This week the IBM Institute for Business Value published it's Travel 2020: the distribution dilema report. You can download the report for free (after registering) by visiting IBM's site. But if you prefer the cliff note version.... here were the highpoints I found most interesting for Travel Marketers.
We're Always Shopping for Travel
Seventy percent of travelers in the survey indicated they shop for travel even when they are not planning a specific trip. The study suggests we now live (and market travel) in a world in which travelers are constantly connected to the Internet and often receptive to information about travel. This turns the traditional "seek-and-buy" model inside out in favor of an “always-on” model of travel information distribution. Hence, successful travel marketers need to rethink entrenched approaches to marketing their travel brand.
It's Too Hard To Book Travel
The IBM Institute's survey of more than 2,000 global travelers revealed that 20 percent required more than five hours to search and book travel online. Further, this wasn't simply a leisure traveler issue. Nearly 40 percent of business travelers indicated that they needed more than two hours to accomplish travel booking tasks.
Thus, the survey suggests that the very first customer experience on ANY TRIP is likely painful and frustrating.
The report goes on to say that only 10 percent of respondents felt they received a good deal in shopping and booking their last trip. Only 10%..... combine this with the horrid scores given to airlines and hotels in customer satisfaction surveys like the American Customer Satisfaction Index and you can't help but agree with the report's assertion that
In the eyes of many customers, travel has become a burden, not the relaxing, stimulating, rewarding experience to which many travel providers aspire.
Travel Marketers Are Partially to Blame
Again, to quote the report because frankly, I couldn't have said it better myself:
Too many travel providers view marketing expenditures as a mechanism to boost short-term sales, and too few see them as longer-term strategic investments that can consistently reinforce the differences among available products and services.
In an internet distribution world, where the consumer is often times making travel decisions at a web property that the travel marketer doesn't own, the only way you can beat the price game is to already own a value position inside the customer's mind. The only way you can be a few dollars a night higher than the competition and still get the booking is when a customer perceives you as being worth many more dollars more than the competition. This requires an ongoing committment to brand building on-site, online and in your advertising and public relations.
Travel Decisions ARE Social
The Institute's data indicates that of their study sample, twenty-eight percent of travelers start their
travel search with social media, travel opinion websites and general search engines.That means that over one-fourth of the traveling public is confering with resources you don't control BEFORE they begin the purchase process.
Go back and re-read that last sentence. That's huge and likely getting bigger every day. Today's consumer is hyper-connected and uber-busy. So it stands to reason that they will look for and continue to look for short-cuts in making travel decisions.
They'll ping their Twitter buddies to see which hotel to stay at in New Orleans or to get the name of a great restaurant in DC -- which by the way -- Founding Farmers... quite excellent. And if you're a destination marketer, don't think you're not going to be effected. When folks start to think about next year's vacation you can count on at least some segment of the population pinging their friends on Facebook, Twitter and the like to find the "best family vacation" spot or "where should I go to get away for a quick weekend with the wifey" type vacations.
Is Coopetition The Future of Travel?
In probably one of the more interesting discussions in the report -- the Institute for Business Value suggests that:
Confederated networks of travel players can then begin to differentiate on the basis of the quality of journeys they collectively provide.
They posit that differentiation amongst travel brands in the future will lie in that brand's abitlity to create a fundamentally better travel experience across ALL travel points. This would obviously require the sharing of data across companies and more importantly would require competitors to cooperate in order to create the ultimate travel experience. For instance, should a winter storm in the NE shut down the airport, the airline's mobile app might permit travelers to reschedule their return trip on Amtrak or even rent a car. Likely the app would also initiate a luggage pull (if the traveler had checked bags) allowing the traveler to retreive said bags in baggage and of course, the app would automatically cancel the return portion of the trip and notify the consumer when the funds for that portion had been restored to their bank account or credit card.
And all of this would be as simple as clicking on a few buttons in a snappy mobile app or mobile website.
The Solution Is Innovation
If you've the time, there is a ton of other great information contained in this report. But for me the biggest take away was this: travel marketers of all stripes (hotel/rental car/airline/airport and destinations) must step back and fundamentally reconsider their go to market strategies. While travel markers like to talk about (and reference in their marketing) the exhiliration and joy of travel - the hard truth is that travel really isn't all that fun these days. And while consumers aren't going to stop traveling anytime soon, the destination, hotel, airline, rental car company, etc., that is first to figure out how to create and manage a fundamentally better experience stands to win big in the marketplace.
Contact Me if you are you a Travel Marketer looking for fresh, innovative travel marketing ideas
So what do you think? If it time for travel marketers to get into the innovation game? Should they be putting as much effort behind breaking new marketing ground as they do on delivering their product cheaper and more conveniently than the next guy?