Travel Companies Lag in the Online Marketing Race

Some interesting articles, that are very true, about the lack of online marketing by travel companies. Sites are increasingly confusing in an attempt to keep relevant and companies are starting social media accounts with no clear sense of direction. My advice? Stop, think about the key differentiators of your brand, then act – don’t keep running with the same bland messaging that doesn’t set you apart.

“Travel companies expect the consumer to behave like a travel agent”

A new report, released by Forrester Research, found that far from embracing the do-it-yourself era, many consumers were fed up with the complicated process of planning and booking travel.

According to Forrester, travellers are fed up. There are 15 percent fewer travellers who enjoy using the web in 2009 than there were in 2007. Just one in three US online travellers feels that travel websites do a good job presenting travel choices, down from 39 percent in 2008. Travellers feel that they, and their business, are taken for granted.

“What we’ve seen is growing frustration,” said Henry H. Harteveldt, a Forrester travel analyst. “Consumers see other websites becoming easier to use — retail websites, banking websites, media websites. But travel is treading water as a category. There are very few travel companies that are really looking to improve the planning and booking process.”

Instead, customers are forced to figure out extra fees, wade through fine print and understand industry terms like the difference between a deluxe and a standard room, in addition to educating themselves about destinations, flights and hotels, Harteveldt said.

“Travel companies expect the consumer to behave like a travel agent,” he told the New York Times. “The question I always ask these guys is, ‘Could your mother-in-law use your website without having to call you for help?’ The answer is always no.”

To reverse travellers’ dissatisfaction and avoid having them abandon the web in favour of other, more expensive offline channels, travel eBusiness professionals must rethink their approach to travel eBusiness. To reverse this trend and re-engage travellers, travel eBusiness professionals must recognise that travel eBusiness is comprised of four continuous phases — not isolated, unrelated processes — supported by the five pillars of merchandising, context, engagement, value, and customer appreciation. Expect travel eBusiness professionals to be asked to become more involved with customer data strategy and for global distribution systems (GDS) to evolve into more useful global merchandising systems (GMS).

July 23, 2009 |

Online travel sector needs to improve overall customer engagement: survey

Online travel sites need to work harder at improving the entire end to end website experience if they are to build trusted, long-term relationships that encourage customers to buy from them time and time again, according to a study.

As per the findings of the first eTravel Benchmark survey, the online travel industry as a whole has some way to go in order to compete with ‘best in breed’ companies for website engagement and customer service.  When the sites were measured using the net promoter score  to find out which are most likely to be recommended through word of mouth, while eight companies ranked ‘above average’, the sector as a whole achieved score of +5.

Compared to other recent eDigitalResearch benchmarking studies that scored retail at +27, finance at +18 and car manufacturing at +7, the online travel sector is clearly lagging behind.

Airlines, however, were notably let down by poor first impressions and disappointing customer service, both of which play a vital part in overall customer satisfaction.  When measured on telephone customer service, just one airline, British Airways, made it into the top 10 rankings, rated seventh and just two airlines (Virgin Atlantic and British Airways) scored highly enough to make the top 10 for email customer service.

Derek Eccleston, head of research at eDigitalResearch said although there are clear leaders in certain categories, there is not one operator who has managed to tick all the boxes consistently.

“In a sector whose customers are particularly promiscuous – switching brands for a better deal, looking for recommendations and picking the purchase channel that most suits them at that particular time – failing to perform well  across the board is more than a missed opportunity, it is commercial suicide,” said Eccleston.

“What customers want is a clear step-by-step process.  They want a site that is easy to purchase from but at the same time that has the inspirational ‘wow’ factor to keep them engaged.  Add to that transparent pricing, great customer service, and of course a great trip and you’ve cracked it.”

The eTravel Benchmark survey uses eDigitalResearch’s eMysteryShopper tool to measure the ‘usability’ of 18 channel crossing, cruise and airline websites, comparing seven key areas ranging from first impressions to the search and booking process.  Overall, channel crossing operators fared better in the survey with P&O Ferries emerging as the top performer and Stena Line second.


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