Online travel agents have struggled to keep apace with consumer personalisation trends because shoppers do not visit their websites often enough, according to an industry expert.
Jon Pickles, a travel technology consultant, was speaking this morning at the Travolution Summit in London alongside a panel of industry experts about how OTCs can make better use of data to understand customer behaviour and offer more relevant holiday options.
He said the infrequency of website visits and the consequent lack of data about unique users meant no travel company had yet cracked the semantic search conundrum.
“They have a product. The product is a holiday. But they might only [shop] one or two times a year. The question is: how do you get your customer back the following year? It should be because they had a good experience on holiday. But you ideally have to start warming that customer through the year to capture the data [about them] and make good use of it [to provide them with relevant search results].”
Having limited commodities on sale has also held back travel businesses from emulating the success of the Amazon model. Pickles said the online retailer’s model proved content was king.
“Amazon has a vast range of products. They can offer stuff across books, music, gifts, electronics and so on. So they have a lot more information [about consumers] and it’s easier to know a customer as they’re buying different things throughout the year.”
Vic Darby, Travelsupermarket’s managing director of new business, said Amazon’s success at personalising offers for was down to “solid foundations”.
“It has a compelling proposition, a wide range of products and a clear understanding of [customer] segmentation,” he said.
“It invested in its technology from the ground up and can tell a great story. You don’t see much above the line advertising, but it understands how to build great relationships.”
Dirk Guenther, director air shopping and decision support for Sabre, said retailers and suppliers across industry verticals had demonstrated strengths and weaknesses in different areas, but affirmed that everyone shared a common goal.
“It is about who in your marketplace is making the best use of the data available. And how do you use it to give the customer what they are looking for.”