Online becoming greater threat to high street agents
10 July, 2008： High street travel agents are becoming no more than brochure pick-up points as people increasing look online to research and book their holidays, a new study claims.
The research shows that the internet as the most popular place for people to research and book holidays and short breaks.
The study by user experience specialist Foolproof found that 87% intended to use the internet to research their next holiday or short break, with only 24% saying that they would go to high street travel agents or call operators.
The Online Shopping Survey also found that two-thirds (67%) planned to book their next holiday or short break online whereas only nine per cent would book by telephone and just eight per cent face-to-face.
The main purpose of going to the high street outlets was to pick up brochures. Only 13% said they would go to a high street outlet to talk to an adviser, according to the study.
Forty per cent of online travel shoppers visit and agent or operator to get the information they need before returning to their PCs to do the booking because not all their questions can be answered online.
“The picture is likely to get worse for high street brands as more and more of the UK population get online and follow this buying behaviour,” the report said.
“Currently, 60% of the UK’s adults are online and this is set to grow over the next five years meaning that the market for traditional holiday purchase will shrink.”
Well-known high street travel brands have been overtaken by online specialists such as Expedia and lastminute.com in terms of capturing the share of shoppers’ intentions to visit websites.
Twenty eight per cent said they would go to Expedia and 20% to lastminute.com for information compared to just 11% for Thomson and eight per cent for Thomas Cook.
But while the findings suggest that the high street travel brands are dying, they are not dead yet.
Foolproof founding partner Tom Wood said: “People have really embraced the web as a place to find out about their travel plans. The main reasons for this are the perceived convenience and ability to minimise the risk of making a poor choice. However, our in-depth research showed that the shopping journey isn’t as easy and hassle-free as it should be.
“Sites are often difficult to use: forms are confusing and lists of results are often long, making it difficult for shoppers to compare options.
“It seems that no one brand has yet provided shoppers with the experience they are looking for.
“Whilst the online specialists like Lastminute and Expedia are good at attracting visitors through their online marketing activities they are not delivering the key things that shoppers want. That means that there is still an opportunity for high street brands to reclaim their share of voice in the online world.
“To do that they need to invest more effort in improving their natural and sponsored search listings and make sure that their web content provides shoppers with a much more rewarding experience. Thomson is one of the few companies that have recognised this opportunity and it is now working with Foolproof to develop a travel site that meets customers’ needs more effectively.”