FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NEW STUDY ACCUSES ONLINE TRAVEL SITES OF SPREADING
London, 29 January 2004… Findings from unprecedented research on the current practices in online travel web sites will be published today by Shelley Taylor & Associates. Click-Here Commerce: Online Travel, an international study of the success factors in the online travel industry, has identified a disturbing new consumer disease, Border-less Personality Disorder. Symptoms of the disease, often contracted by travelers who try to purchase travel services online, are caused by poorly designed travel sites. These symptoms include: repetitive patterns of disorganization, difficulty in trusting policies and pricing, irritability and anxiety. New research says the symptoms of this new ecommerce user interface disease are linked to Abandoned Shopping Cart Syndrome and Post-Transaction Anxiety Disorder, diseases which are often blamed for the death of many of the dot.coms.
Click-Here Commerce: Online Travel evaluates 46 online travel sites – 22 North American, 17 UK, 6 European and 1 Other – representing a cross-industry sample including: 11 travel agencies, 13 airlines, 10 car rentals and 12 hotels. Sites were analyzed between October and December according to more than 800 proprietary evaluation criteria and included: Air France, Alamo, American Airlines, Avis, Best Western, British Airways, British Midland, Budget, Continental, Dollar, Easyjet, Expedia, Fairmont, Hertz, Hyatt, Lastminute, Marriott, Northwest, Orbitz, Qantus, Travelocity , Virgin Atlantic and others.
"This new consumer malady knows no borders. All online travel sites are guilty of failing to deliver satisfying travel experiences. It is not sufficient to simply allow travelers to book and pay for travel services. Travel sites should offer the same level of service and support as their land based equivalents," says Shelley Taylor, the publisher of Click-Here Commerce: Online Travel. "Electronic agents should provide central access to key content that is useful and necessary before, during and after a voyage. The travel industry is one of the largest categories of consumer spending and yet online travel sites are still very much in their infancy. They have yet to adopt the sophistication of their retail ecommerce cousins (e.g., Amazon) and therefore risk losing their share of revenues and profits due to problems in site design, and ultimately user experience."
SOME KEY HIGHLIGHTS
The Best (… and the Rest)
The sample of 46 sites represents an industry which is in its earliest stage of development so "best" can always be much, much better. But this is not a beauty contest. Our sample selection process was designed to evaluate sites worth learning from, not sites showing us specifically what to avoid, so it is difficult for us to present "worst offenders." In other words, our sample was drawn from better than average sites. Clear winners do emerge (those with best practices in the industry) when we evaluate each site against its peers. Our ranking was done according to quantitative (our 800 metrics) and qualitative measures and included site navigation, the Home page, pre-sale assistance, travel resources, utilities, the booking engine, product path, checkout, post-transaction communication and account management.
The identity of sites and the range of products and services offered are rapidly changing. The web creates opportunities for cross-selling and convergence that may not have existed in the traditional brick and mortar world bounded as it is by physical limitations. Today an airline can also be a travel agency. And a travel agency can be a publisher or content originator. Airlines were always able to offer cars and hotels as add on purchases but today they can take on the entire travel purchase while offering time saving and useful travel resources (maps, currency converters, calendaring functions, expense minders to name a few). And now car rental sites and hotels too can become more like travel agencies through dynamic packaging, or bundling of travel services, which allows users to configure all combinations of travel products.
The crisis of identity extends to users as well. They too can wear more than one hat and can be at once both a business traveler and a leisure traveler.
A Road Less Traveled
Travelers by their very nature cross borders, often international borders. There are many issues to consider, therefore, when "internationalizing" a site: languages available on the site, the countries in which products and services are offered, the credit cards accepted and whether travelers are able to pay for tickets with credit cards that have billing addresses that are different from the traveler's departure country.
Shelley Taylor & Associates is a management consulting and business publishing firm with offices in the United States and the United Kingdom. The research was conducted between October and December 2003. The full study, which includes a company-by-company analysis and specific examples of best and worst practices, is available for purchase by phone from the London office (+44 (0)20 7243 3428), or US office (001 650 473 6514) or by email:
Shelley Taylor & Associates is a management consulting and business publishing firm with offices in the United States and the United Kingdom.
The research was conducted between October and December 2003. The full study, which includes a company-by-company analysis and specific examples of best and worst practices, is available for purchase by phone from the London office (+44 (0)20 7243 3428), or US office (001 650 473 6514) or by email:firstname.lastname@example.org. The press release and Executive Summary will be available to staff reporters upon request. Interviews with Shelley Taylor can be scheduled by calling her French mobile (33 66 477 1861).