Leisure travel has found its way back from the COVID-induced crisis it experienced for years, and summer travel is set to explode, with 85 percent of adults planning to travel this summer, up 5 percent from last year’s post-pandemic high. As millions of Americans head online to research and book their summer travel, new research from digital experience intelligence firm FullStory examines the digital preferences and behaviors of U.S. consumers.
The firm’s survey provides new proof that digital dominates travel planning—but not necessarily in the ways that brands may expect
Nearly 8 in 10 (78 percent) Americans always or frequently research and book at least some portion of their trips online. And 44 percent research and book the entirety of their travel plans online, from airlines to hotels to activities. Once they hit the road, half (48 percent) of Americans say they rely heavily on mobile travel apps.
High earners making more than $150,000 a year are even more likely to rely on digital channels for planning, with 83 percent always or frequently researching and booking online. Almost half (49 percent) lock in every piece of their trip online before departure.
Income aside, the majority of travelers (57 percent) would pay a premium for a guaranteed flawless digital experience
They’re more interested in practical enhancements like interface/navigation improvements (23 percent) and technical stability and reliability (17 percent) over buzzy features like AI chatbots (7 percent) and augmented reality (6 percent).
“Digital properties are the most prevalent way customers make travel decisions and transactions, so travel brands can’t afford any digital missteps,” said Darren Kennedy, SVP of Customer Experience for FullStory, in a news release. “Our research continues to show that customers are loyal to experiences, not brands, and they’re searching for brands to do the basics really well—even more than ones that offer fancy new features. With so many trips almost entirely planned online in advance, brands need to start channeling empathy for the digital consumer and proactively find and fix digital issues before they impact customers.”
Does the digital experience enhance or detract from the overall travel experience?
Three-quarters (75 percent) of Americans surveyed say that digital makes the travel experience better. But some travel sites fare better than others. Hotel sites rank highest for digital experience, while car rental sites score lowest among travelers.
How common are bad digital experiences—and what’s at stake?
Travelers have low tolerance for digital struggles and are one click away from booking elsewhere. More than half (55 percent) say they are likely to book with another travel provider when they are frustrated with a site or app. With nearly 21 percent of respondents always or frequently struggling when booking or researching online, there is a significant opportunity for travel providers to improve the digital experience they deliver to customers.
What makes for a good travel experience?
According to another recent FullStory survey, the #1 factor to ensure a great digital experience in 2023 is the ability to “quickly accomplish what I came to do” —a priority for 81 percent of Americans. However, only 26 percent of U.S. consumers describe the digital experience as “simple,” with 21 percent saying the experience is “stressful” or “difficult.
The survey of 1,500 U.S. consumers, conducted online in May 2023, is the latest in a research series that addresses key questions in the travel digital experience.