By Frank Lord, vice president EMEA at ATG
The credit crunch is certainly causing people to feel the pinch at home with more Britons cutting back on food, fuel and other living expenses. But, while many families scale back on everyday luxuries, research reveals that British consumers are still not ready to give up their holidays abroad – even as the economy clouds over.
Amid the collapse of a number of budget travel operators, these findings offer a ray of hope to the tourism industry. However, if holiday companies want to ride out the storm and stay profitable, they must not remain complacent, or they could risk losing out.
Many people look to the web as their first port of call when booking a holiday and so travel sites have a clear opportunity to attract sales online. But factors such as hidden extra costs, a lack of personal customer service and inappropriate up-selling techniques often mean that many sites fail to maximise revenue streams.
With today’s technology, there is no reason why customers should not receive the same level of personalised service online that they are accustomed to having in person at a travel agency.
As the economy dips, travel sites that use solutions to reassure customers that they are making the right choice when it comes to booking a holiday – often a family’s most expensive annual purchase – will fare better than the competition.
Of course price will always be a determining factor, but sites that ignore the importance of customer needs in favour of slashed prices, will not succeed.
For online travel operators looking to compete and boost sales in these turbulent times, below are some top tips:
In times of economic uncertainty, ensuring that your brand is perceived by customers as trustworthy is more important than ever. The most frustrating thing for someone shopping for a holiday online is discovering at the check out that the hotel they want to book is unavailable and their flight price has doubled due to additional taxes.
Managing your online storefront by updating these important details so that customers always have access to the right information will not only increase brand credibility, but also build customer loyalty and encourage repeat purchasers.
Make the most of every visit
Maximising opportunities to sell every time a customer visits a site is crucial if profits are to rise. It’s imperative that customers can find what they are looking for and buy straight away.
A good online travel site will enable shoppers to navigate the site quickly, search and find relevant information. Allowing the customer to buy directly from the search results page, for instance, will help to convert browsers to buyers.
Tap into trends
Ensuring that your site is flexible enough to meet the changing needs of your customers will drive profitability. Having a solution that can point to online trends will help your business to make better decisions about its sales strategy online.
For example, if a particular holiday is selling quickly, you will want to know so that you can raise the price to increase margins. Or, similarly, if one is selling poorly, you may want to decrease the price to attract more buyers. Analysing trend information and having the solutions in place to alter your site quickly will no doubt increase your bottom line.
Offer a personalised service
Offering customers a complete personalised package by recommending hotels, car hire information, tourist advice and travel insurance all in one place is a massive incentive to holidaymakers.
Most sites already offer these features, but the majority fall down when it comes to up-selling because they fail to make the right recommendation. Just giving prospects access to up to date, relevant information on your website will not always be enough to convince them to buy from you.
Investing in technology that makes relevant offers will mean a more personalised experience for your online customers. For example, travel sites that recommend hotels that are merely close to the centre of town will not be as successful as those that can offer a family-orientated hotel by considering the number of children travelling. These solutions can tailor content according to the visitor to enhance the customer experience and increase brand loyalty.
Don’t leave customers stranded
While it is tempting to focus all efforts on providing customers with a vast array of online tools, it’s important not to forget offline support. Consumers welcome the freedom to book online but still want to know they can contact a ‘real person’ if required who can help with queries.
It’s therefore imperative that a customer service contact option is clearly visible and accessible on your website so that prospects can speak with a representative should they have any questions or concerns about what they are buying.
Equipping your site with an icon that offers prospects the option to contact a customer service representative using ‘click to call’ or ‘click to chat’ functionality will help them to feel confident about buying from your site.
It is clear that many travel and tour operators could stand to benefit from stepping up their game online. As the credit crunch bites, more people will be scouring the web for online travel deals, but it’s important for the online travel industry not to ignore the value that personalised customer service and a robust website can bring.
Companies that nurture the all important customer experience by offering upfront pricing and stock information, help on demand and relevant recommendations are sure to make their websites fly.
Check out 12ahead, our brand new platform
covering the latest in cutting-edge digital marketing and creative technology from around the globe.
12ahead identifies emerging trends and helps
you to understand how they can apply to modern-day companies.
We believe 12ahead can put you and your
business 12 months ahead of the competition. Sign up for a free trial today.