In the online travel world competition is fierce. Offering the best service and constantly being up-to-date with the newest technological changes is imperative for any online travel agency’s (OTA) success. But how can you really accomplish this? What can you implement that will increase your success? What will make you better than your competition? What can actually expand your business opportunities?
As we know, the way customers book their travel has substantially evolved over the last decade. While in the past, they relied on their nearest travel agent and had to book through them, the expansion of the digital world and massive growth of the number of travel companies has drastically changed this (process). Customers have access to thousands of travel companies, and can switch from one to the other with just one click.
Because competition has grown and continues to grow dramatically at a global level, it’s even more essential for travel companies to implement measures that attract new clients and retain them, especially since the danger of losing to others is common, costly, and ever-growing. It’s not enough anymore to simply maintain the status quo. Now, more than ever, OTAs need to ensure competitive edge and stand out in the fast paced industry.
There are a few tangible ways travel companies can keep up or even outperform the competition.
1. Good hotel mapping
Mapping is something every travel business has to do. But, many don’t realize the full scope of its business impacts, how it influences conversion rates, look-to-book (L2B) ratios and revenue. Previously, the only available way to map hotel inventory involved weeks of manual work, leaving room for major mapping mistakes caused by human error, and dependency on third party providers.
The development of automated hotel mapping (Mapping.Works for example) is a game changer. It can map millions of properties within hours, completely removes manual involvement, solving issues related to human error and reduces operational costs by over 75%.
In fact, one of the biggest factors that noticeably increases L2B ratios and negatively impacts customer experience is bad mapping; bad mapping can lead to failed bookings, wrong bookings or incorrect rates being shown, lowering the chance of the reservation being completed.
Automated mapping eliminates these issues. It also maps 98.7% of an OTA’s hotel inventory, a vast increase to the industry standard, 60–65%, manual mapping covers, enabling businesses to sell inventory previously unseen caused by bad mapping.
Personalization is part of a newer yet very popular conversation in the world of travel, and it’s importance is growing. Millennials, one of the fastest growing consumer groups, especially appreciate personalized offers that empower them to choose between various packages, tailored to their tastes. Personalized results lead to more bookings, increasing revenues tangibly.
An important tool for a travel company on the path to personalized results is room mapping.The exact workings of room mapping and its inseparable relationship to personalization will be the topic of an upcoming blog .
3. Optimized homepage
When accessing an OTA’s site, the first thing customers see is its homepage. It has to be accessible, prioritized properly and straight-forward to navigate. These factors determine whether a client stays on the page and continues with a booking, or moves on to another site.
To achieve a clear and easy design that encourages potential customers to move from browsing to purchasing, key information needs to be communicated using organized, descriptive, and professional content and supplemented with high-quality pictures. Yes, rates do capture a client’s attention but in some markets, the homepage has just as large of an influence.
4. Big Data analysis
Collected data, when analyzed and studied correctly, gives travel companies important information about customers’ booking behavior. Where do most of the clients come from? When do they tend to book, and at which point in the process are most of them being lost? Which properties are most successful and during which seasons?
Collecting, and then analyzing the amount of data needed to form valid conclusions requires highly advanced technical capabilities that only the larger travel businesses can typically retain in-house. There are readily developed Big Data analysis tools (such as BI.Works) available for travel businesses of all sizes, that can be implemented easily, providing OTAs with actionable insights for important business decisions.
5. Customer value
Clients want value for money. They will compare between websites to ensure they are getting the best possible offer for their money. Clear information about a property, the homepage, and a straightforward cancellation policy are important factors for their decision-making process, therefore increasing conversion potential.
Another important aspect that speaks to the customers needs and prioritizes value is good customer support. Customers want someone to turn to if problems arise. Since this can already happen during the booking process, a chat box is highly recommended. Because they feel taken care of, it encourages clients to return, and prevents them from leaving the site if they become frustrated. Retention is everything. With today’s competition, only a satisfied customer will use your OTA again.
Competing in the travel industry comes with a lot of challenges. Not only is the competition pool large, there’s also a lack of resources to advise and educate online travel agencies on how to improve their performance.
The above mentioned information and the products recommended stem from over 7 years of collected, aggregated and analyzed data, along with industry research. When implemented, they are proven to boost conversions, decrease L2Bs, increase revenue and make your OTA more successful.