The first step towards modern retailing
Travel was the original digital trailblazer.
But changing consumer expectations — accelerated by the pandemic — have created a new opportunity. It’s time for the travel industry to make the most of what technology today can do.
But where do we start?
To help agencies excel at modern retailing, we undertook research among almost 3,000 respondents around the world, in the US, Saudi Arabia, and Japan.
Here’s what we learned.
Consumers remember retailers who offer great experiences 1.
Effective retailing starts with brand recall. When customers feel good about you, they remember you. And that makes them more likely to come back for more. In the competitive landscape of online travel retailing, this delivers organic bookings and dramatically reduces the cost of securing repeat business. Plus, brand recall dissuades consumers from relying on metasearch, and gives online travel agencies (OTAs) a huge opportunity to shine.
Our research highlighted a meaningful correlation between brand recall and a superior customer experience. In other words, happy shoppers remember the retailer.
of travelers who can recall the OTA they used, describe the experience as above average or excellent.
So, what makes for an excellent shopping experience?
Great retailers focus on value over price 2.
OTAs are some of travel’s most modern retailers. They changed the face of travel, enabling billions of people to book their dream holiday without getting out of bed — or to find inspiration for their next trip without visiting dozens of different sites. And OTAs have been very successful, despite the rise of low-cost carriers and metasearch engines that commoditized the cheapest offers.
But differentiating on price alone can come at the expense of other things that customers care about (like not waking up at 3am for a flight, or making sure they scored a room with a view). Instead, agencies have an opportunity to provide value as the curator of numerous, complex offers — offering travelers not all of the choices, but the right choices.
We asked those respondents who could recall their OTA another follow up question: beyond price competition, why do they shop there again?
Why do you prefer your OTA?
Getting the right offer to the right customer at the right time is key to offering a valuable retailing experience. Respondents said that “choice” is the leading reason they return to their preferred OTA, followed closely by “ease of comparison” and “having their needs met.”
Great retailers succeed by building a strong brand 3.
OTAs invest serious time and money in digital marketing. And the ones who focus on building a brand — as well as demand-generation campaigns — are really seeing the benefits.
Our research revealed agencies can grow loyalty by thinking beyond price and offering consumers the following things, listed in order of importance:
Value and brand affinity drives revenue 4.
Our research highlighted strong follow-through on OTA bookings when brand recall exists. This again shows that brand building and value substantially impacts revenue and has the potential to reduce customer acquisition costs.
Recall the OTA they use
Follow through and book Car
Follow through and book Hotel
Follow through and book Air
Brand recall is just as important in business travel 5.
Our research showed that brand connection is just as important with business travelers as it is with leisure travelers. But although the trip itself is something travelers want a lot of control over, very few business travelers have a consumer-like relationship with their travel management company (TMC). Plus, our research found that a significant amount of corporate travelers are booking outside their company travel policy to ensure their needs are being met.
So, let’s get inside the mind of a business traveler for a moment. When it comes to planning a work trip, business traveler expectations are exceedingly high. This is because employers are asking their people to travel, taking time away from their personal lives. Plus, they’re paying for it. So business travelers expect a comfortable ride with great perks. Our research unlocked a better understanding of business travelers’ priorities in order of importance:
Booking outside a corporate travel policy causes issues for companies around expense management, duty of care, and supplier negotiations. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Business travel can become part of the joy of the job — and even a reason to stay.
We’ll be following these insights up with more on modern retailing in the coming months. And you can find out what we’re doing to move travel retailing forward on our next-gen platform, Travelport+.