Friday, July 14, 2006

Understanding Joe and Jenny

Gillian Gibson from Amadeus writes:

Last year, Amadeus found that travellers will pay more for their tickets. More specifically, in a survey of 1,000 American travellers, we found that leaving at a less ungodly hour in the morning, having access to an airport lounge or being able to use loyalty points to pay for an upgrade are all more important than paying the lowest possible fare.

People don’t choose the cheapest option, they choose the best option. But all “best options” are not created equal. The best option for Joe may not be the best option for Jenny. And the best option for Joe this week may not be the best option for Joe next week. Three days before payday Joe might be cost-conscious; three days later he might want to splurge.

With such a diversity of shifting needs, how do you empower all your customers to choose the option that best suits their needs at any particular time? There are complex tools which try to predict behaviour based on previous preferences but when they make mistakes, you look foolish.

A friend of mine shopped online for a compilation CD of rare funk from the 1970s. When he returned to the web site he was told: “You bought an album by ‘various’. Other customers who bought albums by this artist also bought ‘Now That’s What I Call Music volume 45’.” The pitch fell on stony ground.

[Wonder what website it was? - Ed]

It is much more powerful to give your customers the tools to make their own decisions. In online travel, the presentation of options on the search results page makes all the difference. If you present flight options vertically, with the cheapest at the top, you encourage your customers to shop on price; only the willfully profligate will dare to scroll beyond the third or fourth option.

But if you present flight options in a quadrant, with outward dates along the top and return options down the left-hand side, you can offer many more options on the screen. It sounds basic but it works. Your customers can choose the combination of dates and price which suits them.

Airlines which have adopted this format on their websites have seen online yield - the average ticket price - grow by 8%. They also received fewer calls to their call centres because customers could see all the available options on one screen.

In marketing, we’d love to know what our customers are thinking but it’s an impossible dream…it’s also unnecessary. It’s enough to let them make their own decisions.

Gillian Gibson, vice president, multinational customer group at Amadeus

[Amadeus unveils calendar tool for online agents]

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