Use of eye tracking and electromyography technology has revealed people shopping for travel are influenced more by the anticipation of future memories than past memories.
Expedia has been using the technology in three labs it has established in London, its Bellevue headquarters in Washington and Singapore.
Scott Jones, Expedia vice president of design and user experience, said this is revealing what delights customers as they search for their perfect trip.
“People look for the moments and memories of the trip. What we see is the anticipation of future memories is actually just as strong, or even stronger, than past memories.
“But when I look around travel products shopping and planning those moments are fleeting. There is more we can do to put more anticipation into our experiences.”
Electromyography (EMG) works by attaching sensors to specific parts of the face, like the eyebrow, to monitor involuntary muscle activity that is known to relate to certain emotions.
When tested in the lab spikes in activity are found and Expedia asks the person being tested, who sites behind one-way glass, what they were thinking at that point.
Jones said Expedia has found that people spend an “exorbitant amount of time” researching the details of the trip because there is a lot of uncertainty.
They are also often researching on behalf of family members and so there is a huge amount of pressure to get things right.
“Travel is unlike any other online purchase,” Jones said, “in that it cannot really be returned and our travellers understand that deep down they are not really going to know if it’s the right thing of if they have made a mistake until it’s too late.
“Through EMG we can understand what really happens. Consumers bounce between things they think they know and actually what they are trying to accomplish in the future, jumping from the past and looking for what they are trying to do in the future.”
As well as researching customer behaviour in their permanent labs, Expedia is also taking its labs in the road to gain insight from users in their home environment.
“This is so we can understand those insights which they cannot tell us. Consumers do not always really understand what they want until they are actually doing it.
“We are able to get outside our products to understand what inspires them, where do they want to go and how do they want to do it.
“All this is to answer why. Why do people do what they do, what do our customers think and more importantly how do they feel.
“When people start solving problems that what they focus on – emotions and feelings and they are not really award of it.”
Jones added: “Travel is one of the most complicated things that people try to figure out. It’s a perfect stream of uncertainty.
“By definition it’s about new experiences, so see things they have never seen before, meet new people and stay in new places even if they are going somewhere they have been before.
“Also our travellers do not travel that often, maybe once or twice a year, they are not expert on travel. This leads to a very uncertain experience.
“Let’s face it travel is very expensive both in terms of time and money.”