CRM and Loyalty Strategies in TravelBe it faster page download times, travel deals in real-time or offering content in a personalised manner, travel portals have to minutely examine all such areas as there is a threat of losing out on a demanding customer in a matter of few seconds.

Published: 13 Jun 2008

CRM and Loyalty Strategies in Travel

Be it faster page download times, travel deals in real-time or offering content in a personalised manner, travel portals have to minutely examine all such areas as there is a threat of losing out on a demanding customer in a matter of few seconds.

Experts feel there are many factors, which need to be considered while offering targeted offers. One needs to ensure the data set is correct and at the same time, the companies must remember to time the message correctly so that it makes a desired impact.

"What information is too "big brother" and can be considered intrusive? You need to know how much information you should collect, and how much you should use so that users don't feel threatened and abandon your site. A combination of user collected information, mosaic demographic information and geo-targeting is considered the best option for maximising the potential of your base," Francesca Ecsery, UK General Manager, Cheapflights.co.uk recently told EyeforTravel.com's Ritesh Gupta.

Also, when it comes to enhancing the quality of the customers' web experience, the emphasis are on offering advanced user interface features to aid the consumer in selecting, identifying and filtering travel deals, but without impacting the page download time.

According to Leger Holidays' e-Commerce Manager Michael Rhodes, the increased uptake of broadband around the world and the increment in bandwidth has resulted in a lot more flexibility in the designing and development of the websites.

The e-commerce professionals acknowledge that it is important for the systems architecture and implementation to be clean. The systems should be independently tuned for responsiveness, collectively deliver web pages in milliseconds, with the ability to scale up as the business grows.

"Ultimately the technology platform needs to be robust and tested and a lot of varied touch points need to be implemented to capture and entice the consumer to book," says Rhodes.

According to Ecsery, the age-old approaches of load balancing and clustering continue to provide base-line scalability across many of today's systems, and these technologies have continued to improve along with availability of higher capacity multi-core server technologies.

"However, these technologies only provide additional scalability headroom to legacy systems, whilst in the longer term these systems need to be re-structured and re-factored to be focused on today's travel business needs and to be maintainable and scalable. Travel businesses continue to gather customer preferences and web site searches and in the next few years will look to provide improved personalised features for travellers, whilst using these gathered preferences to demand different travel offerings from their suppliers," she says.

As the personalisation efforts and cross-selling initiatives become more targeted and seamless across all touch points – email, onsite, partner ads, call center and mobile, the companies are working on initiatives to capture customer data to feed CRM initiatives and accordingly offering customised communication.

On the same, Ecsery said a content management system combined with user information held within your database is key to providing a personalised service. All touch points should reference the database and serve relevant information that the user has either requested or would find relevant, which will lead to increased loyalty from the user.

According to Rhodes, the benefits of custom communication provide a cleaner avenue for action for the consumer and enable the companies to build a stronger more educated relationship, which was not really available prior to the influx of digital media.

On leveraging the intelligence built through CRM to drive business to suppliers, Rhodes says OTAs and meta-search engines have managed this quite well but all these along with the web as a whole are still in their infancy. The next stage the "semantic web" should provide even more advancements in what can be done online.

For her part, Ecsery said, "By collecting information on user behaviour, demographics and lifestyle information, users can be matched with preferred travel suppliers so that they are receiving more relevant content via email, RSS feeds and through personalised site content. This provides both the user and supplier with quality information, leading to an increase loyalty and revenue for the supplier."

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