Survey reveals role of search engines in travel purchases

Study from Google / comScore reveals that only 10% of first visits to travel websites result in sale. 38% of sales take place four weeks after the initial visit. Search engines are being used in more sophisticated ways to find travel related web content.

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The internet is a major source for information on travel in the UK, and consumers are using search engines ‘in more sophisticated ways’, according a new Google/comScore study.

In the first three months of last year, around 20m people in the UK used search engines to look for travel related information, and many are taking their time to find out what they need to know before booking their holidays.

The study finds that, on average, customers are taking almost a month from first searching to actually making the purchase:

  • The average consumer makes 12 travel related searches, visits 22 websites, and takes 29 days before deciding on a holiday.
  • 45% of transactions take place four weeks or more after the first search.
  • People visit the website they eventually buy their holiday or other travel product from 2.5 times, though for tour operators’ sites, this figure is 3.9 visits.
  • Only 10% of purchases are made on the first visit to a travel website, while 38% take place four weeks or more after they first visit a website.

As with many other product related searches, web users are starting off with a search for generic terms related to the destination or travel product they are looking for. 54% of travel purchases started in this way, while 10% did not use any travel brand terms at all during their search.

Over a third of travel buyers are still using a generic search term in the final search before purchase, which suggests that advertisers can influence the consumer right up to the last minute.

29% start off their search for a holiday or other type of travel with a generic term, and move towards branded terms before they make a decision on which holiday to book.

According to Google’s Robin Frewer:
“This research proves travel searchers are becoming more brand fickle – spending a large amount of time researching their desired purchase, and considering offers from competing brands. The fact that users are using more generic search queries gives ample opportunity for brands to attract new customers – and brands that are not present during these searches are missing out on sales.”

The study tracked more than 20,000 people researching travel plans online from the first search to decision to make a purchase, tracking user behaviour on all major search engines in the UK.

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