The direct booking conversation is often monopolised by hotels, but there is no reason why airline dotcoms can’t bring in passengers and avoid the third-party acquisition costs which prompted the “stop clicking around” campaigns from hotels.
An immediate caveat at this point, lifted from those dissenting voices in the hotel argument, is that there is not only a cost to direct bookings but also a benefit to third party distribution.
Travelaer has entered the fray from an airline perspective with a new sets of tools which, it claims, will help boost conversion rates on airlines dotcoms. “Right Flight” allows an airline to give visitors to its website a direct comparison between its own service and those of its competitors on identical or similar routes.
The features compared are price – obviously – but also leg room, total flight duration, flight rating and others. It sources data from a variety of sources – the airline PSS, PROS, ATPCO, Routehappy, Conztanz, CRM tools, among others. CEO Mike Slone said Travelaer “will work with many data partners to continue to develop what we think is the best flight or the ‘right flight’ for the customer.”
The tool has a B2C and B2B appeal for airlines. In a consumer-facing context, the comparison tool “gives the passenger transparency in the booking process, which ultimately reflects positively on the airline using it.” So airlines whose product outperforms peers get the hard benefit of being the obvious choice for booking, while also tapping into the soft benefit from being perceived as giving the customer a choice.
But the B2B component of the product has the potential to be disruptive, as it gives airlines access to real-time data which, Travelaer claims, has historically been the preserve of the metas and OTAs. Slone said his developers have devised a “unique algorithm” which creates insights from the aforementioned sources which are specifically about improving conversion rates. These insights can be configured for its airline client’s needs.
The focus on improving conversion rates is interesting, as it pre-supposes that the wider marketing efforts have succeeded in getting the passenger to the airline dotcom already. If an airline was struggling to get a critical mass of people to its web site then it would need a different tool (and a different marketing strategy).
There is also a knowledge gap in the industry which Travelaer hopes it can close. It refers to a study earlier this year which found that two-thirds (64%) of airline execs questioned had only limited visibility or even a basic understanding of their conversion rates.
In a sector which has been digitally transforming itself for some time, it is surprising that there is such a lack of awareness in airlines around conversion rates. “Thinking like a retailer” is great for airlines, but many of them need to start thinking like a retailer which actually sells stuff.