Balancing speed with a rich user experience is a challenge that many OTAs face
According to a recent study about key factors that are driving consumers' selection of online travel sites, one- third of travel consumers abandoned their online search after waiting for more than four seconds for their results to load. (1/29/2008)
Under such circumstances, how are online travel agents (OTAs) ensuring that their site is user-friendly and at the same reflects the best online rich experience being offered today?
From Travelocity´s perspective, its Senior Manager of CRM and E-mail Marketing, Jeff Rosenzweig, says balancing speed with a rich user experience is a challenge that many OTAs face.
"People´s time is an increasingly precious commodity and it´s important to respect that given competitors are usually just a click away. So in order to keep visitors in your online store, response times for both regular and rich applications should be on par with the competition as well as industry standards. However, in order to turn these visitors into engaged customers, it´s imperative to provide them with personalised and compelling content, tools, and functionality in a clean and intuitive format," Rosenzweig told EyeforTravel.com´s Ritesh Gupta ahead of CRM in Travel USA 2008 conference to be held in New Orleans.
In the past, Travelocity has focused on site personalisation and increased the number of campaigns executed via email (along with increasingly relevant and targeted content, and overall smaller email drops and each execution becomes more targeted).
So how are all these initiatives shaping up and improving the customer experience?
"In 2007, we invested time and resources enhancing the back-end foundation and platform in an effort to reach our goal of increasing relevance on the front-end. While some of these initiatives will continue into 2008, we have made some enhancements with our ability to target members and deliver relevant content across multiple channels and have seen positive results when tested," said Rosenzweig.
On personalisation and customer segmentation, he said, "In the current environment it´s increasingly important for OTAs to develop programmes and strategies that recognise, reward, and retain their best customers. The first step for OTAs is to personalise messaging on the site, in emails, via the phone, across as many touch-points as possible to recognise their preferred customers. The next step is to reward them with discounts, value-adds, special deals, services and more. If the rewards can be personalised to the customer´s trip lifecycle stage (dreaming, planning, shopping? or interests/lifestyles, then that will increase the likelihood of a successful retention programme."