The travel industry is competitive.
This case study breaks down one of the most successful travel sites in history: Booking.com. We explore how they use personalization to maximize conversions.
We'll also share relevant studies that substantiate these strategies. Lastly, for those interested, we'll share how you can replicate these techniques on your own site.
Onsite Personalization Techniques for the Travel Industry: Breaking Down Booking.com
1. Welcome Returning Visitors
Recognizing and adapting to returning visitors is a common theme for us.
Our last study showed how returning customers:
From the study:
“Getting that first visit is like planting seeds. It is a lot of effort and work and to prepare the land i.e. create the conditions to get a customer on site.
Returning visits takes that customer from seed to fruit bearing tree. All the profit happens as you are able to bring the customer back and begin learning, engaging with, and converting that lead.”
Here, Booking.com does a fantastic job recognizing returning clients. When I first come back to the site, they welcome me. The copy is personal. Most beautifully, they give me a clear reason to login.
Instead of simply displaying a login button hidden in the far right corner of the page, they take the opportunity to reiterate their value proposition: "Sign in to see deals up to 50% off".
How do you welcome returning customers who aren’t logged in?
2. Leverage Geolocation Personalization for Anonymous Visitors
Booking.com understands the power of personalized recommendations.
Directly underneath the search bar is a recommendation widget. As we will see, they personalize these recommendations in real time.
The question is, how should you personalize recommendations when you haven't gathered any data from your customers yet?
Upon landing, Booking.com knows where I am.
Based on my IP address, they create recommendations. My guess is that these recommendations are the most frequently searched for travel destinations from people in my current location of Omaha, Nebraska.
Previously, we studied how effective personalization can be on recommendations.
You can see the full study on personalized recommendations here
Looking at over data from 300 randomly selected clients, we found that recommendations accounted for 31% of eCommerce revenue. In fact, customers who engage with recommendations have a 70% higher purchase rate.
The kicker though is how personalization boosted conversions. Personalized recommendations outperformed generic/static recommendations by 170%.
Geographic personalization is a fantastic way to create relevant offers without knowing a lot about your customers.
There are actually multiple ways you can personalize your customer’s journey with minimal information. The first is through onsite personalization. We showcased how one of our clients is doing that through targeted messaging.
Above, Skandium is presenting personalized message bars to new customers. The message changes depending on the location. For example, they address a common concern for US shoppers about import duties, while conveying shipping deals to local customers (full case study here).
The second way, which is how Booking.com does it, is via personalized recommendations.
While you can personalize recommendations in a multitude of ways, here Booking.com selects geo-location as the primary way to select which offers to present.
Implement Geo Recommendations: Request a demo to see how Barilliance can replicate these same recommendations here.
3. Increase conversion rates by creating trust with live notifications
Booking.com boosts conversions by leveraging a number of social proof mechanisms.
Depending on the current offer, they highlight various aspects to get browsers to pull the trigger today. The goal is two-fold:
To do this, Booking.com uses a variety of social proof messages. In the image above, they showcase that 3 other visiors are considering this hotel right now.
They also place a tag on the hotel that it is in "high demand". and substantiate that claim by letting me know it was booked 3 times in the last 24 hours.
Both of these tags create trust that this is an incredible opportunity.
4. Increase conversion rates by creating urgency with live notifications
In addition to trust, Booking.com does a great job creating urgency in through social proof.
In the first image above, they let me know that there is literally only one room left for my dates. Booking.com also removes risk by specifying that this is a "risk free" opportunity.
Booking.com makes use of sold out rooms as well. Instead of filtering them out, they take the chance to further solidify the need to act now. The use of copy is fantastic.
"You just missed it!" maximizes the sense of loss. Loss aversion is a well known psychological bias. They further create a sense of possible loss by saying "Your dates are popular".
The CTA button copy on available rooms puts an emphasis on the same point: "See our latest available rooms".
Together, these social proof elements create a need to act now instead of continuing to shop.
Unfortunately, the travel industry possesses some of the lowest conversion rates of any business.
A study released by Statista shows that smartphone browsers in the US convert on only .7% of their sessions, 2.4% on desktop. These figures don't improve much in other regions.
Using various forms of social proof to create both trust and urgency helps improve these metrics.
How to replicate Bookings.com Social Proof Strategy
Barilliance’s Live product presents real-time notifications. Better, we'll automatically apply A/B testing to determine the best messaging for your audience. See a demo here.
6. Make Relevant Offers by Personalizing Recommendation in Real Time
After my initial search, I went back to the homepage to see how Booking.com incorporated my session data into their offers.
They did so in three major ways.
The most obvious are the recommendations. When I first visited Booking.com, they only knew my location. Therefore, they did their best to present offers that were relevant, based on other travers from my city.
There was no way for them to know that I was interested in visiting Puerto Vallarta.
But, as soon as I initiated a search, I revealed an affinity. In this case, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Going back to the homepage, Booking.com updates the offers they make with this new information.
Instead of offering "best guess" recommendations of Chicago, Reno, Atlanta, and San Diego, they incorporate my revealed preferences.
First, they showcase my last search as the primary recommendation. They then supplement it with a number of similar travel destinations like Nuevo Vallarta and Guadalajara.
Implement Real Time Personalization on Recommendations: See how Barilliance empowers hundreds of eCommerce sites with real time personalization here.
7. Remove Friction with Personalized Search
Another nice touch Booking.com uses is personalizing their calls to action.
Again, they incorporate my preferences in real time. When I navigate back to the home screen, instead of a generic search bar I see a pre-filled search, loaded with my latest information including the number of guests and checkout dates.
8. Enhance Product Recommendations with Product Badges & Rich Data
Lastly, Booking.com distinguishes the most likely offer with product badges and rich data.
They place a flag emoji next to the city name.
They place the top reasons to visit as a secondary header. It reads: "beaches, relaxation, friendly locals".
They overlay a simple call to action with a fantastic, short question. "Still interested in your previous searches for Puerto Vallarta". And - they let me pick up right where I left off by auto-filling my previous search.
All of these actions display an understanding of what is relevant for me as the shopper. They place the offer with the highest chance to convert at the top, make it larger, and enhance the offering through data.
The lesson is to incorporate your customers in-session behavior to all pages.
Your home page, category, and product pages should all reflect what you know is true about your prospects.
As always, the next step after learning is action.
We covered a lot. I suggest taking one tactic that you believe can help your travel site increase conversions and implement.
If you are looking for a technology partner that can give you all of these capabilities, consider Barilliance. We help dozens of travel sites and hundreds of eCommerce sites with real time personalization.
If you want to learn more, setup a time to chat here.