users want to be able to easily navigate through the booking process without having to jump through hoops to complete the process. User experience is critical at this stage, because if a site is too hard to navigate or the booking process has too many steps, users will likely go elsewhere.
Mobile optimization is important during all stages of the traveler’s journey, but it is crucial at this stage. Mobile booking has skyrocketed over the last couple of years and by the end of 2015, it’s estimated that 18% of all bookings will come from a mobile device, compared to only 5% in 2013. Last minute and same-day bookings account for over half of all mobile bookings, which makes it even more important for your site to be easy to navigate and for the booking process to be quick and painless. The mobile view of your site should include bigger buttons, simple dropdowns and an intuitive layout to make booking simple.
This stage relies heavily on the property owner to make their guest’s experience unforgettable, but your website should still keep users at this stage in mind. Even though the user is now on vacation, they may still look to your site for information to find alternative or additional activities or events to do while on their trip. Research shows that 53% of travelers use mobile devices to find on-the-go information about their current trip, which makes it important that you provide an easy, mobile-friendly way to find upcoming events, nearby activities and other location-based information to help visitors easily make on-the-go plans. You’ve already gained the user’s trust and have become a reliable resource, so your site will likely be the first website they visit. Having content that caterers to their needs is a must.
User-generated content dominates the commemoration stage of the traveler’s journey. Over half of travelers share their vacation photos online upon returning from their trip, so your site should make it easy for users to find popular channels and hashtags for social sharing. Simple contests or calls for entries help urge users in the commemorating stage to share their stories and photos with you while giving you an easy way to compile this content. Reviews also play a big part in this phase. Almost half of travelers look to their peers’ experiences, reviews and opinions when planning a trip, so it’s vital that you provide users with a platform where they can easily provide this information for future use.
In the early stages of a travel website redesign project, be sure to keep all five stages of the traveler’s purchase cycle in mind. This will ensure that users at every stage will find something of value on your site – and keep coming back for more.
Supporting Research: The 2014 Traveler's Road to Decision