What Is Omnichannel, and Why Should Travel Companies Care?
Yes, we have another buzzword for you – Omnichannel. What is it, and why should you, as a travel business, be interested? First of all, let’s look at what the word ‘omnichannel’ actually means. Wikipedia defines omnichannel as:
…a cross-channel content strategy that organizations use to improve their user experience and drive better relationships with their audience across points of contact. Rather than working in parallel, communication channels and their supporting resources are designed and orchestrated to cooperate. Omnichannel implies integration and orchestration of channels such that the experience of engaging across all the channels someone chooses to use is as, or even more, efficient or pleasant than using single channels in isolation
Omnichannel differs from multichannel in that, whilst in the latter the various channels of customer communication are separate silos and are not integrated, omnichannel integrates them into one uniform approach to customer relationships. This graphic from FitSmallBusiness explains it nicely:
An example that many of you will be familiar with is TV streaming service Netflix. Wherever I log into my Netflix account – my TV, my phone, my tablet, a hotel TV etc – the experience is the same and I can start watching a film on one device and pick up where I left off later on another one. When I’ve finished bingeing a TV series, Netflix sends me an email with suggestions for other shows I might enjoy. Essentially it’s a seamless experience across all channels and there is none of the disconnect that can be annoying in multichannel experiences.
And omnichannel is popular with customers too. A recent Aberdeen survey found that companies with an omnichannel strategy are seeing customer satisfaction levels 23 times higher than the average, and seeing 89% customer retention (as opposed to 33% for companies with poor or non-existent omnichannel strategies).
Omnichannel works because different customers like to communicate with your business in different ways. Some are old-school and prefer to deal with you face-to-face or over the phone; some prefer email; others prefer chat apps such as Messenger, Line or Whatsapp. Some prefer different channels for different purposes, eg Facebook for the dreaming stage, website for the booking stage, Line for post-booking and customer service. As this Amadeus graphic shows, there is no dominant communication platform:
Indeed, research shows that 60% of online purchasers begin shopping on one device before switching to another, and that the average accommodation booking involves an incredible 45 touchpoints across different channels and devices!
This means that a multichannel/siloed approach will cause more problems than it solves – we’ve all experienced the frustration of dealing with a non-integrated customer service environment and having to explain our problem multiple times across multiple channels. Customers want to know that, whether they’re calling you, emailing you, or chatting with you on Whatsapp, the person they’re interacting with will have all the relevant information to hand and they won’t need to repeat themselves.
And yet, at the moment travel companies have been much slower on the uptake than their customers. Amadeus’ research suggests that whilst only 10% of travel agencies think using online messaging channels is important, 43% of their customers want to use these channels. And despite the proven ROI benefits, only 20% of travel agents surveyed are planning to adopt an omnichannel strategy in the next five years.
Here’s an example of how your customer journey might work if you implemented an omnichannel strategy:
- Customer Googles ‘japan cherry blossom itinerary’
- Your Google ad pops up
- Customer visits your website, spends a few minutes reading itineraries, then leaves without completing an enquiry form
- Via your retargeting solution, the customer sees a Facebook ad for your Japan itineraries, which reminds them of their uncompleted research
- They click on the ad, return to your site, and submit an enquiry
- You respond to their enquiry along with a Whatsapp message to alert them to the response
- They ask questions about the proposal you sent them via Facebook Messenger, and you answer via the same channel
- They decide to go ahead so you send them a payment link via Messenger
- After they pay they automatically get a customer number and a download link for your itinerary app
- They can use the app to communicate with you and also book additional services or upgrades, and communicate with you during the trip
- After they return home your customer service team calls them to get their feedback and also sends them a feedback survey link via Whatsapp
- They complete the survey, receive a discount on future trips via email, and the information gathered is used to serve them with future offers and deals
The process works because, whichever channel the customer uses to interact with you, the experience is the same, as the customer, and their CRM record, is at the heart of everything you do. And whilst it may seem complicated, implementing an omnichannel strategy is fairly straightforward and only really requires a robust and flexible CRM solution (eg Hubspot), and an integrated booking solution (eRoam of course!) Integrating your CRM with Google Adwords and a retargeting solution such as Adroll means you can control your SEM strategy from within your CRM; integrating your CRM with your website means all website enquiries and chats go straight into the customer’s CRM record; and integrating your CRM with your booking solution means that all customer quotes and bookings are tracked and are instantly visible to your customer service team.
COVID-19 is increasing the pace of digital transformation in our industry and those companies that come out of it ready for the rebound will be those that are most responsive to customer needs. We’re ready to help you as you look to adopt omnichannel and other digital strategies, so to get your digital journey started, please get in touch!