The Wired Hotel: Hotel Website Visitor Segments - Business or Pleasure
By Jerry Tarasofsky CEO, iPerceptions Inc. | January 27, 2012
There are two well-known but utterly distinct hotel website visitor segments: business and leisure travelers. One is composed of hard-working professionals in need of accommodations; seasoned travelers whose minds are focused on sales, partnerships, and acquisitions, and for whom a comfortable night's rest is critical. The other segment is composed of pleasure-seekers; seasonal or holiday travelers for whom the hotel stay is but one part of the larger experience of vacationing. This article will explore who these segments are, what website elements make them tick, and what areas of the site experience have proven to be barriers to successful visits.
To better explore the distinguishing characteristics of business and leisure travelers, I'm relying on our Hospitality Index for January through May of this year. Within this sector index, we have over two hundred thousand data points, spanning close to 30 of the world's leading hotel brands. This is not an online panel that we have cobbled together from disparate sources; this is the living, breathing voice of real, authentic online customers.
Before diving into the distinct ways in which leisure and business evaluated the various aspects of the online experience, it's important first to profile these visitors and elucidate their main points of differentiation. I'll start with primary purpose of visit, which is a metric that allows us to obtain a strong reading of cognitive intent. Visitors from business backgrounds, true to the travelling demands of their working lives, were more likely to be onsite to book a reservation than leisure travelers (38% vs. 30%). Since we are looking at data collected during the spring, a time in which many families begin preliminary planning for summer trips, it's not surprising to see that leisure travelers were usually onsite to research and compare hotel rates (30%) or to gather hotel information (32%). As we move into summer, it's likely that a sizable proportion of these visitors will move further down the booking funnel and that the share of bookers within the leisure traveler segment will begin to rival the share within the business traveler segment.
Leisure and business travelers evinced widely different website loyalty patterns. Compared to leisure travelers, business travelers were more likely to have bookmarked or favorited the site (16% to 12%), demonstrating a level of brand loyalty not found in leisure travelers, who relied more heavily on paid and organic search engine results to funnel themselves through to the hotel sites. In fact, 25% of business travelers had visited the hotel site in question at least 5 times in the six months prior to taking the survey, while only 15% of leisure travelers had visited any one hotel site that frequently. Finally, close to 60% of business travelers were participants in a hotel rewards membership program, compared to only 41% of leisure travelers. Thirty percent of leisure travelers expressed uncertainty about their likelihood to ever join a rewards program, and 15% indicated that they were flat out not interested in signing up for membership. That's why it is critical, when optimizing a hotel website, to ensure that the diverse types of content align with the needs of each segment. Loyal business travelers will look for familiarity; saved membership information and saved searches, while leisure travelers should be provided with sticky, offer-driven landing pages that are relevant to their search terms and drive them more actively towards conversion through discounts and other incentives.
Now that we've established a profile for our two key visitor segments, let's take a look at some heartbeat metrics to see how effectively hotel sites are satisfying these visitors. In terms of top-line satisfaction, leisure travelers came out narrowly on top. Their iPerceptions Satisfaction Index score for January through May of this year was 7.1, which was slightly but significantly above the 7.0 iPSI score posted by business travelers. Leisure travelers posted higher satisfaction than business travelers in several key areas. Leisure travelers were more likely to consider the hotel site in question as their collective starting point when planning a trip, and they rated the sites higher in terms of content relevancy and overall responsiveness to their needs. Additionally, usability aspects graded out more favorably among leisure travelers, as they were better able to navigate around the site, locate what they were looking for, and retrieve appropriate hotel contact information, which speaks to a generally more optimized online experience in reference to their needs. Business travelers frequently expressed frustration with page loading times, internal site search results, and hotel lookup tools - a possible reflection of being further along in the conversion funnel than leisure travelers.
Another reflection of the higher propensity to convert or transact were the stronger booking and task completion metrics among business travelers. 71% of business travelers successfully completed their primary purpose of visit (be it to book a reservation, consult rates, modify a reservation, or any one of the myriad other possibilities), while the visit completion rate stood at 64% among leisure travelers. Taking it one step further, 26% of business travelers booked a reservation during their sessions, while leisure travelers were more likely to abandon a booking attempt midway through. Again, the seasonal element might be in play here, with leisure travelers only going far enough to get a modicum of information, with a silent pledge to return at a later date.