Verto Index: Travel Apps and Sites

As Americans prepare for summer and kick into high gear with vacation planning, this month’s Verto Index, which focuses on cross-device (PCs, smartphones, and tablets) usage of travel websites and apps, shows some interesting trends. The Index reflects usage numbers and data from April 2016 among U.S. adults (ages 18 and older) and shows a ranking of the most popular travel sites and apps from TripAdvisor to SkyScanner.

Travel Companies are Targeting Cross-Device Usage

First, despite continued predictions that we’re entering a mobile-first world (Google recently reported that more of its searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries including the U.S. and Japan), our latest data shows significant fragmentation in the market: different travel companies are choosing to target different audiences across different devices.

The travel app and site market is dominated by three big publishers: TripAdvisor LLC, Expedia, Inc., and the Priceline Group, Inc. Together, they own 11 of the 25 properties listed on the Verto Index, and saw a combined 148.5 million users during the month of April.

While the Expedia group claims the largest user base (51.4 million), TripAdvisor LLC reaches nearly half its user base via mobile-only, led by its flagship TripAdvisor app. Here are the figures:

  • Expedia Inc: 51.4 million users
  • Priceline Group Inc: 27.3 million users
  • TripAdvisor LLC: 36.3 million users

When we look at the top three sites and apps – TripAdvisor, Southwest, and Expedia – all have strong reach and user numbers, and offer robust apps (especially TripAdvisor, which actually attracts more users to its app than its website). Further down the list, however, things get a bit more interesting.

Airbnb: Moving from a Transaction to an Experience

When it comes to sessions per user and the duration of sessions, airlines and accommodations (as opposed to one-stop shopping and planning sites) show big numbers. HomeAway and Airbnb, which both allow users to browse and book vacation rentals from individual homeowners (or tenants) have some of the highest time spent (average aggregate time spent on the site/app across the month of April) as well as session durations (average time spent over a single visit).

Airbnb’s reported session duration of more than 13 minutes per visit is exceptionally high compared to all other sites and apps in the Verto Index, reflecting on the company’s ambitions to add extensive travel-related content to its existing rental listings. While Airbnb already offered neighborhood guides for selected cities, it just released a more comprehensive set of guidebooks in the latest version of its app–perfect fodder for attracting more users to the app and keeping them engaged.

American, Southwest, and Delta: Courting the Mobile User

Looking at the high-ranking airlines on our list, it’s obvious that some airlines have elevated their sites and apps far beyond a merely transactional experience. Rather than serve as a repository for basic travel logistics (buying tickets, checking in, and flight status information), some airlines are leveraging their sites and apps to provide a whole new level of services and content.

Mobile-only users for American Airlines’ app benefit from the company’s new in-airport wayfinding tools and airport guides (which include walking times to gates, locations of nearest restaurants and shops, and predicted wait times at security checks). Other airlines, such as Southwest and Delta (also both high on the Verto Index), have incorporated automated rebooking tools into their apps, to help prevent passengers from being stranded by bad weather or missed connections. These big value-adds are paying off for airline apps–especially for American Airlines. Although traffic to its site and app is less than a quarter of Southwest’s, its session duration (average time spent on a single visit) is more than double, clocking in at more than nine minutes (compared to Southwest’s 4:06). The next question is, can American maintain its high user engagement levels while expanding its reach, especially among mobile users? Or will its higher-ranking rivals (especially Southwest, with its 31.8 million users) roll out their own engagement-boosting features first?

Results from the Verto Stickiness Index: Sticky, but Small

Interestingly, the two sites that lead in the Verto Stickiness Index (VSI)* are properties with small user bases and little mobile presence: while Viator and OneTravel both offer apps, less than 50% of their users choose to access the site via mobile device. Viator’s mobile-only audience is especially tiny – despite being owned by TripAdvisor, the top-ranking property in the Index and a leader in mobile travel apps.

Viator markets personalized “insider” tours and experiences in tourist destinations across the globe – already a space crowded by startups like Vayable and FieldTrip. Based on our Index, Viator users may be small in number, but they’re incredibly engaged – the average session duration clocks in at slightly more than 11 minutes, second only to Airbnb. Can TripAdvisor bring its massive user base and mobile magic to Viator, or will it keep developing the property as a niche operation?

See the full graphs here (2 pages)

This Travel Apps Index is a product of Verto Content Watch. Verto Content Watch provides single-source, cross-device audience measurement to help advertisers and publishers better understand their audiences and market dynamics across all apps and digital properties. Publishers and developers can target prospective users based on behavior and content consumption, assess new segments and geographical markets, and develop media-buying strategies and acquisition tactics that drive results.

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*The Verto Stickiness Index (VSI) compares daily users with monthly users to reflect the active, loyal, and engaged part of the audience. The higher the stickiness, the bigger the share of daily users versus the monthly users is.