A couple of weeks ago, I gave a presentation at the fvw Online Marketing Day in Germany, where I talked about some of the challenges of making online travel retail relevant, and how technology can help with that.

One my main points was that, in the process of marketing  online we’ve forgotten some fundamentals of good salesmanship. We forget how important it is to start by asking questions. We know from shopping on the high street that good salespeople encourage the customer to talk, so they can find out what he or she is after. Yet very few of our online sales channels allow people to talk and be heard. By and large, online sales channels are very static self-service warehouses.

For example: do you individually welcome customers when they come on your site? Or do you push to them the sales offer you want to sell, again and again? Most websites I go to give me the same offer each time I visit them. It’s what that site wants to push at a certain time, and has nothing to do with my preferences. They tell me everything about the product they want to push but they are neither recording or appreciating what I am interested in.

Somehow most sites seem to shout at people: big letters, big offers, etc. But there is very little listening going on. When a user visits a site, he or she leaves an incredibly rich and detailed digital trail which can be picked up and used in real-time for a better onsite service and useful remarketing. We need to get better at doing that.

Let’s put this in real life terms: Imagine if you went to the same travel agency ten days in a row, and asked the same questions and looked at the same five travel options each time you visited the place. And each day you went in, the same travel agent  would greet you and say “Hello sir, can I offer you a flight to Turkey?” although you were always looking at something completely different. Is it creepy if the salesperson recognizes what you’ve been looking at and serves you accordingly? Or is that just what we traditionally call good service?

I know it’s a fine line in the online world, but people who receive good service, tend to like the experience and return. In fact, online retailers in the travel industry are starting to understand this and embrace more sophisticated technologies to pick up on their individual customer’s behavior – what we call digital empathy – and offer them products and services accordingly. Intelligent personalization is the internet’s equivalent to asking your customer relevant questions before your offer him something to buy. If it’s done well and reliably, there is nothing intrusive about that. It’s just good sales.

A 2015 US study among over 1000 online customers hits exactly this point:

http://www.mybuys.com/ StudySource: http://www.mybuys.com/

Having said this, it’s no wonder that customers do not welcome giving away personal information which is then just used for annoying retargeting or other completely disconnected marketing messages. You must receive something valuable for what you give away – otherwise it feels like being exploited.

Unsurprisingly, brands that are adopting a customer-oriented personalisation approach are getting way better results. Initial results across several bd4travel customers show that, just by serving more personalized travel products and services, brands can easily increase conversions by double-digit percentages.

As an industry we’ve only just scratched the surface of what can be done, but we have a lot of data (in fact much more than other retail sectors), and if we’re using it well and looking at each individual’s digital footprint in the right way, we can make leaps forward when it comes to serving online customers with relevant products and services.

Andy Owen-Jones
CEO and Co-Founder bd4travel

Watch the presentation-passage which covers the point above:


Watch the full presentation: