A recent exploratory study sponsored by Cornell University sheds new light on how consumers choose hotels by demonstrating how to use eye tracking paired with in-depth interviews to uncover precisely what prospective guests look at - and think about - while they are searching for lodging online.
Until now, the reports published about how people choose hotels online have mostly been based on surveys or on capturing clickstream data to map how users navigate from page to page. This new study, which is explained in a pair of reports by researchers Breffni M. Noone and Stephani K.A. Robson, demonstrates the eye tracking methods. The reports are available at no charge from the CHR.
"This work was a way of getting the 'lay of the land' during both the browsing and deliberation stages of the hotel choice process," says Noone, Associate Professor at the Pennsylvania State University School of Hospitality Management and co-author of the first study, "Using Eye Tracking to Obtain a Deeper Understanding of What Drives Online Hotel Choice." "We found that when people are browsing through search results, they tend to look more frequently at hotel names than any other feature, and that pictures of the hotel appear to be hugely influential during both stages of the search. Our next project will be to dig more deeply into what we uncovered in this initial study, looking at issues such as what kinds of images have the most impact on guests during their searches, or how users balance price with other factors when they make their choices."
In the second CHR Report, "Show Me What You See, Tell Me What You Think: Using Eye Tracking for Hospitality Research," co-authors Robson and Noone outline the principles of eye tracking research and identify several ways that this technology can be used to address hospitality problems. "For example, there is little empirical research on how guests actually experience hospitality environments," says Robson, Senior Lecturer at the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University. "Eye tracking can let a designer or a hotel brand see whether a design captures guests' attention, or explore how to best present the hotel online or in print. Eye tracking is a powerful tool and deserves to be used much more frequently in our industry."
Download the study "Using Eye Tracking to Obtain a Deeper Understanding of What Drives Online Hotel Choice" at Cornell University and "Show Me What You See, Tell Me What You Think: Using Eye Tracking for Hospitality Research" at Cornell University