Issue 2002 2 - Tuesday, February 26, 2002
|Commissions are forgotten: big eTourism web sites give up their travel agent hat||
Indeed, as the Internet makes it easy for a producer to deal directly with its customers, it will prove more and more difficult for pure distributors to survive in the eTourism sector.
Orbitz.com and Opodo.com in the airline sector, but also andbook.com in the hotel sector, are just a few examples that prove that producers, who used to compete fiercely in the past, are now able to get together in order to fight against the threat embodied by sites such as Expedia and Travelocity.
To cut a long story short, simple distributors should start worrying, unless they have managed to invest in very specific niches, that prove more difficult to manage or less interesting for the big groups.
To these efforts that are meant to become a necessary step for all eTourists on one side, we need to add the setting up of new relationships with producers on the other side.
And this is where the strength acquired by the biggest eTourism web sites best expresses itself today, as it allows them to give up their travel agent business model and adopt an entirely merchant one.
In order to do so, many big sites no longer negotiate commissions but buying prices, as the hotel trade happens to be the sector where this type of negotiation is easier to set up.
After negotiating buying prices with producers, the site then determines the selling prices it want and the difference constitutes its margin.
You will tell me that there is nothing new under the eTourism sky, apart from the fact that volumes are such that big sites are now able to negotiate; this is not so only because of their strong position but also because final selling modes can now be differentiated, according to their target customers, not to mention the adaptability of the online selling that makes it possible to improve commercial practices.
Let's take Expedia: it will now display its selling prices, often discounted, disclosing the name of the producer, even though it does not do any good to the latter.
On the contrary, Hotwire.com customer will only know the producer's name once his purchase has been done. This is totally understandable, as Hotwire.com is part of a group of producers willing to respect their respective brands. They are willing to sell the unsold goods but not at any cost.
Other sites such as eBookers.com now apply similar selling strategies and try using a different business model from the one used by the travel agents, which is based on commissions only.
These new strategies also differ from traditional practices: sites such as Hotwire.com use this selling business without recurring to the allotment strategy, thus avoiding the corresponding risks.
But there is also another important element in this said selling business model type: it by-passes the GDS/CRS.
This is why the eTourism web sites whose business model is based on commissions only can start worrying ; as for the other target, already disclosed by sites such as Orbitz.com, it will be the GDS/CRS.
But the GDS/CRS will soon have to face another threat: web services.
Web services are based on a simple idea: enabling proprietary applications to be broken down into reusable components called services, each one with a distinct task. These services can then be linked together across or within companies via the common exchange standard, XML.
the way that children play with building blocks, it should be possible
to build applications easily and rapidly from Web services by borrowing
blocks from other applications as and when they are needed.
To take a concrete example, let's look at how a car hire company, a hotel chain and an airline reservation service could use the Web services. They would be able to dynamically integrate their three proprietary reservation systems via the internet, without needing to undertake a large-scale development project, which would give them the means to handle reservations and prices in real time, thereby offering customers a complete service.
It is true that web services will not be a danger for GDS/CRS for a good few years, but there sure is a threat.
For instance, Southwest.com and Dollar Rent A Car have already built a Web Service between them. So, travelers who purchase tickets from Southwest can add a car rental without leaving Southwest's Web site and... without using GDS/CRS services too.
With customer portfolios included between 5 and 15 million unique monthly visitors, the biggest eTourism web sites will now prove able to play on this distribution control notion, more than on the commission rate one.
Their future depends on the success of this attempt to modify the relationships they have with producers.
|12 advices to make your newsletter successful in the eTourism sector|
But sometimes the quality of some of these newsletters leaves a lot to be desired ; this is the reason why I thought that it might prove interesting to highlight the best practices that need following to convert a looker into a buyer, but also to improve its image, thus consolidating its brand.
1. - Object of the newsletter: special offers AND advice
Internet users are more and more in demand and their email box has already reached levels they would no longer be ready to accept if it were snail mail.
As a result, it is advisable to write a newsletter that contains enough added value for your reader so that it does not bore him, but also prompts him to read it.
The notion of added value does appear somehow specific in the eTourism sector, as it proves rather difficult to differentiate it from the notion of high standard special offers. Indeed, many Internet users subscribe to your newsletter, hoping to get priority information about any possible good deal.
Nevertheless, reducing your newsletter to just a list of good deals could entail some risks:
Please bear in mind the fact that your newsletter must prove sufficiently interesting to "prompt" your reader to read it: advice, ideas in short, you have to make him want to travel so that you can then "sell" the good deals it contains.
Prompting people to travel by having them dream while teaching them interesting things at the same time does not force them to go on a trip every time they receive a newsletter but creates a bond that will make them think of you first when they do decide to go on holidays.
This is one of the first secrets of a successful newsletter: invest in the future and not only in the immediacy of a mouse click on a good deal.
2. - Frequency of the newsletter
It is best to send your newsletter only once a month if its content is rich, rather than every single week with a wordy content that will tire your reader very quickly.
Of course, this frequency depends on your target customer. There is no doubt that if your site only sells discounted offers, your users will not be surprised if they receive a list of good deals once a week.
There is another possibility that consists in sending out two different newsletters: one dedicated to the good deals, and another one containing advice, favourite offers, ideas and the desire to travel.
3. - Writing quality
The cultural level of your newsletter, as well as its tone and style, are key elements to success.
Therefore, you should try and be warm and friendly, and insert a minimum of humanity into your newsletter: it is not an administrative form (Hotel XYZ located in ZZZ 2 miles away from AAA that can be reached via YYY).
Your newsletter must be identifiable, have character, be "unique"
Through its content and style, your newsletter must be unique if it wants to be successful.
Your reader must prove able to recognise it, not only through your name, but also through the quality of its content, the way it is presented and the identity that comes out.
If your newsletter can be mistaken with your competitors' usual letter, do not hope for too many repercussions and forget about the virus marketing notion: how could you possibly imagine that your reader will feel like advising people to subscribe to your newsletter if it is colourless?
4. - Personalise your newsletter by taking good care of your signature and formal ending
Avoid at all costs signatures such as: "the xyz site", "the dot.com team", "the managers of ", etc
Indeed, it is very important to sign your newsletter with the name and/or first name of a physical person with whom the reader will be able to identify the writing of the newsletter: give him the feeling that it is a personalised form of communication.
In the same way, take good care of the formal ending and adapt it to the style and content of your newsletter, using different expressions such as "have a good trip" and not only "Bye for now".
But I might be a little too demanding as, among the newsletters that I receive, more than one out of two does not even include a formal ending
5. - Take good care of the way you present your newsletter
Between the raw text format and flash animations everywhere, try and find the right balance in the way you present your newsletter.
I already mentioned that it was important for your newsletter to have its own identity so that it could assert itself, and there is no doubt that presentation is part of this identity.
Almost every single site now gives readers the possibility to receive the newsletter in the HTML format, which allows a high-standard display. Nevertheless, it is advisable to send out your newsletters in formats, HTML and text, as many Internet users, and particularly AOL users, cannot receive newsletters in the HTML format.
Just as you would not accept your daily paper to print its articles in an untidy way, you should try and display your newsletter in a perfect way. In my opinion, the newsletter of an eTourism web site should be just as tidy as its homepage.
This connection with the home page leads me to advise eTourism web sites to respect a certain consistency between their site and their newsletter, and this consistency implies much more than the simple use of the same logo and colours.
Please bear in mind the fact that the display area is way smaller in an email window than it is on a web navigator, both widthwide and heightwide. This is why it is useless to write newsletters that take too long to read ; what you should remember is to use the part that is first visible as well as you can in order to prompt your user to read the part that needs scrolling.
6. - Respect of frequency - Choice of the publication day
Get your users into the habit of receiving your newsletter on a set day at a set frequency. Some of them will be expecting its next issue with eagerness, just as one buys such and such paper every Wednesday or Friday.
As far as the publication day is concerned, try and avoid Mondays as people do not have time to read. Also try and avoid Fridays as people are already gone! What is more, time is a little too short to sell them week-end ideas
7. - Reading on screen: be short and clear
It is harder to read on screen than on paper. Write your newsletter consequently and do not hesitate to write many short paragraphs that will prove easier to read. Also remember to highlight some parts of your newsletter: bold, colours, chips and numbers
8. - Take good care of the way your URL links are presented
Avoid using "esoteric" links, that not only prove too long but that also include incomprehensible series of numbers and letters, enclosed by brackets and other cabalistic marks, that take over two lines and end up taking up more space than the special offer itself.
You should also present your URL links on a distinct line from the text itself, and you should avoid putting any punctuation mark (coma, for instance) before or after the link, as it could prevent your reader from clicking on it.
9. - Create interactive newsletters
Through the HTML format, one can send out totally interactive newsletters, that will not only make it possible to access the different sections of the site but also allow users to use the different search engines straight from the email letter.
If you offer this type of service, you should also make it possible for your user to access his personalised account directly from the email you sent him.
10. - Allow your users to leave you if they want to
You must make it as easy as possible to subscribe but also to unsubscribe.
Should you try and retain your reader at all costs, he would no doubt be tempted to charge you with spam, and you can also count on the fact that, for the last few issues during which he does not manage to unsubscribe, he will read your newsletter even less than before, not to mention the fact that he will you give poor advertisement during all this time.
11. - Promote your newsletter
How much do you spend in advertising campaigns?
Please do not spoil the commercial abilities of a high standard newsletter and remember to "sell" it on your site.
Insert areas where people can type in their email address on a many pages as possible and not only on your homepage. Propose your newsletter on the order confirmation pages, on the thanking pages, in receipt and messages of all kind.
But do not forget: respect your subscribers-to-be.
Be as precise as you about the content of your newsletter, allowing for instance your users to visualise your newsletter online before they register.
Tell them clearly how often they will receive it and how many they will get, if you have more than one newsletter.
Highlight your confidential commitment. Your soon-to-be-subscriber is entitled to know what it is you intend to do with the personal information he gives you.
And finally, avoid registering your visitors surreptitiously with registration boxes ticked in advance. You should be grateful that a user buys a trip on your site, do not spoil the trusting relationship that has just been set up by forcing him to receive a newsletter he has not asked for.
We could give a lot more advice to make your newsletter successful but they are more personalised advice according to the sites, their target customer and their business model.
most of the advice listed above and your users will respect you, which
is the first step towards selling them your products.