comScore Networks, Yahoo!, and Media Contacts today jointly released new research quantifying the impact of Web search engines on domestic travel spending. The custom study examined the search, visiting and buying behavior of consumers over eight weeks following the initiation of travel research in April 2005. In April, 35 million U.S. consumers used a search engine to initiate travel planning, and those who bought travel online ultimately spent an estimated $6.6 billion in the category during the eight week analysis period.
“We’ve long known that the Web is an invaluable resource for travel planning, and now we’ve further quantified the impact of search engines in driving travel bookings,” said James Lamberti, vice president of comScore Search Marketing Solutions. “The latent and multi-channel effects of search are particularly noteworthy: for every travel purchase occurring directly after a search referral an additional five search-related purchases occur at a later time, across both online and offline channels.”
Web Search Influences Travel Purchases Across Online and Offline Channels
Among the 35 million consumers searching for travel in April 2005, nearly one-third purchased a travel-related service either online or offline within the eight weeks following the initial search. Among these buyers, 80 percent completed travel purchases online. The discovery that 20 percent of these buyers ultimately completed a travel purchase offline underscores the influence of online research across all buying channels.
Search and Click Frequency Correlated to Purchase Propensity
Overall, consumers using the Web to research travel were observed to submit multiple queries and click on multiple links per query. However, those who ultimately purchased travel submitted an average of 5.4 travel-related searches over the study period, and clicked on an average of 7.8 links within search results. This is significantly more than the 3.4 travel-related searches and 5.2 clicks associated with those consumers who were not observed to buy online.
Study Quantifies Latent Impact of Web Search
Consistent with past comScore research in other product and service categories, a significant portion of the impact of Web search on travel buying occurred in sessions following the initial search engine referral. In fact, only 20 percent of all travel transactions linked to search engine activity occurred directly following the initial search referral, while the remaining 80 percent took place in the days and weeks following the initial search session. This latency, or inactivity of consumers between search and purchase, was observed at comparable levels among all travel products.
“This research proves that Web search marketing is much more than a direct response vehicle,” said TS Kelly, vice president and director of research and insight for Media Contacts. “To fully measure ROI, marketers must consider the latent and offline value of any search marketing campaign.”
A Key Resource for the Travel Shopper - Now and In the Future
The results of a comScore survey fielded to more than 500 consumers searching for travel-related information indicate that Web search is a highly relevant and important tool in comparison to other resources. Fully 82 percent of respondents reported that they were satisfied or very satisfied with their use of Web search for travel. Along with facilitating commerce, 56 percent of respondents said Web search helped them discover a new site, and 27 percent said search led them to a new brand. An impressive 83 percent of Internet travel planners in the study said they intend to use Web search for future travel planning a 17-percent increase over current usage levels. This confirms that Web search will continue to play a vital role in the category.
“It’s important for marketers to understand that consumers value Web search not only for gathering information but also for discovering new services and brands,” said Bradley King, travel category director for Yahoo! Search Marketing. “Search provides travel marketers a way to persistently engage with these consumers in an effort to ensure top of mind positioning throughout all points of the travel buying cycle.”