Channel-hoppers support our approach, says Thomas Cook

UK travel giant has revealed data showing how its customers switch between online and offline channels though the booking process, claiming it underlines its multi-channel strategy.

In a media update held in London this week, the vertically integrated travel firm claimed the customer was seeking reassurance in the economic slowdown and that Cook was offering just that.

The firm’s financial troubles hit the headlines last year when it was forced to suspend its end of year results announcement as it sought £200m emergency funding from its banks.

Ian Ailles, managing director of its mainstream division, said customers were less concerned about a company’s share price or debt than getting the right deal from a trusted brand.

He revealed figures from an annual survey that suggested 20% of people will reduce their spend on holidays in 2012 from that in 2011 and another 5% said they would budget more carefully.

But only 2% of people said they would be less likely to take an overseas holiday this year than last, and the overseas holiday has returned to the top of the list of spending priorities from number two.

“Our consumers are shopping around. They should be looking for the right deal, the right holiday for them and their families.

“It’s more important than ever when the money they have paid for it is so hard won. It’s about choice and value being key, but it’s also about reassurance and we see Thomas Cook as very much giving that reassurance.”

Ailles claimed the company was seeing the human factor being more important in conveying the message of reassurance, favouring its shop network and call centre.

“We believe we have got our offer right,” Ailles said of its turn-of-year £400-off deal. “It does not matter if you book in a shop, through a call centre or online.”

Figures revealed that single channel customer are just in the majority or Thomas Cook at 54%; the rest will use a variety of channels.

Thomas Cook results

Of those who start online 18% end up booking in a call centre and, perhaps surprisingly, 16% end up booking in one of the retailer’s 1,300 stores. When a store is the first port of call 5% book through the call centre and 25% end up online.

Ailles said he was sure that the customer journey revealed in these figures reflected the choices they make rather than how the service on offer in each of Cook’s channels forced people to book.

“We do absolutely believe that our customers like having the ability to by through a number of channels. More and more in a difficult economy consumers want to be reassured that they are spending their hard-earned money in the right way.

“One of the strengths of Thomas Cook is that we offer that experience in the booking journey.”

Ailles highlighted results of a survey of 2,000 customers that showed customers say price accounts for 67% of their holiday decision and 92% said the need for clear and concise information is the number one asset they look for.

Last year Thomas Cook merged its retail division with The Co-operative travel creating the largest chain of stores in the UK.

But as part of a turnaround plan for the UK business it has announced the closure of 200 high street stores which are currently under a consultation that is due to end in March.






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