In January a large property listing website announced they’d increased conversions by 300%. They’d significantly changed the site’s design and the way they searched for properties, delivering results by travel time rather than miles radius.
In March a second property website announced a boost of 300% but this time no design change whatsoever. They started delivering results by travel time, and that was the only change they made. Timing was everything.
Why does providing travel time boost conversions?
As with any conversion boost, it’s down to optimizing consumer experience. The search results were more relevant, but why?
Personalization: the key to transforming conversion rates
We already know that personalization is key whether you’re composing an email campaign or doing post-sales follow-ups. Where’s the personalization in location? Personalization is nothing without people, which is the downfall of a distance search. A mile “as the crow flies” isn’t relevant if the crow is on a bus or in a car.
Acknowledging infrastructure networks transforms a circle into a polygon. This polygon changes shape depending on the surrounding location’s network. Local search results that use a polygon model will eliminate all the erroneous results that would have been delivered in a miles radius search.
Sorry, I’m running 5 miles late
A mile is not a human metric: we do everything by time. We need to arrive at locations on time, leave on time, spend time at locations or visit several places in an allotted time. The problem is that one mile can take five minutes or one hour depending on congestion, infrastructure and other factors.
Tell a hungry person their favorite restaurant is ten minutes away, and they know exactly what you mean. Tell them it’s a mile away, and they will need to know a lot more. Using time in local searching makes the results relevant and understandable. When the amount of consumer leg-work is reduced, they’re more likely to decide there and then.
Time to personalize
People search for location-specific results because they need to get there. Websites that use minutes instead of miles can ask two simple questions that will personalize each search so that no one will ever need to work out “will this work for me?”
- What time of day are they planning on traveling?
- What mode of transportation will they use?
Give it the time of day
This information alters the relevant results for three reasons.
- Transportation timetables and open/close times will limit where a consumer can go.
- The results they seek will also differ – restaurants open at 3:00 am are different from those at 6:00 pm.
- Road congestion will most likely reduce in the early hours of the morning.
Some locations will always operate at the same time of day. Lunch reservations will always be in the same time window. Property searches may always use 9:00 am because the majority of people commute from home to work at that time.
Other sites may choose to automate the time function so that the visitor sees what is possible at the time of their search. This is useful if the site visitor wants to get there immediately, giving accurate results quickly.
The four polygons show different results for different transportation modes within 30 minutes. You can see that walkers can’t cover as much distance as drivers (obviously!). Adjusting for the exact mode of transportation ensures that every location result is reachable and removes any errors covered in distance searching.
Restaurant listing site OpenTable lets customers book tables so that they can reach their restaurant reservation within minutes.
UK national tourism agency VisitBritain lets tourists plan their day based on what’s near their attraction of choice.
The UK’s largest real estate agency group Countrywide lets property seekers pick how long they want their commute to be when listing new homes.
Time is mobile
With four out of five local searches on mobile devices ending with a purchase, marketers need to leverage their apps to ensure that they’re catering to the ever-moving consumer. Consumers can pick their search point or use mobile location searches to search by minutes from their current point.
Whose marketing efforts will benefit most from travel time search results?
- Local businesses and listing sites can deliver local results within minutes rather than miles e.g. property, restaurants, bars, jobs.
- Retailers providing click and collect services can navigate customers to the best pick up point and direct customers to access-friendly locations when products are out of stock.
- Delivery services (food, laundry, furniture etc.) can create marketing campaigns around the minutes it takes to reach each individual customer.
- Companies with location-specific geo-targeting campaigns can deliver location-based information in minutes rather than miles radius.
- Classified listing sites eBay and Gumtree can supply product searches using travel time when users prefer to pick up locally.
It’s about time…I wrapped things up
[pullquote]Searching for locations by time delivers more accurate results. Consumers like it and convert.[/pullquote]
- Consumers convert when they are delivered more relevant results
- As the crow flies isn’t accurate because we can’t fly!
- Consumers need a human metric for location searching. Don’t reinvent the wheel, get a clock.
- Ask site visitors more to deliver more accurate results
About the Author
Louisa is head of marketing at iGeolise.com. The company is the creator of the TravelTime Platform, an API that allows websites to search, rank, sort and display location results by minutes rather than miles. She’s cuckoo for conversions – particularly if they have to do with local search. To find out more follow them on Twitter @iGeolise or go to www.gettraveltime.com.