Travel companies that don’t have any sort of website presence are now a comparative rarity.
True, some smaller to medium sized travel agents may only have a largely poster-advertising type site and one which provides only limited functionality. Even so, most agents will be able to put their hand up and say “I have a website!”
The complexities of life
However, it’s possible to ask whether that in itself is sufficient.
That’s because the buying public is now looking to engage with online organisations using any one of a number of different platforms and electronic channels. To take one basic illustration, the customer who five or six years ago might have done all of their internet buying on a desktop PC, might now be trying to do so on any one of a number of different devices – maybe even swapping between a desktop PC to a smartphone.
The problem there, as many of us will know, is that the design and engineering of some websites do not seem to have recognised this fundamental fact of life. You may have experienced this type of problem when you are desperately trying to expand a website page on your smart phone so that the text is actually large enough to be readable.
That is clearly one customer engagement experience that organisations could do without if they have any objectives for success.
What is required
For travel website designers, the challenge is relatively easily identified:
If identifying the challenges is relatively straightforward, actually delivering a solution can be more difficult.
The objective for all travel website designers is to try and ensure that the customer’s experience on the site is more or less the same, irrespective of the device they are using. The idea that the customer simply has to put up with an unrealistically “miniaturised” version of a desktop PC screen is no longer acceptable.
Delivering on this expectation sometimes requires a fairly radical re-thinking of the way you engage with your customers. Instead of simply trying to replicate PC screens on to a mobile smartphone, it is sometimes advisable to design a completely new experience for both. You need to make sure that the content experience is the same on desktop as mobile devices.
Why this is important
Over recent years, various studies have reached different conclusions relating to the percentage of future sales that will be conducted through PCs/tablets/laptops as opposed to smartphones. While the forecasts may have varied, there seems little doubt that there is a growing customer-driven demand towards device independence.
What that means is that customers no longer have to think about whether or not they should use their PC or tablet because it’s easier but instead engage with potential providers based upon whichever device comes to hand at a given time.
The increasing use of smartphones as a channel has sometimes been described as “shopping on the go” and it is advisable that providers and travel website designers step forward to deliver against this changing customer expectation.
Those travel agents that do so may, most likely, survive and prosper. Those that do not and who to continue to offer significantly different customer experiences based on the device being used, may struggle to fully exploit the growing e-marketplace.