Words by Chris Brown, Group Product Manager, Traveltek
Take a look at the world’s leading Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) and they share many common attributes.
They are easy to use and enable customers to quickly organise and package every aspect of their trip. They also integrate user reviews from credible sources such as TripAdvisor to help consumers determine if they are selecting the right product to suit their purpose and preferences.
The most sophisticated sites give users the power to book in just a few clicks, becoming ‘virtual agents’ that work with impressive speed to find the best deals.
In ‘The Best Online Travel Sites of 2017’ listing by research firm Top Ten Reviews, the big-name OTAs that pop up in the top ten ranking include Expedia, priceline.com and Travelocity, primarily because of their user-friendliness.
Reasons cited for their ‘top ten’ status include ‘easy to navigate’ and ‘simplify the booking process’, while advanced filtering and searches are also highlighted as stand-out features.
Other OTAs or travel websites that have mastered this and other essential criteria include booking.com, ctrip, Airbnb, Ryanair.com, hotels.com, TripAdvisor, Agoda, Kayak and many more, as listed by market intelligence specialist SimilarWeb.
What is not mentioned by these research firms, however, is that most of these websites also ooze cosmetic appeal and, crucially, transform the User Experience (UX).
Airbnb, for example, has not only witnessed overwhelming success due to its disruptive business model, but because of its approach to UX too.
Marketing technology transformation company ClickZ highlights the top features that set the Airbnb UX apart, which include easy search boxes; simple search results presentation; the ability to search by moving map; ‘urgency’ tactics to speed up decision making; ‘social proof’ (reviews); image heavy/cosmetic appeal; and clear presentation, to name a few.
If you’re a travel agent or tour operator reading this, you will no doubt have used or browsed these websites and agree it’s the User Experience that makes them successful, but you’ll also be wondering why I’m flying the flag for ‘the competition’.
Before I joined Traveltek I realised what was missing in the travel technology world.
For years the industry has built systems that are functional and offer multiple features, but the User Experience has left a lot to be desired.
What successful consumer travel websites have done is assess what experience their customers desire and delivered it. The travel industry should be doing the same.
We need to take a B2C approach to the B2B business, asking users of travel technology – essentially travel agents – how we can improve the User Experience and ensure their booking systems are more intuitive.
Traveltek is by far the market leader when it comes to functionality and has just won the coveted ‘World’s Leading Dynamic Packaging Solutions Provider’ title for the fourth year running at the World Travel Awards, which is testament to our status as a travel technology pioneer.
The company’s products already mirror many features of OTAs and in fact, have more complex functionality built in, helping agencies package every facet of a travel itinerary, from flights and hotels to a range of ancillary products.
Our cruise packaging solutions are also second to none and we recently introduced our next-generation platform, Traveltek CruiseNX, which offers travel and cruise specialists a raft of enhanced capabilities designed to drive productivity and enhance the User Experience.
From a more streamlined booking process and the ability to book multiple cabins in one search journey, to fast filtering that helps agents find the ideal cruise based on their customer’s preferences and profile, Traveltek is transforming the way the industry sells cruise.
But this is just the start. Over the past few months I’ve been visiting our clients all over the UK to find out how they believe Traveltek can improve the User Experience.
The feedback is clear – agents want technology that’s easy to use and understand.
They would also like to make bookings in fewer clicks, which will soon be possible.
In essence, they want a B2C experience in their B2B environment.
We need to start building travel technology for real people and like the OTAs, take into account that our users are becoming younger and more tech savvy.
Improving the User Experience boosts engagement and drives more sales in both a trade and consumer environment and that should be our goal.
Travel agents are human too, so let’s give them an online experience that treats them that way – and watch the bookings roll in.
This year Traveltek’s User Experience (UX) transformation strategy will come into its own and I can promise many game-changing surprises – and industry firsts. Watch this space!
To find out more, come and chat to our team at Travel Technology Europe 2018, stand #TT107.