Think about this for a minute. How many travel apps does the consumer really want on their mobile phone? One. Look at your own phone, how many weather apps do you have? How many email apps? How many calendar apps? The answer is one.
NB: This is a viewpoint from Simon McLean, co-founder and managing director of Click Travel.
And that’s the crux of it: consumers want to use their preferred travel app or website to shop for travel products.
They don’t want to go to lufthansa.com to book their flight, then Marriott.com to book their hotel, then somewhere else to book something else.
Why have meta search engines such as Skyscanner taken off like a rocket? Because they deliver the convenience and user experience that the consumer craves.
And, you can bet your bottom dollar that as Skyscanner and its pals start to integrate booking flows into their sites, referrals to supplier sites are going to drop off a cliff - because the user experience of getting the job done entirely on the consumer's site of choice is going to win, every time.
But, back to Lufthansa. It's not the only one stuck in this "silly phase" of trying to coerce customers to book direct with them by penalising them if they book elsewhere.
We also have Marriott trying it on by offering free wifi only to customers booking direct with it.
But whenever I stay in a Marriott, I now just use the personal hotspot feature of my phone.
Hence it's not winning - in fact, it's losing, because my user experience when staying at Marriott sucks when compared to Hilton, or Holiday Inn, or any of the gazillion other hotels that offer free wifi, because it’s an added annoyance to my stay that I have to faff around with the hotspot.
Is it going to make me book direct with Marriott? Of course not. Because it’s far more inconvenient to break away from my preferred app than it is to sort out the hotspot.
Travel suppliers need to wake up to two fundamental shifts in the world of distribution:
- The future of distribution lies in APIs (tools for building software applications, used for sharing content and data between communities and applications). The industry needs to publish APIs that will enable them to bring their content closer to the consumer, by plugging in directly to the consumer’s app of choice, thereby cutting out huge swathes of distribution cost such that the cost of sales is far lower than they could ever hope to achieve through marketing, advertising and sales gimmicks that try and lure consumers to buy direct.
- Suppliers need to understand and accept that customers have different needs and preferences, not only when it comes to which cabin they sit in or room they stay in, but also with regard to the tools and processes they prefer when researching and booking travel, hence the customer experience during this phase is highly likely to be shared with third parties. We all need to work better together so that we can jointly delight the customer.
Lufthansa clearly does not recognise either of these fundamental shifts. It doesn't have an API strategy to speak of, and it is seemingly arrogant enough to think it can dictate to customers where they should buy their product and penalise them if they don't comply.
It's nothing short of madness.
NB: This is a viewpoint from Simon McLean, co-founder and managing director of Click Travel. The original appeared on the company's blog here.
NB2: Distribution image via Shutterstock.