Travel Firms Must Put Themselves In Customers' Shoes

It comes as no surprise that in the world of travel, the balance of power lies with the consumer, but a new report by Deloitte has confirmed that it's a buyer's market - and organisations can adapt by creating a 'recommendation culture', says Travolution.

The auditors' recent Travel Consumer 2015 report has shown that a significant majority of travellers - 59% - compare prices online, and 42% go to review sites for help planning their holiday (in comparison with 31% and 21% respectively who use travel company websites and online travel agents).

Travellers are shifting away from being content consumers to content creators, the study showed, with 59% of those who used review sites saying that this was their main influence.

Based on data from a survey of 40,000 consumers by the British Travel Awards, the report also indicates that travel companies must adapt to a multi-channel world, as a third of consumers use two or more devices to carry out their holiday research.

With price being a primary factor driving holiday booking decisions, there has been a corresponding surge in usage of travel comparison sites, said Alistair Pritchard, UK lead partner for travel at Deloitte.

"These sites have grown rapidly and their usage is high, which can be put down to the deal-hunting behaviour consumers learned during the recession. However, while consumer confidence and real wages are improving, the desire to get the best deal is still set in the mind of the holidaymaker," he commented.

"The research also shows that if a consumer booked their last holiday using a price comparison site they are the least likely to be influenced by a company's reputation and 30% more likely than average to base decisions on price."

The power now lies in the hands of the consumer, he said, with the travel industry playing a "less influential role" and holidaymakers more likely to be swayed by each other than by the travel business. And this trend is only going to continue, Pritchard predicted.

"One way for travel companies to adapt to this is to create a recommendation culture, as word-of-mouth marketing is relatively low-cost and self-perpetuating, and can help reduce customer acquisition costs," he advised.

The use of different devices could also be muddying the waters for travel firms. "This can have a negative impact on sales conversion rates, as a customer that abandons an online basket in a tablet app to book on a laptop appears as two separate consumers," said Pritchard.

This makes it harder for travel companies to track consumer activity - potentially wasting the opportunity to make the most of customer data which helps them meet consumer expectations and offer personalised experiences. All this could have a knock-on effect on the type of user experience a travel firm is able to provide.

This can be combated by introducing an integrated experience across channels and devices, such as offering incentives that encourage users to sign in on every platform.

What's needed is a transformation within travel businesses - from a product-centric model to a model based around the perspective of the consumer, he concluded.