WTM 2016: ‘Still room for high street’ in era of digital personalisation

WTM 2016: ‘Still room for high street’ in era of digital personalisation

Technology can help travel companies produce a personalised service on scale but there’s still room for the traditional high street agent.

That was the feeling among a panel of industry experts at Travolution’s seminar on The Future of the Travel Agent at London’s World Travel Market.

Speakers included Miles Morgan, owner of Miles Morgan Travel, and Gary Lewis, managing director of The Travel Network Group consortium, Comtec founder Simon Powell and Richard Baker, chief executive of creative digital agency Sequence.

Firms need to log every part of a customer’s journey so they can predict when they might want to buy or be contacted again.

They discussed new digital technologies, the rise of online travel agents and how it all effects those selling holidays.

In a presentation, Powell spelled out three main challenges he said the industry faces; engagement, content and the cost of customer acquisition.

He said firms need to log every part of a customer’s journey so they can predict when they might want to buy or be contacted again.

“We are trying to rank the client in order of how likely they are to book a holiday with us,” he said.

He was followed by Richard Baker, from Sequence, who said travel companies need to put their content into context so it resonates with the customer.

He said utilising into mobile bookings is key and spelled-out different approaches taken by travel firms tapping into that growing market, including the predominant “shrink and squeeze” approach used by 67% of his clients, the “big and bold” option of going mobile first at the expense of desktop offering or centralising, which accounts for 10% of his clients taking bookings on mobile.

VisitBritain, he said, had seen sales rise 25% on mobile as a result of improvements.

Gary Lewis, from the The Travel Network Group, said “the relationship with the customer is still the most important thing” but added that new digital technologies can help travel firms grow by thinking about how they present their business online

“It’s just a different place where consumers are looking at a product,” he said.

Scaling up was easier using the data gathered through online browsing and shopping, he added. “It’s about getting your product in front of the customer,” Lewis said. “Technology lets you do that quicker or more efficiently.”

“I know that only 2% of my customers are on Twitter, so I don’t waste time on that. About 40% are on Facebook so we have a presence there.

Miles Morgan, who has 14 high street branches, insisted that there is still room for the traditional travel agent and said technology only adds value if it is relevant to the business’ unique selling point.

“I know that only 2% of my customers are on Twitter, so I don’t waste time on that. About 40% are on Facebook so we have a presence there.

“Technology is not the be all and end all,” he said. “Think about your business and how it relates before you dive in.”

On Thomas Cook’s concept stores, he said: “I don’t quite know where they are going with iPads at the front of the shop. If you are going in to shop you’ve probably gone to talk to somebody.”

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