Travel, by its very nature, is personal. 1000 people can go to the same place at at the same time and get a completely different experience from it. When people are looking to spend their hard earned money on a city break, beach holiday or far flung adventure, they often want a holding hand. It just makes sense!
It’s for this reason that travel agents have an important place in the industry. People buy from people. Those relationships have, historically, been built in high street shops but the landscape is changing. Extending (or even completely moving) your travel business online broadens your reach to beyond the high street and to a wider audience of holidaymakers.
Direct to Consumer
Travel companies and tour operators are now more able to speak directly to their perspective customers online. This impacts the role of travel agents. The need to add value to the purchasing chain is more important than ever and it can be delivered through: local knowledge, savings, finance, security/insurance and custom itineraries among other things.Your customers are only a few clicks away from package and price comparison of whatever you suggest to them! Securing the sale comes from your ability to demonstrate the value you have and can continue to offer. A website can be a key enabler to this! I will cover the following considerations in this article:
- Connecting offline and online
- In-trip experience
Connecting offline and online
Your offline and online businesses need to be united to simply be, your “business”. A coherent approach that allows your customers to receive the same level of service you expect to deliver regardless of where their journey with you started.You can achieve this by making sure any in-shop materials such as brochures are available to access online too. Running a promotion? Make it accessible both online and in-store to build trust with customers that they will never miss out on a promotion you’re running. Even for companies that have simple websites, the messaging can easily be consistent across the business.
Artificial Intelligence is on the horizon but that doesn’t mean that quality travel planners and agents don’t have their place. Taking time to understand the customers needs and curate the best trip for them is incredibly powerful. In an online world, this may be a matter of encouraging holidaymakers to share information through chatbots so that you have the data you need. Once you have this data, you can match the needs up against the holiday that suits them. You don’t need to be sitting in front of your customer in a shop to get the answers anymore.Once you have created the personalised holiday, it is time to share it with your customer…
Communication is key in businesses of all shapes and sizes. It is fair to say that consumers expectations around communication have changed in recent years and you need to adapt with it. The importance of good communication starts at the quote stage. Once you have build a personalised holiday then you need to be able to present it in a way the customer is going to prefer.
Printouts may suit some but there are better ways to utilise your website. If possible, have a client portal where excited holidaymakers can login, see the agents personalised notes as to why they have chosen/suggested what they have and highlights the actions needed.
This information should also be emailed (assuming you have permission – read about the joys of GDPR) to the customer as a prompt to check their portal. This portal is a way to communicate much more regularly than traditional face-to-face or phone call catch ups on the booking. It’s your chance to shine (and up-sell)!
Chequebooks have died a death and bank transfers can take time to reconcile. As an online business, it is crucial to allow your customers to take action at a time that suits them. Busy working couples aren’t likely to be sitting together during the day and able to review and decide on a holiday decision – that will take place when your office is closed. Once they have decided to book, your payment portal should fill them with confidence and be as convenient as online grocery shopping.
Check out the Flybe website (built by Silky Ocean Studios) for a good travel-related example of a quality checkout experience!
You hope that your customers are having such a good holiday that they don’t want to get in touch with you at all while they are away. However, if they do then it is likely that the first place they look for contact details will be on your website. Make them clear and separate your different phone numbers and/or email addresses for different needs e.g. emergencies, cancellations and general enquiries.
If you sell add-on services such as insurance, car hire or transfers then having your operating partners procedures and contact details on the website will make a difficult experience slightly easier! Clear navigation is crucial.
By implementing some of the tips in this article, you’re giving your online travel business every chance of success!