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Ease of use should indeed increase conversions, but it’s difficult to compare the complexity of dealing with apartment hosts on Airbnb with simply completing a hotel booking from one brand on Hilton.com.
New research shows that travelers have a tough time using Airbnb, Priceline and Travelocity, and took the more time on these sites to complete a task when compared with other online travel agency, hotel, and travel search sites.
“Through our qualitative analysis, it became clear that users were often confused when they reached the results page of a travel website,” notes a report, Travel Website User Experience, from Change Sciences Group, a consulting company.
“Sites that did not provide strong visual cues for user priorities such as pricing and the ability to filter by price and location were often rated as less usable,” the report states.
The following Change Sciences Graphics depicts travel sites’ usability, including time on site, compared with retail sites such as Target and Amazon.
The travel site pecking order, from “least time on task,” as reported by those surveyed, to most time on task was Hilton, InterContinental, Hotels.com, Hipmunk and Oyster (tied), Orbitz, Marriott, Hyatt, Jetsetter and Expedia (tied), Travelocity, Priceline and Airbnb.
There are some ironies in the findings.
Users reported that it took the most time to complete a task on Airbnb, even though the Airbnb site (and its apps) are relatively elegant and easy to navigate.
On the other hand, booking an apartment or vacation rental, which is what Airbnb focuses on, can be a relatively complex task compared with simply booking a hotel on Hilton.com or Hotels.com.
In another twist, the Priceline Group, including its Booking.com unit in particular, is renowned for having pioneered many hotel booking features that others have copied, yet Priceline.com in the study was rated the second worst (i.e. the second longest time) in completing a task. (Keep in mind, thought, that the study just didn’t survey hotel bookings, but took into account many types of tasks on these sites, and with Priceline you can also book flights, cars, vacation packages, cruises and bid for various types of bookings.)
In addition, Hipmunk, which prides itself on taking the agony out of flight and hotel search, didn’t score as well as Hilton, InterContinental and Hotels.com, and tied with Oyster.com in the time it takes to complete a task on the site.
Of course, these are apples to tomato comparisons as their is a lot more choice and variations in a Hipmunk search than there would be on Hilton.com, for example.
Change Sciences argues that travel websites will improve conversions if they make it easier — and less frustrating — to wrap up tasks on travel websites.
Here’s the report.