Hays Travel says it has growing evidence the more it invests in building a better website the more its high street stores benefit.
Speaking to Travolution’s sister title Travel Weekly at last week’s Hays Independence Group conference, John Hays, the group’s managing director, said agents no longer see the web as their enemy.
He said the group is seeing increasing use of the ‘branch locator’ facility on its website, and estimates that about 80% of people using it are new customers.
“The better we are doing in the digital world, the more people come into branches,” Hays said.
“We are seeing that without any doubt. It’s quantifiable.”
As well as improved websites, social media has also been seen to benefit stores, as well as the group’s homeworkers and call centres.
The firm is planning to launch an ‘engagement index’ for its stores to show the link between digital activity and in-store sales.
Hays has increased its multimillion-pound marketing budget for 2017 but halved the amount it spends on traditional newspapers as it switches focus to channels like social media.
Hays said this approach fits in with its strategy of personalisation and all branch managers are encouraged to use social media to project an authentic voice.
The conference heard the IG division, whose members operate 232 branches, was benefiting from being independent and flexible, and using technology to provide customers with a personal service.
Hays said more members are becoming niche players with specialisms in certain destinations or holiday types, exploiting demand for something tailor-made.
“We can control quality, choice of airline and yet still give people a full Atol,” he said. “It’s that type of business we are seeing growing and flourishing, where we have a differentiated product.”
CRM: Better system ‘will help close sales’
Hays Travel agents and Independence Group members will be offered increasingly powerful customer relationship management (CRM) technology to help them know their customers better.
John Hays said the firm has six developers working full-time on the group’s databases to hone the system.
“Knowing and understanding our customers is a major point of differentiation for us,” he said. “We have always had what we believe to be a really good CRM system. Not everyone chooses to use it but having a single customer view really helps to close that sale.”