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A closer look at independent trip bookers

A family relaxing on the sofa and looking at a laptop

Digital transformation in the travel industry, which has manifested the growing usage of online travel agencies and meta search engines, has enabled consumers to book trips independently over the last decade. Also referred to as ‘non-packaged travel’, it is currently estimated that 56% of the UK population had booked leisure trips in this way during the second quarter of 2019.

New research from Microsoft Advertising has unearthed the purchase behaviours of independent trip bookers over a three-month period (April–June 2019), during which independent trip bookers manifested in two types of shoppers. These were identified as ‘monoline’ (purchasing one travel product) and ‘multiline’ (purchasing several travel products for their trips). Overall, 56% of travel searchers on the Microsoft Search Network were revealed to be multiline shoppers.

Key characteristics of the multiline shopper purchase journey 

It all starts with accommodation

56% of multiline shoppers began their travel purchase path with an accommodation purchase. Flights came in second for multiline shoppers, while 38% of multiline shoppers began their travel purchase path with flights first. Accommodation and flights purchases were also a popular combination purchase, with 40% of multiline shoppers opting for this bundle.

A love of experiences

Activities were particularly popular as an add-on purchase, with 47% of multiline shoppers bundling a flights or accommodation purchase together with an activities purchase. This further highlights the lucrative potential of the experience economy, which was recently estimated to reach US$8.2 (£6.3) trillion globally by 2028. Additionally, searches for activities have displayed a big surge (23% increase YoY) between Jan–Aug 2019 on the Microsoft Search Network.

Weak brand loyalty

72% of multiline purchase paths (versus 62% for monoline) begin with non-branded searches and 38% of multiline purchase paths (versus 28% for monoline) conclude with non-branded searches. Multiline shoppers were found to have the strongest brand consideration for car hire, with 46% of them visiting four or more unique website domains when purchasing this product. Meanwhile, flights proved to be the weakest brand consideration, with 37% of multiline shoppers visiting four or more unique domains when purchasing this product.

Targeting multiline shoppers effectively 

Audience marketing solutions can be useful instruments when targeting multiline shoppers, while also holding a strong track-record for advertising efficiency and engagement for the travel industry: 

In-marketing audiences (targeted ads based on purchase intent signals) can help capture consumers early on in the journey and, as such, have influenced over 440,000 travel purchases on the Microsoft Search Network in the UK in the third quarter of 2019. 

Re-marketing (targeted ads to previous website visitors) can help upsell to consumers who are already familiar with your brand. Due to this, re-marketing campaigns for travel advertisers average a 33% higher purchase rate than non-re-marketing campaigns in the UK.

Microsoft audience ads (native ad placements) leverage the power of visual search to boost engagement and, as a result, travel advertisers with enabled audience ads have seen a 74% lift in clicks to their search marketing campaigns.

The prominence of independent trip bookers and their weak brand loyalty is not ideal for many travel businesses that wish to keep their customers purchasing all elements of their trip from their inventory. By reaching and re-targeting multiline shoppers early on, as well as during their online purchase journey through the use of audience marketing solutions, travel businesses can remain influential at the right time and ensure they cross-sell effectively.

Read more and download the Microsoft Advertising Unlocking Cross Selling in Travel 2019 Deck