Armed with multiple mobile devices, highly connected consumers in today’s digital era are transforming the travel sector’s landscape into an increasingly professionalized one, especially in a developed market like Hong Kong. Transactions which were once carried out face-to-face have progressively been brought online, with 65 percent of travelers in Hong Kong utilizing their PCs, tablets and smartphones during the purchase journey.
However, offline travel service providers are still very relevant as travelers exhibit strong omni-channel behaviors, navigating both online and offline platforms throughout the whole process. Nearly all (96%) utilize a combination of the Internet and traditional brick and mortar channels, with a very low number (2%) using any single channel exclusively.
“Findings revealed that search engines are used intensively at the very beginning of the process for both online and offline purchasers,“ said Van den Oever, Global Travel Director at GfK. “With the widening coverage and global reach of online service providers, consumers are increasingly focusing on specific established brands popular in their local market, reinforcing the fact that having a strong presence and top-of-mind awareness provides these companies with a head start.”
This is the first time research has been done utilizing the breakthrough methodology of both online and offline tracking of travelers‘ behaviors. The 9-week survey from March to May 2014 polled more than 700 Hong Kong travel decision makers intending to purchase an air ticket in the next 3 months, who agreed to install GfK Nurago’s online tracking software on their digital and mobile devices. This allowed the integration of online tracking data with offline diary and website data to provide in-depth single-source insights into consumers‘ purchase journey in air travel.
According to the study, traditional mass media is the most dominant offline touchpoint that triggers the gathering of travel information. Three in every four consumers (74%) were prompted to action after they saw an advertisement in a newspaper or magazine, while 70 percent said they read an article in these publications. Meanwhile, over half said their travel plans were sparked by TV or radio ads.
“Advertising in the mass media is an effective platform to garner the interest of intended travelers and a good complementary channel that helps them shift from offline to online,” highlighted Van den Oever. “Over 98 percent of respondents said they took their research online and 54 percent eventually completed their purchase during this process.”
Another interesting highlight of the study is the fact that a typical consumer spends almost 5 hours researching online for their trip. During this period, they make an average of 92 visits to 22 travel-related websites and Apps before actually purchasing their bookings via the Internet. The most popular online sites used are search engines which were visited by 9 in 10 respondents (91%), followed by travel aggregator and information sites (83%), travel booking sites (79%), airline companies (69%) and social media sites (38%).
“It is especially important for industry players to understand the consumer purchase journey as they plan their trips so that travel service providers can more thoroughly understand the complexity of the process,” said Van den Oever. “This will ensure that they are effective in their offerings and present in the relevant phase of the journey, both online and off line, and from the planning stage right to the very end when the purchase is eventually made,” he concluded.