Encouraging customers to complete their online orders is no easy task, and it’s an issue that affects the entire e-commerce industry.

Sean Mahon, affiliate manager at Equator, leads a case study this month at Performance Marketing Insights in Berlin on the issue of cart abandonment in the travel industry– where it can hurt the most.

We caught up with Sean to hash out his thoughts on the issue ahead of his PMI session, which looks at how the agency managed to overcome the challenge of cart abandonment for Macdonald Hotels and its chain of properties across Europe.

Cart abandonment was one of the biggest talking points from PMI last year. 12 months on – it’s the subject of your case study-led session. Have we progressed with it?

 Sean Mahon: I’m not sure if it’s an issue of progression as much as one of refinement. We’ve seen the tools we use get smarter, look cooler etc., but for me it’s an ongoing case of how we use them responsibly. There’s a lot of considerations to be aware of – are we spamming the customer? Are we assisting the customer in their online journey rather than just chasing bookings? Is it solely to drive sales or can we use these tools to address other issues such as bounce rate reduction? For me, the customer-first approach will continue to lead developments in this field.

From the experience of addressing the problem for Macdonald Hotels, why do you think so many people choose not to go ahead with buying? 

SM: There’s a myriad of factors at play here. Price-sensitivity on behalf of the customer is a major one. Using the main OTAs to find the best rates, researching cashback and/or voucher sites and looking at competitors’ rates are all part of the savvy customer’s online research en route to making a booking. Technology is obviously playing its part here too, making it easier for customers to carry out this level of research basically anywhere. 

Was there anything you learned about the travel industry’s specific problems with cart abandonment through your work with Macdonald Hotels? 

SM: Continuing on from my last point, it now seems as if the hotels themselves are becoming a part of the overall booking process as opposed to the main resource for booking online. The undeniable presence and influence of the main OTAs in the market really does set travel apart from most other industries. I think one of the main questions we had to ask ourselves was why would someone book direct with Macdonald Hotels, or any hotel for that matter?

Is addressing the issue as easy as incentivisation in most cases?

SM: In attempting to answer the question outlined in my last point, we were keen not to go down the tried and tested discounting route. The team at Macdonald Hotels were quite adamant that they didn’t want to necessarily devalue their brand offering in attempting to tackle cart abandonment. That’s why we worked quite closely with the team at Ve Interactive to ensure we were emphasising key onsite messaging and direct booking rewards in any messaging we used. I’ve seen some rather ghastly examples of retargeting being used in the past that couldn’t wait to get a discount code in your hand fast enough. This was definitely something we were keen to distance ourselves from.

Away from your session, have you made a note of any other presentations taking place over the two days?

SM: I’d love to check out some of my fellow case studiers, if that even is a term(?), as I love seeing tangible examples of other peoples’ work in different sectors. The keynote speech is obviously going to be a major draw so I’ll make sure the Equator team are down there early enough to grab seats! The panel discussion on What The Hell is Performance Marketing on Day 1 should be good to. These kind of spirited debates are always fun and informative so I’m looking forward to that for sure.

View more information on Sean’s session and the full Performance Marketing Insights: Europe 2015 agenda here.

Europe’s largest performance advertising conference touches down in Berlin in less than three weeks. Register now to be part of it!