Way back when, booking a holiday involved popping down to the high street and having a chat with a travel agent. Now people are constantly comparing flights, hotels and providers to search for the best deal online. In 2014 the UK spent £31 Billion on travel, with 19% of consumers expecting to spend even more this year. 40% of travel enquiries are now coming from mobile with 10% of consumers even choosing to book using their smart phone. With the relentless, unavoidable changes to technology, just how can the travel industry keep up?
- Create loyalty
Customer loyalty is the result of consistently positive emotional experience, physical satisfaction and perceived value of an experience, which includes the product or services (Ivans & Shaw, 2002).
Industry expert Gian Caprini (2015) from Expedia suggests that consumers have tried and tested a range of providers and are now beginning to establish which provider they want to be loyal to. Comparison companies need to create listening platforms to understand exactly what customers want from their services and listen to negative feedback and take action on it. Here is a list of some of the best free listening platfroms available. Digital marketing strategies need to take this consumer behaviour into account.
- Create the perfect experience
Duncan, Jones & Rawson (2013), argue that companies have touch points, the many critical moments when customers interact with the organisation and its offerings, this could be websites, apps, social media or email. But by only focusing on these touch points businesses could be ignoring the bigger picture. By satisfying customers in that moment does not mean that the entire journey has been a success. By focusing on every platform and communication companies will increase customer satisfaction. Companies that aimed to maximise satisfaction by focussing on the entire journey, have the potential to increases customer satisfaction by 20% (Pulido, Stone, & Strevel, 2014).
Another method to improve the customer experience is to gather more data about your customers. By personalising each customer’s journey it could allow more companies in this sector to continue to reduce customer service phone lines thus reducing costs. Another benefit to a personalised service is being able to quickly predict where in the buying cycle each consumer is. Companies wanting to take advantage of big data must ensure they have a highly effective CRM system and management.
- Utilise all platforms not just SEO
According to industry experts from Expedia search engine optimisation (SEO) is the most important method for growth (read more about the experts view). SEO holds the most opportunity to establish new customers in an organic way whilst having lower costs involved. Just over 50% of all enquires come from search, showing the level of importance this method holds for the travel comparison industry.
So lets drop a bombshell.
Google have very recently entered the travel marketplace (read more). Google are currently investing in creating a platform to compare flights, hotels and insurance. It turns out that not only are the giants happy to stomp on the London taxi services but they are also happy to aggressively take on the travel industry. So where will that leave SEO for comparison websites?
Comparison websites will need to utilise all platforms and adapt to finding customers through methods that Google cannot overpower, such as social media, apps and email. Check out the best travel apps according to the guardian.
To conclude the travel industry is about to change once again and companies need to have a strategy to overcome it. The threat of Google entering the market, with their huge economies of scale and readily available big data, could be a cause for concern. Companies need to focus on creating satisfied, loyal customers that are more than content with their customer journey. All platforms need to be fully utilised to ensure that every lead is exploited.
Caprini, G. (2015) SPECIAL – SEO & Content Marketing in the Travel Industry. [online] < http://www.analyticsseo.com/blog/travel-content-marketing/> [accessed January 18 2016}
Duncan, E., Jones, C. & Rawson, A. (2013) Harvard business review: The truth about customer experience. [online] available at https://hbr.org/2013/09/the-truth-about-customer-experience [18 January 2016]
Ivens, J. & Shaw, C. (2002) Building great customer experiences. 1st ed. Hampshire: Palgrave Macillan
Pulido, A. Stone, D. & Strevel, J.
(2014) McKinsey and Company: The three Cs of customer satisfaction: Consistency, consistency, consistency. [online] Available at < http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/consumer_and_retail/the_three_cs_of_customer_satisfaction_consistency_consistency_consistency> [ 18 January 2016]