Chris Webster is head of retail for Capgemini, a management consulting and Information Technology services group. Here, he explains how travel companies can compete with the likes of Google
“As Google prepares to immerse itself into the online travel market, it is essential that existing travel companies continue to exceed customer expectations in order to compete with perhaps their biggest rival to date.
Through tighter integration of online and offline operations, travel firms from agents to airports must ensure that the customer experiences an efficient and effective service from booking through to Barbados.
Customer expectations are now for an integrated experience and all aspects of their journey must be carefully considered from a simple and quick online booking process, to instant access to information when they need it whether that be before they depart or at hotel check-in.
In an increasingly competitive market, the challenge for online travel companies is to increase their share of the market even further and come up with new ways to extend brand loyalty.
Mobile commerce is set to become the defining technological advancement of this decade and it is time for companies to embrace the growing m-commerce trend by incorporating the use of technology into the booking and travel process to enhance a customer’s experience.
Loyalty programmes have seen a popularity surge in recent years with many online travel companies introducing point schemes, allowing customers to claim complimentary or discounted travel. However, it is now time to build on this and offer new and innovative schemes to lure existing and new customers and to stand out from competitors.
Our IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index shows that UK consumers spent a staggering £250 billion shopping online in the last decade. With sales during 2010 alone expected to hit £56 billion, it is vital that online travel companies capitalise on consumers’ willingness and need to shop online.
We believe that this is possible by using new technology to create services more focused on the passenger. For example, airports are investing in Business Intelligence tools to gain more visibility and control over the airport activities and this is something online travel companies should embrace to ensure timely action and decision making right from the customer’s booking process.
What’s more, our research reveals that over the last ten years there has been a growth in online price comparison with 65 per cent of consumers now comparing prices online before buying something costing over £100.
Not only are consumers looking for better prices but also an overall experience, highlighting the fact that a better integration of operations at all levels is fundamental in ensuring a customer chooses your travel company.”