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Online holiday bookings at a record high. According to the latest ITB World Travel Trends Report, 65% of all holidays are now booked online, compared to just 24% that are booked via travel agencies.

Mobile travel bookings are also on the rise, with one in five UK holiday-makers now booking holidays using a mobile device, according to a recent survey by Tradedoubler Insight Unit.

As competition moves from the high street to digital channels, it’s now more important than ever for online travel operators to ensure customers have the best possible experience across all channels.

Broken links, payment problems, poor navigation and a lack of information can force customers to competitors’ sites, ultimately losing business. To avoid this, online travel operators need to take action fast.

Knowing your customers

The smallest technical glitch or poor process design could adversely affect the online experience for customers, resulting in site abandonment, impeded bookings, and damage to the company’s brand.

As a result, travel operators must consider implementing customer experience management software to help them better manage the digital customer experience.

This can enable them to collect and analyse information on a number of different variables such as how customers came across their website, why they have abandoned a transaction, what types of content make customers buy or convert, and how visitors behave on different devices amongst other things.

By analysing this data, travel operators can begin to understand customer behaviour and take the necessary steps to improve the quality of customer experience and maximise sales.

This type of technology can also help travel companies record each customer session at the browser level and view problems at the source.

This means they can identify complex issues that customers have a tough time describing, apply the necessary precision in investigations and eliminate educated guesses to ultimately reduce customer struggle.

Connecting the dots

However, in addition to ensuring websites are in running order to ensure customers have a first-class experience when booking holidays, travel agents must make sure they can seamlessly switch between channels.

Services like click-to-call, in-store wi-fi, mobile-optimised websites and reserve and collect are easy to implement and enable the company to connect all the channels to provide a single, overarching, top-quality customer experience.

If a customer chooses to begin their transaction online and complete it in-store, the travel operator must have access to the online booking and be able to pick up where the customer left off

Seamlessness across channels is equally beneficial to the travel operators themselves. Travel agents have access to a wealth of data, and they can use this to learn exactly what customers want and when.

For example, a travel agency might find that Google searches for ‘cheap Greece getaways’ are popular in the months of July and August, while ‘cheap city breaks to Brussels’ are popular in November and December.

Using this information, they can better align their in-store and online promotions to reflect what customers are looking for, making the overall shopping experience more seamless than ever before.

Customer satisfaction is the lifeblood of businesses. As digital channels become more widely used in the world of commerce, customers expect to be able to switch seamlessly between them, so investing in the digital experience has never been more important for travel agents.

As a result, travel companies need to begin understanding how customers operate across every channel and take steps to ensure they provide a seamless and flawless customer experience.

It’s this kind of thinking that will ensure travel agents not only survive, but also thrive in an increasingly competitive digital world.

See the ITB World Travel Trends Report here. 

Geoff Galat

Published 24 February, 2014 by Geoff Galat

Geoff Galat is Worldwide VP of Marketing at IBM Tealeaf and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

25 more posts from this author

Comments (6)

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Pete Austin

Pete Austin, CINO at Fresh Relevance

I'm sure that Tradedoubler are correct, when they say that "one in five UK holiday-makers are booking holidays using a mobile device", but it seems that's not true of most of the world as the report says:

"Mobile bookings are growing fast but at 2% remain small on an overall basis".

Anyone know why the Brits like mobile more than some nationalities - is it because phone networks do a better job in the UK?

almost 3 years ago

Ian Crawford

Ian Crawford, Marketing Manager at Holiday Hypermarket (part of TUI UK Ltd)Enterprise

Hi Pete, the 'mobile devices' in the Tradedoubler report probably includes the iPad (other tablets are available), so the 20% mobile bookings is probably about right when you take an average across package holiday websites, flights websites and flight + hotel retailers.

The discrepancy may be that the ITB report has a different definition of 'mobile', which could account for such a large gap, but it's not really clear from the report as far as I can see.

almost 3 years ago

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, CINO at Fresh Relevance

Thanks for looking! It's a source of some frustration that different reports use different definitions of terms like "mobile". Maybe some later commenter can help.

almost 3 years ago

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Vicky Smith, Consultant - Online, Responsible & Volunteer Tourism at Freelance

@Pete. As an online travel industry professional, I would suggest it's going to be a multitude of variables combined, e.g.
- Smart phone penetration %
- mobie friendly websites
- consumer propensity to travel
- phone network coverage and accessibility
But I would also question the definition of the stats.
I think it unlikely 20% of holidays are booked on a mobile device. Tablets will be quite high true, given home use, but not that high.
And the 2% 'mobile' bokings perhaps relates to phone only not tablet too?

almost 3 years ago

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Marc Verwaerde

Hi,

In this article you first mention that 65% of all bookings are made online yet most of your blog post is about multichannel optimisation.

I have one question about the whole travel industry. With average purchases a lot higher than other retailers and booking processes longer than other platforms, what is the key to conversion optimisation? Is it in fact multichannel sales processes?

Specially for the package travel industry which has the most parameters to take into consideration.

Thanks for your hints on that!

almost 3 years ago

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Lloyd Buxton

Online has fundamentally changed the travel business, and there are some useful areas to focus on in your article Geoff. However in many cases companies need to look at the basics – providing consistent, helpful answers to customer queries on their channel of choice. Our own research carried out last year found that travel companies could only answer 30% of customer emails, for example, with one company taking 5 days to respond. You can see more on the research, along with an infographic, in our blog at http://eptica.wordpress.com/2013/07/05/uk-travel-sector-demonstrates-disconnect-between-web-and-email-customer-service/

almost 3 years ago

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