Booking.com have topped the Maru/edr Travel Digital Experience Benchmark report for the past two years. Associate Director and travel insight expert Rob Kitchen takes a look at what’s behind the online booking giant’s digital success, and where perhaps more interesting, they can improve.
When it comes to online travel bookings, Booking.com lead the way.
The fact that the European Commission warned in 2015 that both Booking.com and Trip Advisor ‘may have reached market dominance beyond the point of no return’ signals just how strong a digital presence they have.
Since 2009, we’ve benchmarked the online travel industry – and for the past three years, Booking.com have walked away with the top accolade.
What makes Booking.com’s digital experience so good?
When you take a deeper look at the results, Booking.com don’t just stand out in one area alone.
The Digital Travel Experience report highlights the growing, fundamental importance of ease and functionality in online experiences. Users must be able to browse, organise and design their travel if they are going to succeed, and ultimately book, on sites.
Booking.com have long prioritised functionality and usability on their site – and are fundamental factors behind their success.
They sweep the board when it comes to the end-to-end digital experience – but offer clear best practice when it comes to the landing page, search and booking aspects of their site.
But where can it be improved?
As Booking.com’s own Daren Huston explains, “The complexity of providing a world-class digital experience for customers becomes more daunting each year. The good news is the tools are becoming better and customers continue to want to live more of their lives digitally”.
It means that, no matter how good a digital experience you offer, there is always room for improvement thanks to the age of continuous change we live in.
Areas where Booking.com can improve include the initial research and further information stages of their customer journey – or, as now labelled within the digital travel industry, the ‘inspire’ areas of the journey.
Results have taught us that inspiration is a differentiator.
In other words, people expect a functional website and will penalise a brand heavily when they stumble across a site they find difficult to use. But a site that combines functionality alongside additional factors – such as inspiration – will set that brand apart.
Booking.com already score relatively highly in comparison to others in the benchmark for these areas but, currently, do not offer a best-in-class experience.
Instead, its travel agent Thomson that lead the field in this area. Reviewers rated Thomson’s imagery and amount of information across their site as high, leading eight out of ten users to feel that Thomson’s site inspired them.
Users now expect brands to get the basics right each and every time. Those brands who can inspire people will be the ones that set themselves apart from the rest of the competition, winning bookings – and revenue – from consumers.
Booking.com have all the fundamentals of a great digital travel experience – and if they can continue to add their inspiration, will continue to lead the way for digital travel best practice.