Travel Republic is poised to unveil its first mobile app in time for January peak trading, as it ramps up efforts to exploit alternative channels to conventional search advertising.
The OTA, which was bought by Emirates-group owned dnata in December 2011, is not alone in the highly competitive sector in looking to reduce its reliance on search (Google) advertising.
It launched a consumer ‘last click’ brand campaign earlier this year, emphasising the brand’s best price proposition and has been pushing ahead on social, meta and search optimisation.
But with all the big global OTAs seeing mobile as an essential channel to drive up customer engagement and loyalty, Travel Republic has decided to develop its own app.
The joint managing director team of Ian Simmonds and Neale Chinery are now in place, the latter came from the Kingfisher Group, following the departure of its founding directors.
Simmonds said brand advertising would continue to be a feature of Travel Republic’s armoury following the ‘last click’ campaign.
He said this, and a focus on search engine optimisation helped to drive direct brand traffic, as Travel Republic looks to reduce the cost of customer acquisition.
“What we have tried to do over recent months is to rebalance so while Google remains a core part of the marketing channel we reduce dependence on that channel.
“We are looking to diversify to those cheaper and hopefully free sources of traffic to reduce the costs of acquisition.”
Chinery said all advertisers are seeing search cost inflation, and all are looking to drive up loyalty.
He said that prior to his arrival Travel Republic had taken the decision to pursue a mobile first strategy, and its website is already mobile responsive.
He added the retailer is keen to ensure that its new in-house built app is relevant in the marketplace, so it will initially offer a restricted range of activity and develop functionality over time.
“Historically we have told consumers how to interact with us,” he said, “but in the future the consumer is increasingly going to chose how to live their life.
“The whole landscape of mobile is hugely interesting to us. Everyone is looking to be in a position where you are with the customer throughout the whole of their holiday.”
Simmonds added: “One of the challenges we have is we need to be ready to have a conversation with the customer when they are ready to have that conversation.
“With holidays it tends to be a fairly restricted number of transactions over the course of a year, so it’s trying to find a way of maintaining a conversation with the consumer.”
Travel Republic is best known in its home UK market, but it is now operating in four countries; Ireland, Spain and Italy from its office in Barcelona.
More marketing and human resources are being dedicated to those countries, said Simmonds, so that Travel Republic can offer good customer service through locally based teams.
Dnata has benefited from Travel Republic’s technical knowhow and Simmonds said it wanted to nurture the entrepreneurial spirit that saw the firm rise to prominence.
“Dnata’s philosophy is that they look for well established and well run businesses and they want them to continue to operate as they were before.
“Travel Republic’s legacy as an entrepreneurial business means we are very agile and they wanted to make sure that culture remained within the business.
“They are very supportive, great partners and give us expertise in areas where we did not have in-house expertise.
“We have worked very well over the last three years in terms of maximising our knowledge across our business and driving forward together where it makes sense.”
Chinery, who previously worked for Thomas Cook and Tui before a spell out of travel with Dixons and Kingfisher, said not a lot had changed in the sector.
However, he said the propensity to buy online was much higher in travel than in other sectors selling tangible products, where consumers want to touch and feel before buying.
This places a requirement on travel firms like Travel Republic to be agile with their technical developments, so they can bring new things to market at speed, said Chinery.
“Travel Republic is a technology company as well as a travel company and the quality of the technical resources here are excellent.
“We need to recruit people who are great at tech but who are commercially minded as well and who can do a mix of roles. In other organisations you tend to shoehorn people into specific roles.
“Technology is constantly evolving and the nicest thing here was to find it all in one place, easily accessible and completely joined up.
“That creates a great opportunity for us to talk to our customers.”