New competitive intelligence from Keynote Systems details the increasing importance of brand reputation and car selection options to online consumers when reserving or booking a rental car online.
According to the Keynote Customer Experience Rankings for Rental Car Web Sites study, the importance of reputation has increased considerably over the past year to become a top driver of consumer brand perceptions and rental likelihood. The Keynote study provides a detailed analysis of the leading drivers of online customer experience and conversion, including rental likelihood. Price satisfaction, the online reservation process and the rental car search process also remain leading factors for brand and conversion.
The study is based on research with 2,000 online consumers as they interacted with 10 leading online travel and rental car Web sites: Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Expedia, Hertz, Orbitz, Thrifty and Travelocity.
“As the online travel and online rental car industry matures the product offerings are gaining more variation and differentiation,” said Dr. Bonny Brown, director of research at Keynote. “This differentiation in offerings appears to be having an effect on brand reputations which, as a result, are becoming increasingly important drivers of consumer booking and rental intent.”
The online travel agency sites in the study - Orbitz, Travelocity and Expedia - performed best overall in the Keynote Customer Experience Rankings, an overall measure of online customer experience based on evaluation of more than 250 metrics. However, rental car supplier sites ranked best in terms of quality and reputation, which could be a strategic advantage for these sites if such factors continue to grow in importance in consumer booking and rental intent. A full 39% of online consumers self-report the quality of rental car selection as a leading factor in their booking and rental decisions. Hertz and Avis were ranked as having the best quality and reputation.
Keynote Customer Experience Rankings
Orbitz raced ahead in the Keynote Customer Experience Rankings, marking the first time any site has ranked ahead of Expedia, which leads in Keynote rankings across the online travel industry, including studies of the online airline, hotel and cruise industries. Orbitz success was driven by its brand perceptions and its strong performance in price satisfaction, the rental car search process and overall site design and organization. Online consumers were particularly pleased with the Orbitz Matrix Display, which offers a one-page graphical view of different rental car options and prices. Travelocity continues to rank the best in terms of price satisfaction and Expedia continues to rank the best in terms of driving customer booking or rental intent.
Across Keynote studies, and particularly in the online travel industry, aggregators typically perform better than suppliers in terms of customer satisfaction and conversion, as exemplified by Orbitz, Travelocity and Expedia’s lead in the online rental car industry. Budget was the best performing rental car supplier site, leading other rental car companies in terms of customer satisfaction, which was driven by its reputation, as well as the site’s visual appeal. Rental car companies as a group also outperform the online travel agencies in terms of consumer perceptions about the quality of rental cars the sites offer.
“The rental car suppliers have a unique advantage in their knowledge of and association with the quality and selection of their rental car fleet. This is an area these companies can focus on to drive bookings on their sites as compared to online agency sites,” said Dr. Brown The biggest frustration of online consumers, across all sites, is uncertainty as to when their credit cards will be charged for the rental, with 20% reporting such uncertainty. More than half (55%) expects to be charged when they pick up the car, whereas just 20% expect to be charged at the point of making the reservation online.