Searching for what: the secret behind great digital travel experiences

Gary Howes

April 21, 2017

Initial research and inspiration are becoming a growing pain point in digital travel experiences. Maru/edr’s Gary Howes explores current digital travel best practice and solutions for a leading site experience.

Just 7 out of 10 consumers rate the current initial research stage of the online travel journey as good – according to the Digital Travel Experience 2017 report.

It means that a significant proportion of users are struggling with just the second step of their six-stage booking journey. It leaves travel bands vulnerable to high drop-out rates before users have made it past the first page.

Google found that average travel users will have up to 419 digital moments during their online travel journey. These ‘moments’ consist of inspiration, organisation, design and booking moments.

Today’s digital travel experience has to be designed to meet all of these moments – or needs – across all travel journeys. If your travel brand isn’t accessible in these moments, then it’s likely you’re missing out on bookings.

Turning inspiration into revenue

Today’s travellers are using digital channels to be inspired, research, design and take action. Brands that help them along the way will win those all-important bookings.

Initial research is a fundamental part of the inspiration process – and the first real ‘moment’ that a digital travel booker will come across. If experiences aren’t optimised for this moment, then there is a very real risk of a user going elsewhere.

Inspiration is, therefore, key to turning users into bookers.

But inspiration is about a lot more than just quality images and dynamic text.

Inspiration in travel is about sparking an idea – and it strikes me that travel brands are missing a trick by ignoring the ‘what’.

That is, no travel brand measured in the Digital Travel Experience report currently allow users to search for holidays based on what they want to do.

Instead, users have to narrow down to a destination or a date in order to start browsing available options.

By letting users complete a search based on what they want to do – rather than when or where – brands can open up a whole host of travel options and really inspire. Add dynamic filters and users can begin to design the holiday or travel they want, immediately pushing them further down the booking journey.

Travel Experiences Report Download

Search best practice

Search functions have developed over the past couple of years to become one of the most highly rated areas of the digital travel journey.

Brands like, Thomson, and Thomas Cook all rate highly. They offer highly accurate search results that are returned instantaneously with features that make entering details straightforward.

But just six out of ten users across all four sites rated the flexibility of the search – or the ability to search with less defined criteria – as good, demonstrating then need for even the best travel brands to think differently about their approach to search.

Keeping ahead of the competition

Inspiration is a growing trend in digital travel – and rightly so.

Get it right and it can turn users into all-important bookers. Get it wrong, and site abandonment rates will become a growing headache.

Digital Voice of the Customer programmes provide an ideal outlet for understanding and exploring what, where and how improvements across the digital travel experience can be made. Merging feedback with data, such as site analytics, even details what changes will have the biggest impact on site satisfaction and conversion rates – allowing you to make key decisions knowing you’re doing what is right for both the business and your customers.


Gary Howes is Business Development Manager at Maru/edr specialising in travel and hospitality. Contact Gary directly on to continue the discussion or connect with him on LinkedIn.