Travel companies will move from pile it high strategies to selling fewer product but understanding them better and matching them to customers, the Travolution Summit heard.
Andy Owen-Jones, founder and chief executive of travel data analytics form bd4travel, predicted the days of sucking in “anonymous” product feeds and letting consumers filter results are over.
He said this approach will combine with firms “jumping the real-time chasm” after COVID-19 has rendered all historical data on their customers effectively worthless.
“We predict that the number of products people sell will go down over time as people master those products and are much better at actually retailing them.
“You need to know your customers intimately and do that in real time. Their history is interesting, but what they’re after now is really important.
“Understanding demand now, understanding how to price now, is important. Managing content correctly is a core competence.
“And what we see is personalisation changes that, because there’s only a point personalising if you’ve got good attributes, and good content that you can put that together.
“And we’d really encourage you to look at real time matching, not just doing it offline and putting stuff together as best seller lists.
“We see instant intimacy coming when you get the right content, the right images, the right product, and the right ancillaries together, and you put them together on your tech stack.
“We can help you orchestrate that, but what you need to do is do that for the right people at the right time.”
Owen-Jones said in a post COVID world travel must stop dealing with people as averages and get down to the level of the individual.
He said all crises prompt a flight or fight reaction, and with many destinations currently off sale and no flying possible, travel can prepare for recovery by telling stories.
“My conclusion today, if I’m going to leave you with one thing, is let’s stop as an industry treating people as averages.
“Let’s get down to the level of the individual understand what people want and take it to the next level of where we should be with digital
“We’ve allowed ourselves to be happy with an analogue experience which is treating everyone the same, like a broadcast mechanism.
“We’ve got the technology now that we can understand what people want. And if we can put people in front of the right product at the right time, we can start treating people as individuals.”
Owen-Jones said the travel sector must have a vision for the future to move forward beyond just supplying customer with their basic travel needs.
“For travel, as well as just preserving cash and offering safety, we need to be in a position where we’re both serving customers well and having a vision for the future.
“What I really want to focus on is can we take this opportunity to rethink what we’re doing, have a vision for the future and make sure that we serve customers well.
“And that’s a real challenge, because a lot of the data that we’ve had from the past is not so useful. We’ve got unreliable data on a lot of things.
“What we’ve got is a kind of invisibility of the future, at the moment. If the past is unreliable and the future is invisible, we think you need to focus closer and closer on the present.
“What does that mean? That means really understanding current behaviour and desires and what products are currently available, or predicted to be available over the next period,
“The closer we can get to that now, the better. The way we sell travel needs to move closer and closer to storytelling and away from pile it high for people to filter through.”