Friday, November 30, 2007

Open Thread - Travel sites offer poor user experience

The keynote speech yesterday to the ABTA Convention was - the boss of a leading UK bedbank told me after - "controversial, but something the industry needed to told".

This is the basic outline of my section of the address:

  • Industry at a critical stage.
  • Companies must adapt if they are to survive new digital marketplace.
  • Demand remains high.
  • Supply of products to consumers via web channels is poor and inefficient.
  • Conversion rates are low.
  • Travel websites are not matching the changes in consumer behaviour on the web.
  • Massively empowered consumers trust each other more than travel websites.
  • Difficult to create affinity with a "brand" on the web - consumers "recognise" websites.
  • Only through huge improvements to user experience will consumers warm to brands.
  • Travel industry is too focused on its legacy in the way it behaves and its culture.
  • Companies must become "agile" in order to match structure of new market players.
  • Consumers will become the new agents and brand advocates.
The speech was made to a wide cross-section of the industry, thus the generalisation.

Start the debate via the comments button.

Kevin May, editor, Travolution

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Claude said...

what are the solutions ;-)

Travolution Blogger said...

Claude: Plenty of solutions.

The takeaways we gave in the speech:

* Move from transaction to experience
* Understand customer online requirements
* Use the mash-up
* relinquish the brand
* Perpetual Beta

Anonymous said...

dangerous ground kevin to label the industry as offering poor user experience. i would say the arguments you use are worthy of discussion though. there are some great sites emerging in the US, that have user experience at their heart, but the market there is very different to europe. the popularity of mass-market products in europe means that customers are still a long way off demanding as much as their counterparts over the atlantic.

JEB at Buhlerworks said...

This sums it up pretty well. It's up to the industry players to reflect on the situation and come up with solutions that are the most effective for their own business situation and position in the marketplace.

Also, the fact that maybe Europeans aren't yet as demanding about their travel planning and buying experience on the web - which, by the way I doubt is a fact - shouldn't lead to complacency.

Those who want to be industry leaders need to be ahead of what consumers might demand tomorrow, rather than wait to be pushed.

MLF said...

Looks like travel weekly rival TTG was not very impressed with travolution's input to abta.

Travolution Blogger said...

MLF: Yes, we're aware of it.

The article was written by one of TTG's "Roving Reporters - a group of people it took to the convention to offer a fresh perspective on the event (a very good idea, in fact).

User generated content in action!!

The writer, a Julian Simmons from Ulster who is a TV presenter and travel advisor, said:

"'New Money' followed the day's opening talk, which had begun with the dire warning that unless we all soup up our online presence, some of us will all [sic] be out of business in two years!

"'A lot of old baloney!' was the response to that remark from most of the seasoned delegates around where I was sitting........."

Ok. Fair comment.

However, just worth pointing out, and in the interests of accuracy, I didn't say "two years" in the speech.

In addition, we are not sure what "some of us will all" means.

Anyway, here is the section from the speech we think Simmons is refering to:

"The travel industry needs to react quickly to meet these changes - because, frankly, if the current situation continues then some of you will not be here in the years to come."

The opinions of seasoned delegates to events such as ABTA is vital to the debate about how the industry operates in the digital marketplace, one which is being fundamentally transformed by massively empowered consumers.

So please feel free to continue the debate here.

We will also gladly share the official delegate feedback from ABTA when it comes in - good or bad.

StephaneCheikh said...

Here is my 2 senses regarding your post:

Stephane Cheikh said...

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Ed Whiting said...

Kev, some good points here and I would say that I agree with them all but with differing degrees. There are many varieties of travel businesses which all do and will rely on the internet in different ways.

One of the most interesting points though, is how much the industry has already changed. 5 years ago you wouldn’t have been let onto the stage and Travolution publications wouldn’t have been a viable business as the audience just wasn’t there. I do remember 5 years ago the talk of Expedia and representing “the joker” businesses and now they are very widely excepted, in fact for some parts of leisure travel leading the way. I guess it does take a little time for industries to change with consumer demands however I bet that in 3 years time the new travel businesses WAYN’s, Trusted Places and Yapta’s will be accepted as just another established part of the travel industry and that there will be another suite of businesses to talk about.

Ed –

Travolution Blogger said...

UPDATE: Travel Trade Gazette has corrected its story.

Kare Anderson said...

Kudos to you! As a former WSj reporter who has spoken at over 40 hospitality conferences I agree and hope you keep on your campaign... an am glad to discover you via astute Bill Geist
- Kare

Travolution Blogger said...

UPDATE: As promised, official feedback from ABTA delegates.

of those that have so far responded to its online evaluation form...

Very good: 18%
Good: 48%
Poor: 8%
Very poor: 0%