WTM – Travel must learn from retail giants

Travel companies can learn from supermarkets when it comes to product differentiation with their web strategy, a senior Amadeus executive told the Travolution@WTM conference last week.

Gillian Gibson, vice-president for the multi-national customer group at Amadeus, contrasted the complex mindset behind selling offline and the one-dimensional selling offered by online travel companies, suggesting that over time, travel companies will have to offer a better customer proposition.

Citing figures from the Forrester research group, Gibson suggested that while only 26% of web shoppers have a good experience, against 70% in stores, where the average decision making times is around 11.5 seconds.

In contrast, one major online retailer fails to convert fully 97% of their site shoppers into site-buyers.

Yet supermarkets are able to differentiate their products on the shelves and make the most of cross-selling and up-selling opportunities to customers, Gibson said.

For example, a supermarket shelf may contain a number of different types of pasta – own brand, market leading, premium seller all placed in various ‘hot’, ‘warm’, or ‘cold’ spots on the shelf.

“What do alcohol and batteries have in common? They’re normally bought by men, so they’re placed together usually in stores,” she said,

Now, the same understanding of the customer approach needs to happen online, said Gibson. “Both Tesco and Amazon have proved that they’re able to take offline principles into the online world,” she added.

Showing some figures from a Forrester survey on Future of Airline ticket buying, Gibson suggest that 62% of customers would be willing to pay for itemised services, including watching TV in-flight, paying to use a mobile phone, or pay a premium for an aisle seat, flat bed, or airport pick-up or drop-off, all of which could be booked online in the equivalent of the 11.5 seconds that a sale is converted offline in stores.

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