The fairly decent English summer has come to an end and if you’re like me you’ve started to look for a break away from the cloudy skies and 9 – 5 routine. Researching and booking holidays is one of my favourite things to do. Like the majority of people, I look to the internet to start my search. But I feel like some websites kill the buzz of this exciting planning phase.
Lots of factors need to be looked at: where to go, when to go, the weather, sights, activities etc. So a successful website needs to convince me that I’m making the right decisions. Travel websites should be taking advantage of the user’s motivators when booking a holiday and engage with them in a way that seamlessly pleases them.
Here I look at three travel websites and how they utilise persuasion, emotion and trust on their website to create an engaging experience for users and also suggest some tests to gain insight into user behaviour when looking for a holiday.
After landing on the Expedia homepage, I read ‘over 290,000 hotels worldwide’ and ‘save 15% by booking flight and hotel at the same time’. This is a good way to persuade me to start my search. But at this stage I’m not sure why I should book with Expedia over anyone else, and neither is it putting me in the holiday mood.
Again, initially landing of the opodo homepage there is are no obvious reason as to why I should book with them. As you can see, below the search area there is a slightly hidden heading ‘why book with opodo’, which is a start. There’s little to invoke any sort of emotion and as of yet I’m not really building a sense of trust either.
The proposition and key differentiators should be communicated more succinctly, be visual and clear to both persuade and make me feel inspired to continue with my search for a holiday.
An interesting test would be to position this USP module in various positions and formats on the page, optimise the number of USP’s and also review the copy so that users can relate to it.
Now this picture on the home page makes me want to go on holiday! I’m drawn in, I want to go there, but where is it? No idea. If you are going to engage users with such a picturesque image then at least tell them where it is, so they can go and enjoy the place they’ve just fallen for.
Images on travel websites are one of the most persuasive and emotional opportunities to engage with users. Test introducing various styles of images on the homepage e.g. iconic destination images, picturesque landscapes, local people and culture, food, family holidays. Display an image that evokes a reaction and emotional response with the user.
I understand that at this point websites want a user to complete the search, so let’s see how the next pages in the journey fairs.
Searching for a Holiday
I start my search on the opodo site and a loading page appears. I can see that my search criteria are re-iterated, which is good and also the breadth of airlines and hotels that are being searched gives me some confidence. However, the generic image and lack of personality in the messaging certainly kills my holiday vibe and it makes me feel like I’m at work.
Use of logos, especially from credible, well known and trusted companies will help to increase users’ trust and increase the website’s authority in their mind. Also try introducing imagery from the destination they are searching for. This will create an emotional attachment with the user and make them feel like they have to visit this destination.
I land on the Expedia ‘results’ page and I’m not exactly drawn in by the imagery, so there’s little emotional connection. Nevertheless, I see that there are 555 people also shopping for Algarve hotels on Expedia, the top result only has ‘1 room left’, and there are ‘2 others viewing this hotel right now’. Thus, a sense of urgency and time sensitivity is introduced, encouraging me to take action.
Similarly on opodo, ‘limited availability’ gives an indication that these seats may sell out, so I know that these prices could change if I don’t book soon.
By being transparent with availability, users understand that there isn’t an unlimited supply. The scarcity technique is commonly used to increase sales through user urgency and fear of loss, but it’s important to achieve the appropriate balance and not scare users. Test implementing this technique to understand the impact it could have.
On the opodo site I pick a hotel from the list and I’m looking at the details. There’s quite a few hotels to compare, so I want to know this hotel is the right one for me. It’s hard to scan the details and nothing is really jumping out to me. The images are small and there’s too much text.
On lastminute.com I select a hotel. The reviews give me an assessment of the hotel and also the destination, which I can relate to. There’s also a map, which is useful when figuring out how I would get there from the airport, and also how close attractions are. However, the page is lacking personality; I find it hard to scan the information and I’m unsure about the standards of the hotel, because of the impression the photo gives me.
Showing the user what people just like them thought of the hotel, and the area, via reviews helps to create a connection and trust through social proof. The user is looking at this first hand insight and assessing it against what they want from a holiday. These persuasion techniques are certainly useful when comparing multiple options that are similar.
Again, imagery on any results page is key, particularly with hotels. The images need to reflect the feel of the hotel and showcase why someone should stay there. There are many tests that could be run here. For example: size, number of images, and professional vs user images.
User expectations of travel websites are high. Users want the same experience as a travel agent would give them but the convenience of doing it from their own home. Persuasion, emotion and trust are key in creating this inspiring and engaging user experiences whereby users are captivated by the hotel, destination and experience to the point where they are persuaded to confidently book online.
As evident above, imagery is one of the most important influencers on travel websites. Users want to see where they are staying and get a feel for the place. The more connected they are with the destination, then the more likely they will be persuaded to book.
What travel websites do you feel use persuasion, emotion and trust really well?