Lowering Resistance to Internet Travel Purchases
Let Me Do Window-Shopping Without Logging In
The online travel agencies may be taking the wrong approach if they try to
force log-ins in order to limit the number of searches a customer can
perform without making a purchase. Whether it's in person, from a print
catalog, or online, people want to shop around before they commit to a
purchase. Online vendors should realize that a simple login form is a
barrier to window-shopping.
If the online travel agencies really have an unbearable ratio
of fare lookups versus purchasing, there might be approaches that minimize
their cost exposure without denying potential customers the ability to browse.
For instance, they might offer browsing views that list the average price of
a ticket sold in the last 24 hours for discount criteria for which you
qualify. They'd have to display a big warning that those estimates
don't represent what you'll actually pay, but they have to issue
similar warnings already: "Until you purchase, fares may vary."
If there are too many barriers to window-shopping online, people will revert to old-fashioned means of searching for tickets -- and the whole goal here is to encourage online shopping.
Offer Worthwhile Packages Including Car and Hotel
A Washington Post travel writer reports that he found himself in an unintended trap by buying deeply-discounted e-tickets for himself and his wife and kids for a weekend jaunt to Boston last autumn. After buying the non-refundable airline tickets, he discovered that every hotel in Boston was booked solid for the weekend. (As it happens, I traveled to Boston that same weekend and I can testify that his story is true.) The Post reporter ended up booking a hotel way out in the suburbs, thus missing out on the chance for his family to experience the city. He had never considered the possibility that he couldn't find a place to stay until after his non-refundable tickets were virtually in hand.
Online agencies could address this problem by offering bundles Â airfare, hotel, and car rentals Â that the purchaser could commit to with a single transaction. It'd be more convenient for the customer and more lucrative for the agency. It'd require a little bit of clever programming to claim reservations for all three services while the credit card clears, but it would yield the peace of mind that might allow that Post reporter to make another trip.