Concluding Our Visit to the 16th Annual TDS, North America 2014
We returned from the two-day action packed 16th Annual TDS, North America 2014, recently held in New York, with a firm realization that Travel Distribution Strategy has changed drastically, over the years.
This year the TDS, North America, 2014 saw over 400 innovative travel executives who came together to discuss the key challenges and opportunities in Online Travel Distribution. A majority of the professionals demonstrating and exhibiting were not only from the domain of travel and travel distribution, but also from other domains such as online advertising, online marketing and online analytics. This further emphasizes the fact that the direction of travel as online distribution has actually changed. As traditionally, online distribution was always about evaluating which are the right suppliers and creating commercial relationships to get those suppliers.
The focus in today’s market has moved from finding the right supplier strategy to fit the requirement, to finding the right supplier strategy in order to influence today’s opinionated and research driven consumer. Previously, the search for the right supplier strategy was limited to finding a strategy that fit the right requirement for OTAs at the time, as against the current scenario that predominantly revolves around enticing this millennial consumer.
This strategy came into the forefront primarily due to consumers whom we call the Millennials, who are shopping online and on mobile devices. Hence, the whole strategy is of utmost importance because these Millennials are people who are opinionated, research driven and most importantly, they are socially motivated. Now, when you have a consumer like this, it is not just the ‘best price’ wins the game anymore. Today, the strategy mainly comprises of creating and selling an experience! It is about the search, book and pricing experience that will influence this Millennial to book with you. This was the predominant theme of EyeForTravel, Travel Distribution Summit 2014, with online marketing to influence the Millennial and getting new suppliers so that the Millennials find relevant content. Along with, online analytics to analyze the behavior of how this new consumer behaves in an online world of travel shopping.
The talks were divided into three categories- Online Travel Distribution, Online Travel Marketing and Travel Revenue Management. Travel Revenue Management was predominantly focused at hospitality, hotels and other businesses, on the same line was our talk. We spoke about Travel Intermediaries, and what should be their supplier strategy. We spoke with the same panel of leading travel industry experts as people from Priceline, HeBS and Five Star Alliance.
The four speakers including tavisca, had a common opinion in terms of how the search experience is changing, consumers buying differently as compared to the previous generation and how mobility along with social networks influence buying decisions. The discussion was about how Millennials are driving different search experiences, how they are driving travel brands to show content in a new way and on different devices, as compared to a single device. Moreover, what are the various strategies that travel brands are trying in marketing, search and in supplier strategy to attract this Millennial.
“A move to mobile and it is actually a move to multi-screen wherein, you can actually track a user across the different devices a user visits before a user books, to be able to track this entire user journey is significant. Now, 89% of the travel activity starts with one device and ends on another, and how do we deal with that? And again, that is one area that meta search companies are putting in a lot of energy, in terms of understanding how to track a user across multiple devices.” said Nikhil Gupta, Director of Hotels and Car Hire at Skyscanner.
Our talk focused on a very specific aspect of travel distribution, ‘relevant content.’ Due to the fact, that Millennials are opinionated, and research driven, they are no longer influenced by just the ‘cheapest price’ but also, by the relevance of the content that they see online. This is not just about TripAdvisor ratings, which is just the beginning, but how cleanly and accurately is the content of a product shown, when talking about hotels.
“Consumers want high quality, relevant information at the right time. The process of learning and making a decision at the most basic human levels is a very complexed one, that it is almost inevitably going to require many steps to go through,” said Todd Hendrich, Senior Vice President Corporate Development at Priceline.
Secondly, the depth of the content shown to customers, in terms of whether the Hotel she is booking offers WiFi or Parking (Free or Paid) is extremely important to influence bookings. Traditionally, the depth and accuracy of the content was taken for granted, and was showed as it is from the suppliers. We also spoke about another important attribute, that travel companies need to keep in mind when talking about ‘supplier strategy.’ That is, because Millennials have a tendency to go for newer experiences, it is essential to create new inventory. In other words, the 10 suppliers that you used to work with in the past are no longer going to be sufficient.
So we, tavisca, spoke about imbibing an attitude to investing in Inventory Management Systems so that travel brands could also aggregate niche inventory, along with conventional hotel inventory. Susan Black, who was the moderator of the talk asked a question, “whether there is space in the OTA market for a Niche OTA?”
We along with our co-speakers from HeBS and Five Star Alliance, were one on the opinion that Niche OTAs would not only survive, but also flourish in this age of Millennials.