Expedia, Travelocity and Sheraton Deliver Best Online Customer Experience

1st Jul 2003

Vividence today announced the results of its
comparative study of hotel industry Web sites, Vividence Customer
Experience Rankings for Lodging. Measuring the behavior, thoughts and
attitudes of thousands of travelers attempting real-life tasks online,
Vividence uncovered significant variations in how users experience
different travel sites.

Hotel sites like Sheraton
are creating stronger brand experiences
online, while online travel agencies like Expedia
and Travelocity
converting more browsers into buyers. Despite the tremendous success of
online travel, the lodging sector only performed average compared to Web
norms for customer experience.  Virtually all sites studied caused
frustrations for customers.  On average, study participants encountered
problems every three minutes. Despite the differences between hotel and
online agency sites, users encountered approximately the same number of
frustrations on both types of sites.

Drawing from real user feedback and behaviors, Vividence ranked the top
lodging industry Web sites on a series of factors that drive business
success and customer satisfaction.

Top Overall Customer Experience 1. Expedia 2. Travelocity 3. Sheraton

“With the rapid growth and strong profits of the hotel aggregator sites,
most industry observers believe these sites are more successful than the
branded hotel sites. The Vividence data show that this conclusion may be
an oversimplification,” said Greg Jones, founder of WorldRes, a leading
online hotel reservation network.  “On one hand, it`s clear that
hoteliers need to improve their booking processes and price/value
positioning to drive better conversion. On the other, the online agency
sites need to learn a lesson or two about creating memorable and
satisfying online experiences to gain more brand loyal customers.  For
both parties, the Vividence study promises to provide invaluable
feedback on competitive `best practices` and individual strengths and


“The online travel agencies hit the ball out of the park, taking the top
positions in Overall Customer Experience as well as Conversion,” said
Jeff Greenberg, Vividence CEO. “However, every site revealed an Achilles
heel. For instance, we identified six essential drivers that determine
hotel Web site success. Expedia was one of the lowest-ranked sites on
two of these drivers, but it ranked best overall. There is clearly room
for even the most user friendly sites to improve.”

Study participants said they`d be most likely to primarily or
exclusively use Travelocity for booking lodging in the future.  In
addition, Travelocity scored high marks on innovation and ease of
booking. “We`ve worked very hard to become the lodging site of choice.
This Vividence research confirms our leadership position and reveals new
opportunities for everyone in the industry,” said Elizabeth Peaslee,
Travelocity`s VP of Customer Experience.

Of all sites evaluated, Sheraton posed the fewest problems, leading it
to score well in Customer Satisfaction.  “The depth and quantity of
information in the Vividence CE Rankings provided an insight into our
site performance that we did not previously understand,” said Mark
Koehler, VP of Interactive Marketing at Starwood Hotels & Resorts,
owner, operator and franchiser of hotels and resorts including Sheraton,
St. Regis, The Luxury Collection, Westin, Four Points by Sheraton, and W
Hotels. “We were pleased to see that users found Sheraton.com easy to
use and hassle-free, but we`re not going to stop there. We`ll be using
the future Vividence studies to take a regular pulse of our online
customer and identify ways to make our sites even more useful to
business and leisure travelers.” 

Study participants perceived Orbitz
as the site with the best deals and
promotions, and they appreciated the site`s clear display of price
options. “As the Vividence data demonstrated, many travelers rely on the
Web to make informed travel purchases, so it`s important to understand
how customers perceive us in that area,” said Eliah Kahn, Vice President
of Customer Experience at Orbitz. “Vividence`s research will help us to
sustain a unique value proposition for the customer looking for a better
travel booking experience.”

will conduct the CE Rankings study every six months to
identify longitudinal trends across the industry. “The hospitality
industry was relatively slow to embrace online distribution, and the
hotel companies have been playing catch-up ever since,” said Jones.
“Will the hotels learn how to better convert their visitors? Will online
agencies develop lasting brand relationships with their users? We`ll
soon know which sites are embracing this study to attack their
weaknesses and extend their competitive strengths.”


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