Amadeus Director APAC Mieke De Schepper says travel sellers will be central in building consumer trust and argues that consistency in content, service, and freedom of choice for customers is the real aim and achievement of omnichannel.
By Mieke De Schepper
Throughout COVID-19, we have seen a significant shift from offline to online, with many businesses accelerating their digital capabilities, spotlighting the importance of an integrated approach to create better experiences for their customers.
With Statista forecasting nearly 50 billion network-connected devices in 2020, no doubt digital will gain more and more relevance as a method for search, purchase, and customer service. In this age of the connected customer, reaching them effectively will become the new battleground. Only those who take up a truly omnichannel approach will be able to emerge as winners. However, our survey revealed that
omnichannel is not a priority for travel agencies, with only 20% surveyed planning to invest in it over the next five years – in Asia, it is as low as 7%.
COVID-19 has accelerated a change in behavioral patterns of the traveler and their expectations of travel sellers. The way they will travel, and purchase will change drastically in the short term. More than 60% of consumers who start shopping on one device switch to another, and the average accommodation purchase journey lasts 36 days and involves as many as 45 touchpoints across different
devices and websites.
An omnichannel strategy that allows travel brands to respond to this ultra-connected landscape and the evolving customer needs is a must. To regain travelers’ trust and get them traveling again safely and efficiently, it will be crucial that travel brands offer a friction-less and convenient experience across all points of contact.
Travel sellers will be the key to building this trust by providing customized services while creating a truly distinctive experience for travelers. Our report ‘Omnichannel, a source of differentiation in the new reality’ helps travel sellers achieve this success and be truly channel agnostic in the new world of travel.
Travelers’ behavior and expectations are changing rapidly
We live in a world of hyper-connectivity, even more so, with the COVID-19 situation, this has accelerated the digital transformation we were already living. Pockets of the world where connectivity was once a dream are disappearing. Consumers are operating far more complex
eco-systems of networked devices.
In this new, extensively connected world where digital devices reign supreme, travelers will be even more demanding than before. Safety, health, and hygiene issues will be critical at every stage of their journey. They will expect consistent information, in real-time, at the tip of their fingers regardless of the channel they use.
The opportunity for travel brands is immense. Every device, every screen, every touchpoint is an opportunity to connect with the traveler and deliver a superior customer experience. An omnichannel strategy allows travel brands to respond to the ultra-connected landscape and the evolving customer needs, creating a seamless experience.
An omnichannel strategy is vital to respond to traveler needs
The COVID-19 situation has spotlighted on the importance of offering omnichannel customer service, making it possible for travelers to interact across multiple touchpoints and delivering consistent services regardless of the channel they choose.
With an omnichannel strategy in place, travel sellers can optimize their call centers and handle customer queries more efficiently, especially in times of disruption. As channels get integrated, travelers can initially make contact via a chatbot or social media account and later switch to a phone. It also allows the customer service reps to have a single view of the customer with all the information in one place, helping them understand customer’s preferences and needs. This leads to faster and more efficient responses avoiding disjointed communication, repetitive information, and, above all, customer frustration and dissatisfaction.
The current climate has also added many layers of complexities to travel, such as health checks and social distancing measures. Now more than ever, travelers will be looking for frictionless experiences across all stages of travel. Travel sellers who can remove this friction right from the initial booking stage through to the airport experience will succeed in rebuilding the traveler’s confidence.
Inspiring the traveler, the omnichannel way
The traveler experience in a digital and omnichannel world starts long before they book, beginning at the inspiration stage. This means travel companies need to design all digital interactions, including advertising, with the same, or even higher, attention that they deliver to travelers ontrip – regardless of the channel or the moment.
An omnichannel approach to marketing that serves (and exceeds) the traveler demands must consider the right travel context, even if the traveler has not started the trip. Advertising can help with this and deliver the right information to the appropriate traveler and/or travel seller.
Omnichannel means choice
Delivering on customer expectations, including an exceptional and personalized service means one thing – choice. And for that, travelers need to have all content options available through all channels, so they have the freedom to shop where, when and how they want.
As we continue to live with the possibility of travel disruption, the importance of being able to provide service on-trip has never been so important. Travelers need to know that their travel seller can respond to unpredictable situations with excellent customer service. That means having the ability not only to search and book content but also to service those bookings, regardless of the source of the content or the channel through which they were booked.
It’s important to present travelers with all content choices for their trip- air and beyond air. By exposing that content via multiple channels and touchpoints, travel sellers can offer a consistent buying experience no matter how and where their travelers want to book their trip – via a self-booking tool or on a mobile or tablet, via a website, an office location or a chatbot. The same content, the same service, and freedom of choice for customers. That is the real vision for omnichannel.
While omnichannel has been a buzzword for years, there is still room for improvement. As we continue to navigate COVID-19 and look to rebuild the industry in a way that is better than before, omnichannel can be a priority area with clear benefits for both the travel seller and the end traveler. The present situation has created many challenges for the travel industry but also opened doors for opportunities.
There will be new types of travel and destinations, different demands from travelers, and the need for new products and services.
Travel brands that adopt a successful omnichannel strategy will not only stay ahead of the curve but also will be able to create the type of holistic, friction-less experience that travelers want.
(Ed. ‘Omnichannel, a Source of Differentiation in the New Reality’ is Amadeus’s second report of the series ‘Insights for the New World of Travel’. Amadeus says its findings come from a combination of desk research and interviews, surveys and focus groups discussions with both travel sellers and travelers during Q1 and Q2 2020. Featured image by Photographer Oleg Magni.)