Guest Post: Why a 'smart shopping' focus is vital to drive a post-pandemic recovery

Guest Post: Why a 'smart shopping' focus is vital to drive a post-pandemic recovery

Greg Schulze, senior vice president strategic travel partners at Expedia Group explains why providing a positive experience is all that really matters to travellers

Consumer behaviour changes continually, but the volatility of the past few years has brought this into even sharper focus. 

All industries are adapting and re-examining how they meet consumer needs and wants.  The travel industry is no exception.

We’ve just released our Expedia 2023 Air Travel Hacks Report, providing the latest tips to save time and money on flights. 

Created in partnership with Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) the annual report has become an authority for eight years running on air travel trends. 

The report reveals data-backed hacks for travellers, including the best day of the week to book a flight at the lowest price, how to minimize the risk of being impacted by delays and cancellations and tools for finding the best fares. 

Creating demand after the pandemic 

These tips and tricks help to create demand for flight booking as we move into pandemic recovery.  

The cost of travel will, of course, always play a part in cementing a traveller's decision, but a positive traveller experience is increasingly a central factor in whether customers will choose the same airline, hotel, or cruise line or use the same online travel agency for repeat business. 

Travellers now want the same level satisfaction of having a high-quality experience as they do with finding a low fare. 

New research debuting in November from Expedia Group shows that travellers revealed strong preferences toward flexible rates and fares that can be changed without a fee. 

Doing things differently 

Around half of consumers say they would never book non-refundable lodging (47%) or transportation (51%) domestically, even if it was discounted. 

Even more would refuse non-refundable lodging (57%) and transportation (59%) when traveling internationally. Many players are seeing how they can do things differently following a turbulent few years. 

Changes range from offering flexible itineraries, enhancing loyalty incentives, creating better systems and processes around fees, and updating cancellation policies and refunds, all of which are proving popular among travellers.

If we shift our approach to enhancing the traveller experience, we’ll help both travellers and travel providers too, including the airline industry, who can benefit from the increase in repeat business and enhanced customer loyalty that a best-in-class experience brings.  

Desire for clear communication

We also see the desire for clear communication time and time again from travellers. They want to understand what options are available to them and to know they’re making the right decisions. 

At Expedia Group, we have introduced new features this year, such as price tracking and fintech product Price Match Promise, to help instil confidence and clarity for travellers when making their booking decisions. 

This can help to drive better conversion rates for airlines while delivering a better overall experience for the travellers themselves. 

Additionally, partners can leverage data and unique insights to better understand trends so they can plan ahead and meet challenges head-on. 

Price tracking and Price Match Promise are currently live on the US point of sale with plans to extend to additional markets soon. 

Attribute-based shopping 

Attribute-based shopping is another hot industry topic. We’re developing ‘Smart Shopping’ to provide travellers with a better understanding of is the value of their booking, vs just showing the lowest price. 

Smart shopping makes it easier to compare and choose between offers with increased clarity and structure. 

For flights, this might include different timings, stopovers, seat selection and baggage selection. In fact, in a recent test on our mobile app, seat selection increased by 94% when we moved seat selection options higher up in the traveller shopping path on a mobile device. 

This is a win-win: travellers see better options earlier in the booking journey with more transparency on their booking, while travel partners could benefit from stronger conversions. Smart shopping is currently live for lodging and will be rolled out to flights soon. 

Adapting to a volatile recovery 

Although recovery has been volatile for the airline industry, and even as the cost-of-living crisis continues to bite, travel is beginning to normalise, and travellers are taking advantage of flying again. 

As both business and leisure travellers return to the skies, airlines are adapting to meet the returning levels of demand. 

To ensure this demand continues and to create more loyal customers, improving the traveller experience for a post-pandemic world from the beginning to the end of the holiday process must be a focus.

Read the Expedia 2023 ARC Air Travel Hacks story here.