New Study Reveals the Impact of Travel Site Performance on Consumers

2010-06-15
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  • PhoCusWright PhoCusWright and Akamai study reveals the importance of speed and usability on travel websites

    Akamai Technologies, Inc. (Nasdaq: AKAM), the leader in powering video, dynamic transactions and enterprise applications online, today released key findings from a research study examining consumer response to travel site performance.  The study, conducted by PhoCusWright Inc. on behalf of Akamai, is based on the feedback of 2,763 United States-based travelers about the status of their current online expectations and key elements of the online consumer experience.  Overall, the results show that site performance is critical, travelers expect quick page load times for travel websites, and that active loyalty program members are more likely to have certain key negative reactions to technical issues.

    Key findings from The "Consumer Response to Travel Site Performance" study conducted by PhoCusWright and Akamai include:  


    • Three second rule – 57 percent of online shoppers will wait three seconds or less before abandoning the site
    • Younger travelers are less patient – Generation Y and younger travelers are less patient than older travelers when it comes to page load times.  65 percent of 18-24 year olds expect a site to load in two seconds or less
    • Prevention is key – A third of travelers would be less likely to visit a site after experiencing technical problems like slowness or errors on the page.  Business travelers are slightly more likely to have a negative reaction
    • Loyalty is not forgiveness – Active loyalty program members are more likely than other travelers to indicate that they would not likely be influenced at all by technical glitches at 34 percent. However, the remaining 66 percent are actually more likely than others to have strong negative reactions.
    • Travelers tend to be multi-taskers – 59 percent of consumers do something else when waiting for a travel website to load.  Nearly one in five (19 percent) open another travel site in a new window when made to wait.
    • Hidden fees may cost you – 43 percent of online shoppers have abandoned a booking because the final product price and/or fees were higher than they were willing to pay
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    The study also examines travelers' reactions to technical issues.  Findings reveal that many travelers are guided by their previous experiences with a particular website, and for just over a third of consumers (34 percent), a technical glitch will lower their likelihood to visit a site again.  Business travelers and loyalty program members are less tolerant of technical problems, and are slightly more likely to have a negative reaction to them.  Research shows that these groups of online shoppers are also the most valuable customers for online travel sites. Thus, the stakes for site performance and streamlined, transparent transactions are even higher for companies targeting these segments.  

    "Online travel is a fiercely competitive marketplace with many powerful brands all vying for the same consumer.  Think about how irritating it is to stand in a line at a physical store - people hate to wait.  When they are online, they don't have to wait because there is another travel site just a few keystrokes away," said Carroll Rheem, Director, Research, PhoCusWright.  "Additionally, travelers have an inherent penchant for intensive shopping because travel is not an everyday purchase – it's expensive and experiential.  Therefore, travel companies that do not invest in speed and reliability essentially drive customers to their competitors."

    "Today's shoppers demand a fast, engaging and secure online shopping environment when searching for an airline or hotel," said Aaron Hynes, Managing Director of Technology, Continental Airlines.  "This study confirms that there is a direct correlation between consumer satisfaction and site performance.  By leveraging Akamai's Dynamic Site Accelerator solutions, we have been able to deliver a compelling site experience that is fast and reliable, and will keep our travelers coming back to our site when booking for their travels.  In fact, since partnering with Akamai, Continental has seen significant improvements in page performance by 40 percent, which has greatly contributed to an increase in our conversion rates and sales revenues.  The improvement in page load times has also contributed to our recent success by winning the Gomez most improved award with the largest decrease in response time from the first half of the year to the second half."

    In addition, findings state that consumers not only have varying patience levels, they also react to waiting differently.  As with page loading times, the study finds significant differences when looking at results by different age groups.  Younger travelers are more likely to engage in other activities - with 56 percent of 18-24 year olds waiting for loading compared to 77 percent of seniors.  These results suggest that a poorly or slow-performing travel site can drive valuable shoppers away.

    "Whether our customers are accessing our homepage or searching and booking for a hotel room on our site, we must ensure their experience is the best," said David Godsman, Vice President, Global Web, Starwood Hotels and Resorts.  "Akamai is helping us to achieve our goal of optimum site performance for our end users.  The numbers of monthly site visits and conversion rates have risen steadily since leveraging Akamai's Dynamic Site Accelerator.  As our site performance improves, our customers are spending less time waiting for the site to load, less time waiting for search results and can more quickly navigate the site and purchase their travel, increasing our look-to-book ratio.  Also, by leveraging Akamai's globally distributed network, we can spend less money and effort in infrastructure related tasks, enabling us to re-direct our resources to eCommerce development activities that improve our online experience."

    "The key takeaway from this study is that functionality, speed and usability standards for travel sites are moving forward, and travel companies must continually invest in these fundamentals to stay competitive, deliver revenue and satisfy customers," said Pedro Santos, chief strategist for eCommerce, Akamai.  "We believe that travel websites that can't deliver a fast, engaging and reliable experience are going to lose transactions and customer loyalty.  Powering 8 of the top 15 airlines and 8 of the top 10 hotels, Akamai helps travel companies accelerate their page response times in order to meet the increasing demands of online shoppers.  The PhoCusWright study shows that better website performance leads to fewer shoppers abandoning sites due to performance issues and this is particularly true for higher-value consumers like business travelers and many loyalty program members."  

    One of the additional industry trends that PhoCusWright discovered during this project is that smartphone adoption among travelers will increase significantly in the next few years and will cross the halfway point among travelers in 2010.  Consumers are still in the early stages of mobile usage for travel with six percent who uses mobile apps or sites when shopping for travel.

    To read and download a complimentary copy of the full study, please click here.

    Survey Methodology

    PhoCusWright fielded an online consumer survey January 12-28, 2010, targeting the general US population that has Internet access and travels for leisure.  To qualify for participation in the study, respondents had to indicate that they had taken at least one leisure trip at least 75 miles from home in the past 12 months that included paid accommodations and/or air travel.  Additionally, consumers were required to have played an active role in planning their leisure trips.  As the survey instrument was online, it is assumed that respondents have Internet access.





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