Bookings are the lifeblood of a transportation business. They represent the potential of growth and expansion in companies, and this is why businesses invest in reservations systems that go the mile.
Yet, they don’t always make the same investment into their website. This is often the first point where customers will interact with your brand when researching travel information, so design and function require equally attentive consideration.
We went outside the bus and coach industry to see what the best eCommerce travel websites look like, and here’s what we found…
5 Best Practices We Learned From Top Notch E-Commerce Travel Sites
1. Design a Clear and Prominent Booking Flow Above the Fold
Your booking flow is a call to action. Often, it is used as a research tool in exploring travel options. It gets you one step closer to potential passengers making a reservation, and that is why it needs to be above the fold, visible as the user loads the page.
While it is not critical to have a book now button on the home page, you should definitely have a “from” and “to” field that gets people to start researching. This should be both prominent and accessible so that there is no confusion over where to go to begin the journey of product discovery.
A rule of thumb is to never have the booking capability further than one click away from any webpage of your site, as there is no guarantee that customers will land on your home or booking page every time.
JetBlue emulates this with key booking and discovery information above the fold.
Their home page is very clean and simple, as well as easy to navigate. Users can locate the information they need right away, and book a flight without having to click through to another page. They have strategically made the Book button the first menu option, and no matter what page you are visiting on the website, you can access it to make a booking.
Also, alerts are prominently displayed at the top to warn users of potential factors that could impact them.
2. Use the BEST Travel Imagery You Can Find…Not a Picture of a Coach Bus
You have just 50 milliseconds to impress visitors and keep them on your site. As a bus or coach operator in the travel industry, you have a great advantage as you can tap into people’s imagination by immediately showing them beautiful pictures of their destination. This is what gets people inspired and excited about booking travel. Unfortunately, a picture of a coach bus doesn’t quite have the same effect.
You could try zero copy copyright license sites such as Unsplash and Pexels for professional looking real photography, but if you can find what you are looking for, then tourism agencies are generally more than happy to provide you with free access to images if you contact them.
Consider your site to be the shop window of your business. Are customers going to peer in, and then step in? Or continue walking?
Maheux Bus’ home page is both eye-catching and simple. The lack of clutter draws you right into the click here button which directs to the rest of the site. However, for those who don’t need to explore, you can access schedules and rates from this page. The under-stated transparent icon also alerts you to the fact that Maheux is a bus company, without them making it a billboard.
3. Answer Customer’s Questions With Relevant and Useful Content
Content plays many roles in the digital world. First and foremost, you can use it to establish a relationship with your customers. Authoring or sharing relevant and useful content with them helps to position your coach bus business as one they can trust and engage with.
Furthermore, it helps to identify your brand as an expert in your niche. By sharing insights and content related to the industry, you can open the conversation with potential customers who you want to do business with.
There are also strong SEO benefits to producing content for your blog and social channels. Through your blog, you can add fresh content to your site, a factor which Google considers when ranking on search engine pages.
You can undertake keyword research to determine what your ideal audience is searching for online, and write blog posts optimized around the target search queries. This way, when people search the term that you have written and optimized for, your content will appear in Google’s search results, driving fresh traffic to your website.
Guided tour company, Trafalgar, provides a wealth of resources for travellers on its website. The blog offers up information on the places their clients stay, highlights of eating and drinking around the world, local activities you can try, as well as sights to see. It is full of insights that are useful to both their potential and confirmed clients.
4. Create a Website that is Design Forward with an Intuitive Architecture
Never underestimate the power of good design in a purchasing decision. It is one reason why real estate agents often partner with “staging companies” to make a house look appealing to buyers. While this isn’t exactly the same industry as real estate, your site architecture has to be equally as inviting.
Factors that come into play here are your brand colours (are they inviting and approachable? Do they stand the test of time?) to where things are located on a page. There is a hierarchy of information on a website which should be designed according to the needs of your customers to give them a meaningful interaction.
From a data point of view, a meaningful interaction on your website allows you to identify customer journeys that are resonating with potential passengers. For example, does a Book Now button work better above or below the fold after live testing? Tracking interactions on your site can help you to pinpoint areas in the design or architecture that can be improved. You can use google analytics and A/B testing to determine what’s resonating and what is simply added clutter.
Intrepid Travel is a small group tour travel website offering real-life experiences for travellers. Referring to colour psychology from the guide, you will see that red symbolizes excitement, youth and boldness. This makes it the ideal branding palette for the company, considering its target market.
Furthermore, information is easy to locate and doesn’t leave users unsure of what to do next.
5. Make Your Site Visible on Google Using SEO
Content creation, which we touched on above, is just one aspect of SEO practice, albeit one of the most important. Overall though, the various practices are designed to make your website more visible on Google’s search engine. 75% of searchers never make it past the first page, therefore, the higher you are in page rankings, the more chance there is of organic search traffic finding your website.
Implement the various on-page, off-page, and technical SEO rules for your website. When optimized correctly, this improves your website’s credibility in Google’s eyes and can help you achieve your online business objectives.
In today’s digital world, your website is a connection to your customers. With the highly competitive market place out there, you can’t afford to not tap into its potential.
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