Assessing The Impact of Social Plug-In Placement on Travel Sites

IN-DEPTH: Shoppers are relying more and more on social to inform their shopping decisions and to form relationship with retailers. There is a need for travel marketers to consider the implications of social plug-in adoption closely. Concerns over slow page load time is a factor in the reluctant adoption of social in the travel industry, says Paul Cook, CEO of TagMan.

By Ritesh Gupta

A recent study by TagMan, a specialist in tag management, indicated that social plug-in adoption among Experian Hitwise Top 100 UK Travel Retail Sites lag far behind adoption among all top sites.

While 50 percent of all top sites have a Facebook plug-in and 43 percent have a Twitter plug-in, it turns out that only 29 percent of the Top 100 UK Travel Retail Sites have any social plug-in at all.

Another recent study indicated that the display of a social media icon such as a Facebook “Like” button or a Twitter symbol on a shopping website increases the likelihood that consumers will buy some products, and reduces the likelihood that they will buy others.

Travel marketers need to consider the implications of social plug-in adoption closely now.

EyeforTravel’s Ritesh Gupta spoke to Paul Cook, CEO of TagMan about the same in detail. Excerpts:

It is being highlighted that the display of a social media icon has started impacting consumers’ shopping behaviour. Can you provide an insight into the same?

Paul Cook:

While full service social commerce, such as setting up a store on Facebook might be a viable move for big players, like Procter & Gamble, for smaller businesses the major play lies in adding social plugins, such as “Like” or “Share,” to their e-commerce sites.

The truth is, consumers aren’t visiting social networks to do their shopping. A recent report by Forrester found that the conversion rate for Facebook stores was equal to that of standard e-commerce stores, at between 2-4 percent, while also attracting traffic of between 1-10 percent of the total fan base rate.

For smaller shops, the return on setting up a social shop definitely seems minimal. But when it comes to socialising e-commerce sites, there’s a greater reward. Adweek reported that, “revenue per click from shoppers arriving via social media links is around 70 percent higher than the revenue per click spent by email shoppers, adding that, “‘Share’ and ‘like’ buttons help drive traffic since click-through rates for news feed links are vastly higher than for Facebook ads.”

It has been found that social media icons have penetrated people’s unconscious processes and can influence decisions and behaviour in ways that may bypass our awareness and ability to control. What do you make of the thought process when web visitors see icons?

Paul Cook:

Using “Facebook Connect,” on e-commerce sites, such as Levis and Ticketmaster, has aided in adding social to e-commerce that doesn’t seem awkward or forced. If a friend chooses to share shopping habits, then the consumer can see what they’re buying or liking right at the point of the transaction or search on the e-commerce site which ultimately influences their purchase. Shoppers are relying more and more on social to inform their shopping decisions and to form relationship with retailers.

What do you recommend when it comes to placement of these symbols in travel companies’ web design strategy?

TagMan is not recommending them… despite evidence that shoppers are becoming increasingly social, with 58 percent of online consumers having “followed” a brand through Facebook, Twitter or a travel site’s blog. However, if travel retail sites are missing out on a valuable opportunity due to concerns about extra load time, they need to consider tag loading functionality closely.

(For its part, TagMan offers a free tool that offers marketers an understanding of correlation between slow-loading pages and loss of conversions. Its Conversion Loss Calculator allows marketers to plug in specific data about their own websites and returns information showing the direct impact of slow-loading pages on the bottom line. According to the company, when page-load time increased, likely conversion rates dropped by 6.7 percent. Additionally, the calculator shows that page-load time for visitors who abandoned the site without converting was three to four times higher than for those who converted and made a purchase).

Why travel sites have been slow in adoption of social plug-ins?What are your recommendations when it comes to making the best of social plug-ins?

One second is how long Google’s +1 plug-in drags down page-load time, and that’s not “just” a second when research shows that 10 percent of site traffic is lost for every extra second a site takes to load.

Facebook’s ubiquitous ‘like’ plug-in stalls page load time by approximately .2 seconds. This means featuring both plug-ins on a page adds c. 1.2 seconds to its load time. That translates to more than a 10 percent loss in visitors, and by extension, in conversion.

To put another way, an online business with $35 million in revenue could lose over $3.5 million in sales using just these two plug-ins.

Adoption of Google’s +1 plug-in has been astonishingly fast. BrightEdge recently released a report on the adoption of social sharing plug-ins on websites. Their study found c. half the top 10,000 websites have a link to their Facebook pages from their home page and (talk about early adoption!) Google+ is already in second place. In fact, Google’s +1 plug-in is already more widely deployed than Twitter’s share button.

I believe that concerns over slow page load time is a factor in the reluctant adoption of social in the travel industry.