Travolution and Mastercard held an inaugural Travel Landscapes event this week with senior travel delegates hearing from inspiring speakers on the dreaming, booking and experiences phases of travel. Lee Hayhurst reports
Too many travel websites fall into the trap of setting initial customer expectations around the lowest possible prices, Delegates at a Mastercard Travel Landscapes event heard.
Andy Owen-Jones, founder and chief executive of bd4travel, said: “It’s like setting up Poundland and then trying to sell them something more expensive.
“Price is probably the last thing you want to anchor people on. Ideas get shaped as we compare and yet our sites are not designed around making it easy to compare.
“It’s only in the context of something else that you can make a choice about something. It’s important to show data that can be compared rather than showing it in isolation.
“My view is most people do not know what they want to look for before they start looking.”
Owen-Jones said despite having huge amounts of data, most travel retailers have no idea why people end up buying one particular product over another.
He said when he was the boss of German travel technology firm Traveltainment, which had 98% share of the market, no firms had detailed insight into customer behaviour.
“No one could tell me what was happening on their site today, what was working and what was not working, who is looking for what, what are they looking for and not finding.
“None of the senior guys were really asking the question of why am I selling this to this person and that to that person.
“They were all concerned about their conversion rates but it was all about averages and personas or segments and not individuals.
“People would run A/B tests. They are fantastic but they make your site by definition more and more average and actually no one is average.
“Somehow that’s counterintuitive when you are trying to sell something. You have to understand what customers want and do something about it.
“Make it obvious that something is good value and something else is not.”
Owen-Jones said despite the often convoluted path to purchase in travel because people are often inundated with options limiting choice could be an error.
He said travel website can offer overwhelming choice, academic studies of which show that humans struggle with when they want to choose quickly, it’s hard to compare, when they do not have a particular preference and when the product is complex.
“Many travel choices fulfil those criteria. Some times we have too many options. At Traveltainment we had 60 billion offers in our system.
“But people like looking for their holidays so I’m not sure we want to make the process all that much simpler or compressed.
“If you are booking a two week holiday you can often take the equivalent of two weeks, spread over a longer period.
“I’m not sure you actually want to limit choice. You need to be comprehensive but you need to pick out the things that are important to people and pick out those anchor points.
“Limiting choice could be a mistake but appropriate anchoring maybe better than just doing it around price.
“But in travel we anchor people on the lowest possible price. A lot of low-cost carriers have engineered a quite destructive pricing policy.
“You only get the full price right at the end, hence people drop out.”
Travel websites have poor conversion because they focus on telling people about the features of a product rather than asking them questions about what they want.
“We are not asking questions of anyone and we are not taking notice of what they are telling us. We decided to build a system to help you understand your customers online.”