Whether it’s a summer break or a winter escape, holiday plans are rarely far from our thoughts. And just as each break is different, so too are the approaches taken to book them.
To help travel companies optimise the holiday purchasing experience, Black Pepper Software surveyed 1,000 UK adults on how they browse for and book their breaks. We’ve analysed the results in a new report "Is Travel Fit For the Future?" and here are some of our key findings.
Online leads the way
Online has quickly become the holiday buyer’s channel of choice. According to ABTA, the Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators, 76% of people booked their holiday online in 2016, and our research tells the same story. We found that that 73% buy their holiday online – and 60% never visit a physical travel agency.
That said, the travel agency remains relevant; 23% of consumers want some professional, face-to-face advice at some point in their booking process.
This means holiday companies’ websites and physical presences must provide a consistent experience; the biggest frustration for 17% of consumers is not getting the same deal in-store as online.
Enable independent journeys
One reason online is such a popular booking channel is that consumers want to shop independently. Our survey found that 39% of holiday buyers would rather find information themselves than hear it from a sales advisor.
Online, shoppers can easily compare prices to make sure they get the best deal, or read reviews from fellow travellers; 29% trust peer reviews, such as those posted on TripAdvisor, more than the advice offered by salespeople.
However, there is still some desire for guidance and reassurance from a professional – even if consumers don’t want to visit a travel agency. 10% are keen to use digital customer service tools such as online chat functions or virtual assistants to get their questions answered.
Get close, but not too close
Another key factor in creating great customer experiences is being able to personalise the holiday shopping journey. Two-thirds (68%) of consumers want to receive offers and incentives based on their previous browsing and buying behaviour, while 38% are happy for companies to tailor email marketing based on personal information.
Holiday vendors such as Secret Escapes and LastMinute.com have already employed this approach to create online communities with an inclusive feel.
However, it’s important to nurture ongoing customer relationships without becoming too personal; 22% of those we surveyed said that an overload of marketing emails was their biggest bugbear when booking a holiday.
User-friendly and agile
So, that’s how consumers want to purchase a holiday, but how effectively do travel companies deliver on their expectations?
Our survey found that just 12% believe that the travel sector offers a better customer experience than other industries, so there is plenty of work to be done.
Given holiday buyers’ leaning towards digital engagement, it’s crucial to meet their needs across every channel. In-store technology is crucial for a seamless multichannel offer; holiday vendors need to keep abreast of the latest developments, while offering speed, security and depth, as well as assistance when required.
Supported by the right software solution, travel companies can deliver the quality of experience the holiday buyer demands – even if such an investment means taking a break from the norm.