CheapOair Creates Turbulence In Travel Industry

cheapoair logo
Many companies have entered the online travel space; only a minority have truly succeeded.  CheapOair is one of the newer players in the online travel space, founded in 2005.  Nonetheless it’s working hard to create turbulence in the space with a vision of “shaking up the travel industry,” being a “one-stop solution for affordable flights, hotels, cars and vacation packages,” and “dedicated to providing live support 24/7.”1

To assess progress to date, Compete used a combination of its behavioral clickstream analyses and survey capabilities.  Our clickstream analyses include several of our proprietary analytics and patented ability to track, normalize, and count unique visitors (UVs), which avoids double-counting consumers who perform the same activity more than once in a period.  Our survey capabilities allow us to add additional context to what we observe consumers doing.  We first looked at consumer awareness of CheapOair (survey) and then at traffic volumes and sources (clickstream).

Awareness: Under the Radar

Compete survey results show very low brand awareness for CheapOair (n=807, gen pop). Unaware (70%) outnumbered aware (total of 30%) by more than two-to-one. We also asked respondents for their opinion of CheapO compared to other online travel agencies and fewer than half of those aware (11% of the total) felt they knew enough about the site to render an opinion. These results are likely much lower than for sites such as Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia and Priceline.

Of the 11%, about half felt CheapO was about the same as other OTAs, with the other half split on whether CheapO was better or worse than other OTAs, with “better” having a slight advantage (not shown).

So the net is not a lot of brand equity to date.
cheapoair awareness

Behavioral: Right on the Radar

In terms of monthly unique visitors (UVs), CheapOair is definitely getting onto the radar.  Over the past two years, the gap between it and Orbitz and Travelocity has decreased to nearly nothing (chart). CheapO had a period-high 8.2M UVs in January. That was about 86% of the average Orbitz and Travelocity traffic—the smallest gap in the period.

cheapo UVs

If consumers are generally not aware of the site, yet traffic levels are approaching some of the stalwarts’, the next logical question is where is CheapO’s traffic coming from? It turns out CheapO traffic sources are not that different from other OTAs. Of note, more than a third of its traffic comes from other travel sites, more than the 26% coming from search.

cheapo incoming traffic

Down the Runway

Clearly CheapOair is making headway on some fronts—such as site traffic, including #2 among OTA flight path volume—and not on others—such as brand awareness. But if it’s growing without awareness, will that come later and organically?  Or could its growth be even greater and faster if it did enhance its brand equity now.  Here are Compete’s suggestions for further analyses:

  • Compare awareness results for CheapO with like results for other OTAs and aggregators. Include metrics on favorability as well.
  • Refine the survey to include only consumers currently visiting travel sites. The above results are general population.
  • Trend awareness over time for CheapO and rivals, and correlate changes in awareness with changes in ad spend designed to build awareness.
  • Leverage insights on the specific search terms and sites that are driving traffic to CheapO.It’s quite possible CheapO could enhance brand awareness cost effectively through search strategies, and optimizing those by identifying positive aspects of the sites already feeding traffic to it.
  • Complete a Lost Bookings Analysis to understand where CheapO defectors are booking This parallel effort can enhance CheapO’s ability to drive revenue with the traffic it has by understanding where people go next, which is the key ingredient of “why” they do so.

1. CheapOair.com / about-us

About Lincoln Merrihew:
Lincoln Merrihew is the Vice President of Transportation at Millward Brown Digital. At Millward Brown Digital, Lincoln is responsible for steering the Transportation Team, which encompasses the automotive and travel practices. Before Lincoln joined the Millward Brown Digital team, he worked at TNS Custom leading the Automotive team, and then continued on there to lead business development for 10 different industry verticals. Lincoln's career aspiration is to create game-changing solutions and insights. Connect with Lincoln on LinkedIn.