Customer knowledge vital to 2.0 switch

Lastminute.com chairman Brent Hoberman has told senior industry figures that it is important to know and understand customers well enough to take the sales proposition beyond travel, and into leisure.


Hoberman was discussing the impact of ‘Web 2.0’ on the travel industry at the Travolution Summit yesterday.


“If you are only getting a customer’s spend twice a year on a holiday, you should know them better to be able to know what cinemas and bars they frequent, to sell leisure to them,” he said.


But, he warned, experience has shown that the costs of personalisation can be very expensive. “At Lastminute.com, we may have wanted to store all the clicks people were doing, but it was just too expensive then. Now, it isn’t so.”


Hoberman also discussed the use of gimmicks eventually becoming mainstream offerings, citing his company’s initial use of WAP. “It was a gimmick at first, but it was all about the learning experience. Is first mover advantage real? I would argue that it is.”


Discussing the concept of ‘Web 2.0’ driven by the confluence of widespread adoption of broadband, Wi-Fi, personalised content and the use of ‘communities’, Hoberman suggested there are ‘very few sites that have engaged the customer well.’


Even Trip Advisor, which now has around 4 million customers, “is not MySpace yet,” he added. “We haven’t sat down in the travel industry and done [BT futurologist] Ian Pearson’s job. We don’t have the Ipod for travel yet.”


When it comes to creating the right content, said Hoberman, it is still the industry that is doing it, and not the customer. “We’re all guilty of telling the customer what to do.”


Where Lastminute.com has benefited, he suggested, is in its adoption of an open technology architecture. “Those players who have an open architecture will thrive. You must have an architecture that is decoupled and flexible,” he said.


“We have invested over £150 million on technology, and now it is easier to get ideas out there at lower cost. What Google has done is let the geeks take over the asylum.”

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