May 17, 2018
Once upon a time, around two decades ago, you had to seek the services of a local travel agent to research and book a trip. Nowadays, travellers have many options available to them to help choose destinations, compare prices and make reservations independently and easily. They are also investing a significant amount of time planning travel, via both online and offline channels, in the weeks leading up to a purchase.
Competition in the travel industry is high, and margins are low. It’s clear that online travel agencies (OTAs) can’t do business in the way they used to. And with the cost of travel continuously being driven down by low cost carriers, discounting and disruptive competitors such as Airbnb, OTAs need to be adaptable and agile to remain at the top of their game.
What’s interesting is that price isn’t always king in consumer purchasing decisions. In fact, customer experience is the true differentiator. And the winners are those that are able to create, personalise and guide a traveller’s journey – providing a high-quality customer experience throughout.
The array of holiday add-ons now available, such as holiday excursions and car rental, means that OTAs can effectively stay close to the customer throughout the whole journey and reap the financial rewards as a result. In the future, the big players might even allow travellers to order room service through their app or website while sitting in their hotel room.
Suddenly, the OTA interaction isn’t simply a one-time transaction, it’s an ongoing relationship throughout the traveller’s journey. And that’s where data becomes critical. Building an ongoing relationship and capitalising on the known preferences of the traveller can drive differentiation and build customer loyalty.
Reaching this level of personalisation and agility requires a shift in traditional business and marketing models. It means investing heavily in your technology stack, and having flexible back-end systems and processes, to adapt quickly to fast-changing customer demands.
OTAs need to establish capabilities in managing data for value to drive customer experience. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning will help derive value from data more efficiently, supporting personalisation at every stage of the customer journey.
As important for underpinning this level of personalisation and customer experience are seamless payment processes.
In a nutshell, eNett’s Virtual Account Number (VANs) technology helps OTAs enhance the customer experience by allowing agencies to pay suppliers, from hotels to tour operators, in different currencies. Payments are facilitated by a unique 16-digit Mastercard number, ensuring that they are fast, easy and safe.
At eNett we know the travel industry inside out. That’s why we work hard to map our products to fast-paced, changing travel trends, using both our own and our customers’ insights. We too are investing in our VANs payments platform to reflect this. We update our technology every two weeks – or 25 times a year allowing for a freeze over the Christmas period – to ensure that we’re optimising our solutions to meet our customers’ evolving needs.
So, no matter where in the world consumers are seeking to travel to or how they’re looking to pay, we can achieve our core purpose “to create awesome payment solutions that benefit our customers, their customers and us”.
I challenge you to find a B2B travel payments provider who can do better.