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More than half of the UK’s top 50 travel brands don’t have a mobile optimised site, according to research published last week by the IAB.

Furthermore, although 52% of the top travel brands have a mobile app only 56% of them are transactional, while a third of the businesses have no mobile presence at all.

This means they are failing to provide an important research channel for their customers, as a separate study from JiWire has shown that when looking for information on their next holiday or business trip consumers are just as likely to turn to their mobile device as they are to use a laptop.

Similarly, new data from ResponseTap that highlights a fairly typical purchase journey shows the importance of mobile for travel companies, as customers often browse the mobile web as well as calling travel operators while researching their holiday options.

This graphic is based on one customer's journey when purchasing a holiday

With this in mind, I investigated some of the brands included in the IAB’s study to see how easy it is to find a contact phone number on their mobile sites.

Ideally the ‘contact us’ option should be prominently displayed on the homepage and the phone number should be presented as a click-to-call button.

Here’s what I found out...

Emirates

Emirates has placed ‘contact us’ as one of the main options on its mobile homepage, however you are then forced to select your country and a location from a massive dropdown menu.

This seems like a pointless step bearing in mind that that Emirates already knows that I’m accessing its site from the UK. The contact page is also poorly formatted. The font is far too small and it has failed to use click-to-call buttons.

                      

Flybe

Flybe has a massive ‘Contact us’ icon on the homepage of its mobile site, which is perfect for mobile users. 

The contact page scores points for offering click-to-call hyperlinks, though I feel the font could be made slightly bigger. Also, it costs 10p per minute plus network charges in order to make a call, which is likely to put off a lot of customers.

                      

Haven

Holiday park operator Haven has a small ‘Contact us’ link at the bottom of its homepage that links directly to a contact page with equally small font and no click-to-call buttons.

                      

Lufthansa

German airline Lufthansa throws up one or two barriers before users can find the contact details, as you first have to select your country from a dropdown menu before locating the tiny ‘Contact’ link at the very bottom of the page.

On the plus side it does use click-to-call buttons, though there’s no cost information.

Stena Line

Stena Line has excellent click-to-call buttons on its mobile site, however they’re located within the ‘Find Us’ section so it’s not easy to find them.

It also fails to give any indication as to the cost of making a call.

                      

Holiday Inn

Holiday Inn locates its phone numbers within the ‘Customer service’ section housed in the three-line navigation menu in the top left of the screen.

It’s a relatively easy task to find the contact details, however Holiday Inn hasn’t used click-to-call buttons and the UK numbers cost 10p per minute.

Thomas Cook

Keen readers of the Econsultancy blog will know that I’m not a huge fan of Thomas Cook’s rather poor mobile site, and I wasn’t at all surprised that it’s also impossible to find any contact details.

Hilton

Hilton Hotels has a ‘Call us now’ link tucked away at the bottom of its mobile homepage however the number it brings up is 8882259664, which doesn’t actually connect to anything.

                      

EasyJet

I couldn’t find any way of contacting easyJet on its mobile site, but then I couldn’t find a telephone number on the desktop version either.

It appears that easyJet has no interest in speaking to any of its customers.

Premier Inn

Hotel chain Premier Inn has a well-designed mobile site that makes it incredibly easy to find a contact number.

The ‘Contact us’ section is located within the three-line navigation button and the phone number is prominently displayed on what looks like a click-to-call button.

                      

However Premier Inn lets itself down at this stage as it’s actually a static graphic rather than a button, though it does at least include the call tariff.

National Express

National Express commits the cardinal sin of linking customers to a desktop site when they attempt to find contact details, which is incredibly jarring and ruins the user experience.

In conclusion...

None of the travel operators I looked at really nailed the mobile experience and they all had things that could be improved.

To ensure a smooth UX site owners should make it easy to locate the contact number, ideally in a single click, then display a click-to-call button alongside details of the phone tariffs.

None of the brands in this post managed to create this fairly simple user journey as they all failed to implement at least one of the criteria.

For example, Stena Line has excellent click-to-call buttons but it's tricky to find them, while Flybe has a great 'Contact Us' icon on its hompage but then uses tiny hyperlinks on its phone numbers rather than buttons or icons.

Ultimately this is unlikely to cause these brands to lose a huge number of conversions, but it's still a fairly basic design flaw that could easily be improved upon.

David Moth

Published 5 November, 2013 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

1682 more posts from this author

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Ben

Great article, David. I had no idea that travel companies were so bad at optimising themselves on mobile devices, which must be extremely frustrating for customers. In today's tech-heavy society, it is very surprising that the companies you mentioned either do very little (if anything) to help their prospects engage with them - especially considering the industry in which they operate. For example; when you step into a travel agency on your local high street, the travel agents themselves bend over backwards to get you interested and make a sale. It's strange that travel companies think the online experience should be any different.

In terms of 'click to call' buttons, they are great for local businesses, as people do not mind paying for calls which are obviously local calls. One of the biggest challenges faced by online users is the lack of transparency when it comes to call charges for non-local numbers, and numbers such as 0800 and 0844 etc. Not many people know whether they will have to pay an extortionate amount of money to make the call or not (because as you mentioned, sites rarely display this information noticeably). The best way to get around this is to use a 'callback' button, as oppose to a 'click to call' button. By doing this, the company places an outbound call at a time defined by the customer. It means that the customer does not have to worry about call charges, and makes the company seem like they are giving the best possible customer service.

To ensure the best results, it would probably be best to approach a company with 'callback' button experience. Take a look at www.optilead.co.uk for example. Not only do they offer 'callback' solutions, they have a great 'callback' button on their website.

almost 3 years ago

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Matt Lovell, Head of Group Analytics & Digital Insight at Thomas Cook Group AirlinesEnterprise

Really interesting. I guess one of the questions that may be thrown back at this however is that in some cases, the travel companies are actually actively trying to discourage people from using the phone because they don't actually have the infrastructure in place to deal with high volumes of calls.

That isn't to say it's right but could at least be part of the reason why this is lacking from sites such as Easyjet...

almost 3 years ago

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Lauren

I would have liked to have seen a like for like comparison, Emirates/Qatar Thomas Cook/Thomson. I think it is interesting that everyone is in a similar situation and have fallen behind with the mobile world.

I hate calling a company and although ease of doing so is preferable I would rather have the information available on the app or site without the need for a call. I think it would be much more beneficial to focus on this than an easy to reach contact us button? The only time I ever really search to call is when I need a local businesses that maybe do not have a need for such an elaborate website.

almost 3 years ago

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Scott Petoff

It goes to show that while average consumers use mobile to research travel brands, many prefer a simple UI to get in touch before making a booking decision. A similar problem happened years ago when too many travel websites were designed in Flash. It became time consuming and frustrating to find basic information using a desktop web browser.

Also keep in mind these same lessons apply to restaurants and tourist attractions. Many of your prospects only want to see your menu, ticket prices and hours of operation so this text content must be easy to locate and mobile friendly.

almost 3 years ago

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Matt Lovell, Head of Group Analytics & Digital Insight at Thomas Cook Group AirlinesEnterprise

@ Scott

The question I would ask is whether users are actually looking for a way to get in touch. Certainly looking at some our sites, despite the 'contact us' pages being pretty prominent, the traffic is next to none existent and looking at user behaviour they are largely researching prices and then stopping at that point.

Given in some cases we can tie these users back to converting at a later point on their tablet / laptop, I would argue they are finding exactly what they need on the site at present and don't need a phone number as they are simply more comfortable booking a high value product on a larger device with a better internet connection.

I will admit that if we were able to store people's card details in a Amazon style format that we might then see more people convert on Mobile but this is prohibited by the fact that much of our bookers are first timers (with repeat bookers actually only booking with us once every 18+ months) which means we wouldn't have these in the first place or they would be out of date...!

almost 3 years ago

Louise Dixon

Louise Dixon, Digital Marketing Executive at ResponseTap

@ Matt
“one of the questions that may be thrown back at this however is that in some cases, the travel companies are actually actively trying to discourage people from using the phone because they don't actually have the infrastructure in place to deal with high volumes of calls.”

In our experience, some travel brands are trying to discourage calls and others are trying to encourage them. Some are trying to achieve both objectives but for different parts of their site!

For example, some of the travel brands we work with have analysed the types of sales they get over the phone and found that they tend to make more conversions and higher value transactions when they actually talk to people (they tell us this is because their expert sales people can upsell other products, such as insurance etc). These companies ask us to directly link their phone calls to the search terms that attracted the customer so they can increase PPC spend to drive more of these calls.

Conversely, other companies we work with are trying to reduce the number of calls by better designing their sites. For example, if a particular holiday offer is driving lots of phone calls from confused customers that don’t actually buy, but just ask loads of questions, then they know they need to improve the content on that particular page. With a reported 81% of travel sector baskets getting abandoned at check out, this can make a real difference to conversion rates (even when you take into account the fact that many people will abandon no matter how good the UX is, because they’re simply shopping around.)

Overall though, our data shows that smartphones in particular are becoming a more important factor in the customer journey. You can check out the blog post below that we’ve just released that shows that although 0.4% of those browsing on their mobile will then also transact via a mobile browser, when you include calls made from a smartphone this figure jumps to 1.3% - over three times higher.

The bottom line is that whether you want more or less calls, they remain an important part of the customer journey and it is increasingly useful to link customers calls to how they interact with you online.

http://www.responsetap.com/uk/blog/general/why-mobile-devices-deliver-three-times-as-many-sales-as-you-might-think

almost 3 years ago

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Matt Lovell, Head of Group Analytics & Digital Insight at Thomas Cook Group AirlinesEnterprise

@ Louise

I completely understand where you're coming from but given that we offer both a live chat and a telephone number to assist people in the booking engine (i.e. where they need it) I would question whether if marking websites on how easily people can find a telephone number from the main homepage (when for the most part the customer journeys suggest this doesn't happen) is potentially an ambiguous criteria...

almost 3 years ago

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