Through September and October 2013, UK-based call tracking firm ResponseTap commissioned two pieces of research with a view to understanding the role of the phone from the perspective of both the consumer and the marketer. In the consumer research, they surveyed over 2,000 people online, aged between 18-75 while their digital marketer focus was based on a sample of 250 managers working in a variety of industries. While the results obviously represent a UK view of the online travel reality, both from a consumer and digital marketer perspective, I find them nevertheless very interesting to share as they seem to echo recent findings in North America as well.Customers still need and want to speak to someone when browsing online

Even though the travel industry has embraced online marketing very early on, with big players such as Expedia and Priceline now dominating the sphere, there are still many destinations, hotels, transportation companies, restaurants or attractions that provide uneven online experiences, at best. Yet, having some kind of live chat alternative could solve some issues, not to mention giving access to a hotline or call center where customers could reach out to in order to answer queries and doubts and close sales.

According to Deloitte, 91% of domestic travel transactions in the UK are now ‘digitally influenced’. That means even if the final purchase wasn’t made online, almost nine in ten travel purchases are influenced in some way by digital channels such as websites, social media, peer reviews and smartphone of tablet apps. – Hotelmarketing

In fact, these are just a few of the findings that tend to confirm the need for consumers to get some reassurance by speaking with someone from the brand organization before and during the transactional stage:

  • 1/3 of consumers prefer to talk to someone on the phone before buying something.
  • 61% of consumers find it very important to be able to call the business during purchase.
  • 57% trust retailers more when it is easy to contact them by phone.
  • 56% say they are more likely to buy again from a retailer if they know they can talk to them on the phone.
Another area of concern raised by this report regards the abandonment rate of shopping carts, which is particularly alarming in the travel sector, standing at 81%. It reminds me of a discussion I had with a hotel client last year – the digital marketer in charge for this property had no idea when or where potential customers where leaving their website, or whether there was a specific page or transactional step where people were being put off…

81% of online shopping carts are abandoned before transaction in the travel vertical

From the digital marketer’s perspective, there are some equally interesting findings such as:

  • 39% of digital marketers say their call centre or customer service team has primary responsibility for tracking phone calls. Yet…
  • 59% say they are not integrated with these teams.
  • More than half of them admit they don’t have a complete view of how online and offline marketing is driving phone sales.
In fact, data from this ResponseTap study show that combining online marketing with phone calls can increase substantially conversion rates, no matter from which device the activity comes from. Phone access increases online conversion rates

The complete infographic can be found below while the whitepaper detailing this research can be downloaded by clicking here.

Phone sales increase online conversions (Infographic)