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Written By Chris Giddins
4 minute read

You don’t need us to tell you that eCommerce has led to significant shake-ups in every possible industry over recent years. Retailers are scrambling to keep up with growing demands for online stores, while even real estate agents face increasingly digitised processes. And the travel industry is no exception. With 700 million people set to book hotel rooms online by 2023, and a further 43% of UK travellers already preferring to research, plan, and book through mobile browsing, travel eCommerce is already making significant ripples. And, those are ripples travel businesses need to ride if they’re to stand any chance at weathering these changing tides. 

Luckily, while eCommerce in many industries has led to job redundancy and challenges, changes in the travel industry are proving incredibly beneficial for the majority of airlines, hoteliers, and more. In fact, jobs in the travel hospitality industry alone are arising at a rate of around one every 2.5 seconds, even though 82% of travel bookings in just 2018 were made online without human interaction. To make sure you stay on top, we’re going to look at the main changes you should be considering right now. 

Taking the monopoly back from travel agents

The travel industry has always been unique in that it’s primarily fronted by travel agents rather than service providers themselves. These agents have traditionally offered bulk buys that have taken the monopoly of the market, forcing set prices, and creating distance between service providers and their consumers. There are, of course, benefits to these services such as ease of use, but many consumers and providers alike find this monopoly more detrimental than good. 

Now, as providers can advertise their services directly online through social media or chosen online agents, ease is possible without this limited middle-service. Instead, consumers are free to browse at their will and book with companies who offer deals and experiences 100% suited to their needs. 

With the ability to track consumer histories and keep in touch via email and other digital marketing strategies, companies are also far more liable to repeat custom through tailored discounts and other such options that simply never would have been viable when agents held the cards. This can all be done with the help of automated software that ensures such efforts never escalate workloads. 

This stands to drastically increase the retention and user experiences offered by travel companies across the industry, making for more personalised and familiar travel experiences across global markets. While agents are still a vital part of the travel sector, eCommerce certainly looks set to put power back where it should have been all along.

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Individual control of decision/buying processes

This eCommerce switch has also gone a long way towards placing decision and buying processes back in the hands of consumers. With online business booming across the sector, customers can take the time they need to research everything from their flights to their hotels and even excursions. And, this is a benefit they’re embracing whole-heartedly, with figures already showing that 80% of travellers spend up to four weeks reading reviews and researching a destination before committing. 

As well as ensuring consumers are always booking flights to the right places, this new-held control can lead to online travel benefits including the best prices possible, and tailored packages, complete with the personalised discounts touched on above. In the past, any money-off offers were limited by agency abilities and offered on a generalised rather than case-by-case basis. Now, individual company focus and big data collation can lead to far more satisfactory money-off offers every single time. 

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Lower prices in general

While we’re on the subject of discounts, it’s worth noting that eCommerce capabilities have also led to generally lower prices sector-wide. In fact, buying online can see price reductions of as much as 10%, a benefit that’s behind online bookings from 75% of Brits right now. For the most part, this is because providers are no longer as reliant on sometimes costly agency representation to provide the coverage they require, enabling them to pull profits for less. Higher levels of direct competition across the web also play a part, with companies now painfully aware of the costs they’re up against. 

Though these price drops may seem like a negative from the outside, many companies are finding that the increased business created by online capabilities is more than covering this gap. What’s more, the ability to tailor prices and discounts depending on interest at any given time has led to sales during even quiet periods that may have been out of reach in the past. As such, businesses are finding that it’s worthwhile to embrace rather than resist these online-led reductions. 

The rise of the comparison site

Last but perhaps most importantly, eCommerce changes in the industry have also led to the rise of the much-famed comparison site. Trivago, Expedia, Skyscanner, and similar are all fantastic case studies of this service and are most definitely taking the travel industry by storm to the extent that 53% of consumers now require access to these services before they commit to bookings. And it’s hardly surprising seeing as access to even a few of these sites provides comparisons across the board, making deals easier to come by than ever. Skyscanner, in particular, rates highly as a site that offers comprehensive offers, an accolade which earned them an impressive 69% customer score

Though it may not seem like it from the outset, sites like these are also fantastic news for travel providers. Aside from providing access to a ready-built audience looking specifically for what such companies have to offer, comparison sites provide market-wide awareness of competitive pricing. With many such outlets also allowing for discount codes from the providers on their books, companies advertising through these routes are in the best position to track buyer habits for tailored advertising efforts and the setting of performance indicators down the line. 

A new way to get connected

When you look at these changes, on the whole, it becomes apparent that eCommerce capabilities in the travel industry have largely helped companies connect with their consumers for better-tailored offers, sales targeting, and a generally improved understanding of consumer habits. 

This is in direct contrast with many industries who have taken an undeniable step away from consumer interactions as eCommerce rises to the fore, and makes this a key focus for travel industry development. 

With many companies already enjoying the benefits of these more tailored services across the board, it would certainly pay to implement at least some online processes in the coming year. It’s a surprisingly simple step as automated processes come to the fore, including automated bookings, discount generation, and more, yet it could mean consumer relationships that you’ve only ever dreamt of until now.

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