Michael Scharff, founder and chief executive of Evolv Technologies sets out the six areas in which travel companies must improve Customer Experience online and, therefore, conversion rates
The last 14 months have been brutal on the travel industry with an estimated $9 trillion in lost revenue globally.
The number of travellers is down to levels from 20 years ago which has impacted more than 150 million jobs.
As we head into summer, there is hope since people are once again traveling for pleasure and business.
Online travel companies are major beneficiaries as travellers are doing more research than ever to find and book their travel plans.
The other side of this trend is a shocking statistic: the global average conversion for online travel is 0.2%.
That is one of the lowest across all industries and points to the need to get the customer experience (CX) right.
The challenge lies in being able to navigate shifting customer behaviours and expectations to create compelling experiences which convert.
The top five trends impacting CX for online travel are:
- Longer and more expensive trips
With people stuck at home for over a year, many have accumulated significant time off and are now ready to use it on more lavish trips.
As an example, Silversea 2023 World Cruise sold out in a single day. Their cruise lasts 139 days and costs between $74,000 and $278,000 per person as they visit 34 Southern Hemisphere countries.
While this is perhaps an outlier, it highlights people’s willingness to spend money. With travellers on the hunt for new and exciting experiences, online travel companies need to consider how best to present packages that offer memorable trips.
- Nomad travel
The work from home trend has resulted in people taking extended trips while working remotely.
Work is no longer defined by a physical office and as long as a person has good connectivity, they can work from just about anywhere.
The Dominican Republic and Mediterranean countries such as Croatia, have taken notice and are offering short term work visas for nomad travelers.
Some Caribbean countries are also offering nomad incentives. This is a new category which blends work and pleasure into extended trips which online travel companies can capitalize on by offering targeted packages.
- Sustainable travel
More than ever, people of all demographics have become more aware of social and environmental issues.
Recent surveys are highlighting people’s desire for trips where they can avoid crowds and engage in outdoor activities.
Travellers are keen to reduce their footprint and impact on the environment. They are also prioritising putting their money to good use by visiting local communities and natural environments.
Online travel companies must connect with these emotional needs by both presenting themselves as empathetic and in touch but also by offering trips that live up to these expectations.
- Mobile connected travel
Mobile has become the go-to shopping channel and also the lynch pin for self-service and the preferred channel for travellers to stay up-to-date while traveling.
The expectations for an exceptional experience over a mobile device are at an all time high and often the primary reason why a traveller will pick one service over another.
Travellers want an online booking experience that is as convenient and hassle free as ordering click and collect groceries.
Online travel companies need to prioritize an omni-channel experience with mobile at the centre and recognise that different channels demand very different but integrated and consistent CX.
- Reducing anxiety at every step
As travellers make plans, there is a pressing need to address the many anxieties people are likely to experience.
It starts with shopping for a good deal and reassuring the traveler that they found the right value.
The availability of many online travel sites makes this process both easy and confusing for travellers.
Second is helping travellers understand the many requirements and restrictions which keep changing as the pandemic threat subsides and rises.
Third is booking the trip, especially if they are looking for a one stop shop with multiple locations with air, car, hotel and more.
Fourth is ensuring easy access to cancellation and rescheduling policies, especially in the event that a destination goes back into lock down or has new requirements impacting travels.
Fifth is facilitating any pre-orders and payments for any services while traveling or at the destination.
Sixth is the check-in process as well as any upsell and upgrades that could be made available at that time.
Across these six steps exists real anxiety which online travel companies need to help address with the right experience at every step to win the trust of the traveller and their future trips.
Online travel companies that create memorable online experiences will in many ways.
With travel re-opening and people searching for their next trip, no opportunity to secure a booking should be lost.
Optimizing CX to address the five trends listed above is fundamental to achieving success and a real competitive advantage.