Search is Integral to Driving a Wave of Cruise Bookings

We’re at the height of the 2010 cruise wave season and there is still time for marketers to squeeze out incremental bookings by tweaking their online strategy.

Last week, Compete and Google co-presented a webinar based on a recent study of online cruise shoppers and bookers. Using Compete’s dataset of the online behaviors of 2M US consumers, the study examined the online travel-related behaviors of people who visited a cruise line site between January and June 2009. We also surveyed 198 people who visited a cruise line website but did not book a cruise online during the period to better understand their preferences, attitudes, and offline behaviors.

There are two key findings from our analysis of cruise bookers’ search behaviors:

  1. Search referrals start impacting decisions as early as 2 months prior to a booking.
  2. Non-brand search terms are important to consumers. We found the highest propensity to book (6% booking rate) among cruise shoppers who search on a combination of branded and non-branded terms.

Figure 1 shows the distribution of search referrals to travel sites in the 60 days leading up to a cruise booking among people who booked a cruise online between January and June 2009. The numbers in the blue bars represent the % of search referrals from branded terms; the green bars represent non-branded referrals. The numbers above the bars are the total of the blue and green.

The data show that 41% of search referrals to travel sites in the 60 days leading up to an online cruise booking are happening between 30 and 60 days prior to the booking. Only 9% of travel-related search referrals occur during the booking session. Moreover, the vast majority of referrals are based on non-branded terms. Brand terms do become more important in the week or so before a booking, with about 1 in 5 referrals during the booking session based on a branded term.

The survey of online cruise shoppers also generated several valuable takeaways:

  • Cruise length and price are key planning factors for cruise shoppers. 72% of respondents also say that promotions and offers are important.
  • Cruise line websites and search engines are the two most used online research sources for cruise information.
  • About 63% of cruise shoppers also research flights and overnight accommodations. Only 13% of respondents did not look for any other travel components.
  • 32% of offline bookers are search referred to a travel-related site prior to booking. Compare that to 27% for online bookers who are search referred; the offline bookers are more likely than online bookers to be engaging with search while they are shopping.

How can marketers take advantage of the time remaining in the 2010 Cruise Wave Season? Google and Compete suggest that marketers:

  • Maintain an "always on" approach for brand and non-brand. Use Google’s Insights for Search tool to see current top terms and rising generic searches.
  • Conduct weekly searches to see what deals your competitors are offering. Make your company’s deals and offers even stronger with compelling and current deal-related ad text.

Categories: Search | Travel

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