Leaders from across the industry are telling me that a successful travel business is increasingly about providing a superior retailing experience to help customers make the right choices. Travel is no longer focussed on the in-trip experience; the pre-trip phase is now seen as critical to customer satisfaction. So that got me thinking. What can we learn from the world of retail?
“Retail therapy” has long been considered one of the UK’s most popular pastimes. In fact, it contributed £180 billion to UK economic output in 2014 according to a recent government paper. And while it’s true that by 2019 it is predicted that more than 19 percent of all retail purchases will be made online, the offline experience is far from dead. There’s plenty of evidence of a retail revolution taking place on a high street near you.
Just a few years ago, if you were to think back to an outstanding shopping experience, it was probably due to one of the following: the professionalism of the sales assistant, the quality of the stock and the perceived value for money (whether the price tag was low or high). Fast forward to today and although those elements are still very much at play, what is doing more than anything else to create retail excellence is the technology working behind the scenes. Here are some of the ways how:
1. A single channel cannot be all things to all people
Mastercard UK’s head of acceptance and digital payments, Scott Abrahams, said, “The days of mono-channel retail are over. Most customers rely on a mix of online and instore shopping.” The company reports that 8 out of 10 customers now use a combination of channels.
So the first challenge is to create a differentiated experience for the channels that your customers want to use to do business with you: online, mobile, telephone and in-store. Then a successful retailer is one who uses technology to stitch the channels together to create a holistic service offering. The retail experience should be recognisably the company’s own, regardless of which channel the customer is using. But it also needs to play to the strengths of each channel.
Amadeus is delivering the tools to enable you to interact with your customers using their channels of choice. For example, Amadeus m-Power has a fresh new look and feel that was launched to rave reviews at the Business Travel Show. It’s set to become the ‘must have’ travel app in 2016.
2. All roads lead to Rome or New York or Sydney
Mark Lewis, head of omni-channel at John Lewis is unsurprisingly a proponent of using technology to improve the customer experience across all touch points. But this isn’t just a nice to have. That highly successful retailer’s research reveals that omni-channel customers spend about three times as much as those using purely online or instore channels. He continues, “Retail must involve a seamless interaction with customers across all channels. The business should run as a single entity and IT innovation plays a key role.” Failure to innovate has been the downfall of some of the biggest names on the high street that are no longer around.
One of the objectives of developing a true omni-channel sales environment is the ability to offer a seamless customer experience. An important milestone in that direction is the new Amadeus Selling Platform Connect, which gives travel professionals cloud based portability across browsers and devices. It means you can interact with a customer in person via a PC in the agency and then out of hours using a personal tablet device at home.
3. Social showrooming, for when the store is still core
If the store is still core to your business, then make it worth visiting. You can connect what is happening online to what you feature in the walk-in environment. US department store Nordstrom encourages followers on image-based social media site Pinterest to pin their favourite Nordstrom items on the company’s site. This enables the retailer to create fun and interactive displays that feature the most popular choices. I could imagine this kind of activity translating well into the travel retail environment. After all, who doesn’t like taking at least a few holiday snaps and there’s nothing that gets people into buying mode faster than seeing others having a great time on their travels.
Amadeus Extreme Search was pioneering in the way it inspired travellers and helped convert lookers into bookers. Although initially designed for online sales, there is nothing to stop it being used within retail outlets, especially to engage with people waiting to see an expert travel consultant.
At Amadeus, we don’t just talk about redefining travel commerce, we listen and learn from our customers. That’s our inspiration for developing innovative solutions. We also learn from the world around us including best practice in retail, so we understand the critical importance of the shopping experience, the unending quest to drive traffic online and footfall to retail outlets. We love nothing more than getting creative and delivering ground-breaking solutions that send sales conversions through the roof. Most importantly, we never forget that we’re in this together. So please join us on our mission to create the ultimate traveller experience.