Voice of the Customer

Online travel booking giants Expedia and Booking’s recent reported dip in earnings were blamed on growing competition from Google. However, new research suggests travel brands might be struggling as they aren’t delivering the customer experience that consumers expect.

The study by Fresh Relevance, the real-time personalisation and optimisation platform, has revealed that only 12% of consumers feel that travel companies are better at understanding and offering what they want than online retailers. Even luxury travel businesses seem to be struggling to impress, as only 14% of holidaymakers with a household income of over £75,000 consider travel companies to be more capable of understanding their needs than retailers.

The “Digital holidaymaker trend report,” which surveyed 2000 UK vacationers in collaboration with Censuswide, also indicates that the poor customer experience creates purchase anxiety. Just 10% of consumers feel more confident completing an online booking for a holiday than making an online retail purchase. This is particularly the case for younger holidaymakers, with 22% of Gen Z (16-24 year olds) and 21% of Millennials (25-34 year olds) stating that booking a holiday online is more difficult than making an online retail purchase.

When it comes to brand loyalty, the study reveals the travel industry has some catching up to do, with one in five (20%) of respondents saying they don’t have a preferred travel company, but online retailers they are loyal to. Particularly Gen Z and Millennial holidaymakers (25%) are less loyal to travel companies than online stores.

When examining the tactics that consumers find useful when making a leisure travel booking, user-generated content, such as reviews and photos, is most popular (33%). Almost a third (30%) said they would welcome emails informing them that a holiday they had previously looked at has dropped in price. Gen Z and Millennials in particular expect a more tailored travel booking experience, such as a personalised website (24% vs. 21%) and personalised product recommendations (21% vs. 20%).

Mike Austin, CEO & co-founder of Fresh Relevance comments: “Whether consumers are making an online holiday booking or retail purchase, they now expect the same highly-personalised experience from all the brands they are engaging with. With the high price tag often associated with booking a trip, consumers need to be sure that the holiday they are investing in is right for them. Despite having access to vast amounts of data, it’s clear that many travel brands are failing to hit the mark in comparison to their retail counterparts when it comes to making customers feel understood.

Evidently, travel brands should be leveraging the retail-style marketing tactics that resonate with consumers and help deliver a more customised experience for those researching trips. The brands that can provide consumers with useful information when it’s most relevant will ultimately succeed in giving them the confidence to book.”

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