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The Modern Traveller’s Path to Purchase: Key insights for hotel marketers

  Posted in Travel Trends  Last updated 11/10/2023

modern traveller's path to purchase

Sojern has released a new report on the modern travellers’ path to purchase, confirming that it isn’t viable for hotel marketers to address the lowest common denominator. The report finds there is no such thing as an ‘average’ traveller. All are unique and approach their planning and booking in many different ways, across multiple verticals.

In ‘Sojern Uncovers the Modern Traveller’s Paths to Purchase’, eight random holidaymakers are studied to see how they dream about travel, how they behave during the planning stage, and how they make their final bookings.

The results are fascinating and incredibly varied, emphasising the need for marketers to be personal in their targeting of potential customers.

Let’s look at the findings from the report, including all eight traveller paths:

Note that a touchpoint refers to online activity within the relevant travel categories discussed.

Traveller Path to Purchase #1
“Eric” – the mobile-first, family vacation planner

Typically a mobile user, “Eric” books travel for himself, his partner, and two children. He’s an amusement park loyalty member who saves his luxury travel for leisure and stays economy when on business.

Across the dreaming, planning, and booking phases “Eric” hits 451 touchpoints over a period of five months. The majority of these were for amusement parks (241) and hotels (113), with 99% of his research conducted using his mobile.

Traveller insights
“Eric’s” loyalty to his preferred amusement park sees him book four trips across his five months, but each one had radically different lead times, demonstrating the importance of knowing your traveller and their behaviour. As soon as he returns from his trip he begins dreaming of the next one, indicating the path to purchase never truly ends.

Marketing insights
“Eric’s” path to purchase highlights the importance of building brand awareness and engagement early so you can reach travellers before, during, and after their trip. If you know more about their motivation, you can find better ways to target them with advertising about your hotel’s specific amenities.

Traveller Path to Purchase #2
“Tony” – the skier planning a couple’s getaway

A frequent traveller who primarily uses desktop to search, “Tony” books for himself and his partner at luxury upscale hotels, and also travels domestically for business.

“Tony” hits 255 touchpoints over four months for airlines (127), ski brands (52), hotels (29), car hire (21), and other brands (14). He spends 28% of his time dreaming, 62% searching, and 10% booking.

Traveller insights
“Tony’s” journey shows inspiration is not limited in when it can strike. His business trip starts him dreaming about a ski getaway and when he returns his searching begins in earnest. He spends much of his path to purchase in the planning phase narrowing down destinations, timeframes, hotels, flights, and more, illuminating the growing complexity in travel planning.

Marketing insights
For travellers like “Tony”, native advertising can be highly effective for nurturing brand awareness and engagement. By integrating quality content on travel websites that he visits, native adverts offer value to travellers in a non-intrusive manner. It’s also important to remember that business travellers can quickly become leisure guests – you can read more on the ‘bleisure’ trend here.

Traveller Path to Purchase #3
“Isabel” – the cruise traveller on a Caribbean holiday

“Isabel” is a seasonal searcher and often visits travel-related retail sites via desktop. She books for a partner and two children, usually in luxury upscale hotels.

“Isabel” has a lower number of touchpoints, just 63 over four months. Around 30 of these are dedicated to cruises, 14 to airlines, eight to hotels, and eight to retail travel agent sites.

Traveller insights
“Isabel” moves quickly once she begins her searching. While she dreams big, there is only an 18-day window between searching and booking her larger purchases of cruise and flights. After that she goes into a traditional researching phase, this time shopping for brands and vacation supplies, and making a last-minute hotel booking. Her lead time for booking a hotel is a mere three days.

Marketing insights
To target “Isabel”, it’s important to capture her attention early while she’s still open to exploring her options. Using dynamic creative ads on the likes of Facebook can help create a perfect match between your advertising and your audience, leaving a more lasting impression. In “Isabel’s” case, she begins searching in October from New York – warm weather advertising could be just the thing to engage her while she plans a trip for February.

Traveller Path to Purchase #4
“Paul” – the spring break road tripper

“Paul” is a solo traveller and baseball enthusiast who uses his mobile for heavy research and typically stays at mid-range hotels. Travelling domestically “Paul” is using his mobile to search and book car hire, flights, and hotels in a short period of time.

“Paul” has 163 touchpoints in a little over a month. A total of 58 were for hotels, 35 for tourism sites, 33 for airlines, 18 for brands, and 14 for car hire.

Traveller insights
“Paul” uses his destination’s tourism website as an anchor he can return to when he’s looking for food, attractions, and accommodations. He’s a heavy researcher and doesn’t book his flight until the morning of his departure. Even after he has booked his hotel, he continues to research others, with 45% of his hotel touchpoints coming after his booking.

Marketing insights
Given “Paul” is exclusively searching and converting on mobile, it underscores the importance of having a frictionless mobile experience when engaging with travellers across as many stages as possible.

Traveller Path to Purchase #5
“Leslie” – the European boutique hotel shopper

“Leslie” usually books for two, with varying budgets, at boutique hotels from his desktop and travels frequently by car and train. He prefers to save his money for amenities and upsells.

“Leslie” spends five months in the path to purchase but only hits 116 touchpoints. Hotel touchpoints are the most prominent with 64, followed by air (25), car (15), rail (6), and brands (6).

Traveller insights
“Leslie” is quick to book his hotel option, but spends a lot of time and energy making decisions about amenities, packages and potential deals, returning again and again to these pages. In the few days prior to his stay he books an attraction via the hotel. Luckily, the hotel booked “Leslie” directly, giving the property an engaged and actively interested guest to upsell to and build brand loyalty.

Marketing insights
Travellers like “Leslie” can be reached with a mix of display ads and search engine marketing (SEM) to nurture them through the entire purchase path. Display advertising helps keep you top of mind as travellers move across different websites. Then, when they are ready to book and do more research, you can use SEM tactics to ensure your property is a top result.

Traveller Path to Purchase #6
“Michael” – the international ‘bleisure’ traveller

“Michael” is a solo leisure traveller, sport event enthusiast, and heavy desktop user who also travels to Singapore for business.

“Michael” registers 162 touchpoints over four months. A total of 127 of these are for hotels, with only 16 for airlines, 13 for car hire, 5 for travel research, and 1 for brands.

Traveller insights
While on business “Michael” starts dreaming of his leisure trip. His passion for sport, regardless of the location gets him looking at nearby accommodation. One brand captures his attention and he returns to it once he’s home. Once his hotel is picked out it’s a tourism page that serves as his main research method. He even searches travel information there to ensure he hits all the must-visit places.

Marketing insights
We know “Michael” is seriously into research given the number of searches he does and his download of a travel guide. Indulge these tendencies with Facebook Carousel. This format allows you to link multiple images and videos into one, quick-loading advert. Travellers then get to swipe through the different creatives to learn more about your brand or offering.

Traveller Path to Purchase #7
“Felicia” – the Asian luxury traveller

“Felicia” travels in Asia and the Pacific for business, and is a beach/resort traveller for leisure. She books for her partner and two children, primarily searching online via desktop.

“Felicia” has long path to purchase with a lot of touchpoints; a considerable 735 over a period of seven months. However, they are largely split between hotels (462) and airlines (272).

Traveller insights
“Felicia” already has a destination in mind when she begins dreaming and is immediately drawn to video advertisements of a particular brand. Although she has a luxury stay on her mind, it’s business that ultimately catches up with her. However, the original luxury leisure brand now influences her business planning as she considers, and ultimately books with, the brand for her business trip. As soon as her business trip is booked, she’s back to planning her leisure trip – performing 34 visits to that original site in 24 hours.

Marketing insights
“Felicia’s” path demonstrates the importance of having a holistic, cross-channel brand awareness strategy. The brand that won her heart with their video could repurpose this same video asset across multiple channels to build awareness with new customers at a larger scale, and to retarget people like “Felicia” who have visited their site but still haven’t committed.

Traveller Path to Purchase #8
“Alexandra” – the Mexican amusement park adventurer

“Alexandra” is a high-powered businesswoman who takes her partner and four children on an international amusement park adventure, searching primarily on desktop.

Lead time is very short and cost doesn’t seem to be a barrier as she hits 139 touchpoints over a one-month period. Around 26 of these are for car hire, 22 for airlines, 16 for hotels, 12 for retail, and 12 for amusement parks.

Traveller insights
“Alexandra” is extremely efficient. Shortly after her search begins, she books her flights and hotel back-to-back. Only a few days later, she locks down her car rental. Then she looks at four different amusement park adventures for her large family.

Marketing insights
“Alexandra” reiterates the idea that aiming for an average with your travel marketing campaign will leave you missing out. She splits her decision making fairly evenly between last-minute and more planned purchases and only through real-time data would you know when to engage with “Alexandra” in an effective manner. Video, for example, can influence travellers in the early stages: 60% use video to narrow down their destination, brand, and activities.

For many travellers, they found a planning anchor: one website, brand, guide, or video that they continued to come back to throughout their path to purchase. Technology is now available to allow hotel brands to have deep one-to-one marketing conversations with the ideal guest segment. Without a data-driven approach, you are simply marketing in the dark. Sojern’s report is proof, if ever it was needed, of how complex a traveller’s path to purchase really is.


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