Travel shopping is fragmented, lengthy, competitive. Even the most loyal customers cross-shop to validate their choices before buying. The battle for traffic, clicks and conversions is tougher than ever for travel brands.

Unfortunately, too many travel companies continue to fight against cross-shopping behavior, swimming upstream against a current that’s already taken hold.

Consider Hilton’s latest ad campaign, “Stop Clicking Around,” or Marriott’s “It Pays to Book Direct” campaign from 2015 — both are prime examples of travel companies going against the tide. “Change your behavior,” they’re saying.

This mentality is short-sighted. Cross-shopping is only a threat when success is measured by conversions alone. A laser focus on conversions puts travel brands on the defensive, fighting for each click and booking, and, ultimately, sets brands up to fail. As Google’s Head of Industry for travel, Anna Sawbridge, said, “96% of people [visiting travel sites] do not want to convert. Some are there for something else.” In short, a fixation on conversions is the #1 mistake travel sites make.

The way shopping happens now, users come to travel sites for different reasons at different times. Savvy travel brands have shifted their focus from bookings to the broader metrics of revenue per search and revenue per user — metrics that recognize today’s consumer realities. CEO of BudgetPlaces, Christoph Dieterle, says “Obviously, we prefer to transact a client directly, but we think of our site like a search engine.”

Rather than fighting only to win conversions, brands like BudgetPlaces see fragmented shopping as an opportunity. They capitalize on user behavior and delight customers wherever they are in their journey. Sometimes this means guiding a user that’s ready to buy to a conversion. Other times, it means providing effective media to a customer still shopping around.

Being a competitive travel site today means offering users both transaction and media-based value. Look at Google and TripAdvisor. Both have been leaders in media and search functionality for travelers. Now both offer users the ability to buy. Even they have expended to support both media-driven and transactional behavior. Why? Because when consumers use the travel sites to search, they don’t need them. The flip side of that is that smart travel sites see the search-engine like opportunity available to them and are developing media businesses in kind.

In a world where users spend months comparison shopping and abandon $1.78 trillion in abandoned shopping carts, those that focus solely on conversions will be fighting a losing battle. Winners will be those that understand that media is not a small ancillary business. Rather, media is how they will give cross-shopping users what they want. It’s how they will bridge the gap between current business metrics that rely on conversion for success and the reality of modern shopping. And when done right, it’s how they will transform their P&L.

Learn more about common misconceptions that cost travel brands millions in lost revenue each year. Downoload the free ebook, Top 5 Myths in Travel Media.
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This content is created collaboratively in partnership with our sponsor Intent Media