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Getting the customer experience wrong and failing to drive loyalty is exposing travel firms to unsustainable reacquisition costs.
Graham Cooke, chief executive of web analytics specialist Qubit, told last week’s Travel Distribution Summit that the travel sector misses out on $20 billion a year by leaving hotel nights unsold.
He claimed Thomas Cook Airlines has seen a significant uplift in selling perishable inventory, by matching customers with relevant product at the right time.
“Customers are expensive to acquire, in some instances it’s totally unsustainable,” Cooke said.
“It’s about becoming more like a retailer and creating engaging customer experiences to ensure your customers become more loyal.
Cooke said any personalisation strategy has to start with data, and then firms should not be afraid to test and learn constantly and hire the right talent and create the right teams to do that.
“The opportunity is to look at many different metrics that tell you who your customer is. It’s a very rich opportunity in travel because there is so much information your customers are giving you.
“Every personalisation and customer strategy has to start with the data first. Jumping in and testing is the wrong way round.”
Cooke said firms should make the online buying experience easy and fun, offering relevant product and ancillaries, adopting gameficiation and identifying VIP customers.
Qubit has worked with James Villas which, Cooke, said has identified three broad categories of customer and their different behaviours when looking for and booking a holiday.
He said the Wyndham Worldwide-owned operator has established teams incorporating web user experience and brand marketing specialist to act on this insight.
As a result these different groups are pushed to different parts of the website or functionality that James Villas knows they are more likely to be interested in to help them convert.
“It comes down to putting your customer at the heart of your strategy and understanding how to talk to them throughout that whole buying journey.
“Build a team around that data strategy and talk to customers as you would if you could talk to them face to face. Your customer and the data they generate is the best tool to do this.”