Genuine disruption comes from firms that are focussed on answering the needs of customers and finding ways to solve their issues, the Travolution Summit was told this week.
Remco van Zanten, director of hotels at Booking.com, the leading OTA owned by the world’s most valuable travel firm Priceline, said how a firm offers customer value is at the core of innovation.
“We have come a long way, but there is still a long way to go as well. What can we improve to make that customer choice less cumbersome, less difficult.
“Little things incrementally improve the customer experience, make them convert a little bit faster. Higher conversions lead to higher customer loyalty and the ability to attract more.
“This world is getting more and more complex, it’s about delivering the best customer experience.”
Van Zanten joined Booking.com in April from major European fashion retailer Zalando where he was markets vice-president based in Berlin.
He said Zalando never imagined that its customers would buy such a large range of product from it online and on mobile, including wedding outfits, or be asked to be sent monthly boxes of items.
He said online fashion retiling has a 50% return rate but he said the firm had to figure out how to make its model work commercially without passing the cost on to the customer.
“It costs money but also it saves you a lot of money by not having any physical retail. Often companies say how can I optimise to get more money out of suppliers or customers.
“That’s a road that will not lead to you being disruptive, it will not lead you to really solving your customers’ problems. Deliver on what you want and then on the how.”
Van Zanten said it was impossible today to address the needs of travellers without thinking about mobile.He said this is leading them to become more last-minute particularly when already in destination and deciding what they want to do when they need to.
“It’s about understanding what this fundamental consumer need is,” said van Zanten. “This change in behaviour is about finding disruptive business models.”
This need for immediate gratification was the reason why booking.com as developed Booking Now which allows a product to be bought by as little as two taps on an Apple Watch.
Although firms should listen to their customers they should also monitor behaviour and make judgements based on that about what they really want, delegates were told.
“It’s about listening in – the different between what a customer says and what they really do. There is only so much they can say about what they really want.
“They may not be able to state what they want but as soon as they recognise it they embrace it and use it. Show them options and letting them choose unconsciously is what gets the best results.”
Influential though Booking.com is, as an intermediary, van Zanten said it is reliant on the partners it works with to also deliver a great experience.
“What we realise is we are not delivering an experience just by ourselves. It’s our accommodations and our providers that are the crucial enablers.
“We partner with whoever is able to deliver and enhance this customer experience and help them to make the most out of this global revolution.”
Booking.com’s Pulse app for hoteliers is helping them to communicate with guests around their stay, to provide added-value services like restaurant recommendations and directions, said van Zanten.