Challenge 2 - Wear the Bow Tie backwards:
Just as the Roman god Janus was always simultaneously looking front and rear, it is now time to try and extend the Bow Tie Model prior to the point at which the initial commitment is made, and move far enough back into the inspiration space as would enable existing transactional sites to rectify the current “missed opportunity to capture, engage and guide".
Those were the words of Forrester analyst Henry Harteveldt when I spoke to him recently. Harteveldt was possibly even more upbeat on the opportunities in travel inspiration than me, and that is saying something.
The real driver for this revision to the Bow Tie Model came from various pieces of research I saw over the past few months indicating that it was possible to quantify where various classes of travel sites could be represented in the journey from uncommitted looking for inspiration to committed and ready to purchase.
The key pieces of additional data I saw that made me want to pull it all together in some meaningful fashion were:
I want to make it very clear that my collation of this data should be treated with caution. I am putting together various sources of information that were gathered using different methodologies.
Any incumbent supplier looking at getting serious about moving into inspiration should do their own validation. When I originally looked at booking windows I had well over 20 million PNRs to analyze, so dealing with sample sizes less than this makes me a little cautious!
I have dropped the OTA range of uncommitteds to commence at 50% in order to be a bit more conservative, but as I don’t work directly with OTAs I do not have any empirical evidence to temper the research.
And regarding general search engines like Google, one could argue that up to 100% of people using these sites at any point during the inspiration window (left of the bow tie knot) are not really committed since they are casting a wide net and could therefore be influenced to change holiday plans even if they are not actively seeking this type of information.
Earlier in this piece I wrote that 2009 was the year of the OTA – But why? Dropping booking fees in some markets was a huge driver, but it is impossible to ignore another reason.
The simple fact is that OTA’s do inspiration better. And customers know it. Travelocity Deals on a Map is one example, but there are many more.
The eVOC Insights research came up with an interesting result when it asked OTA users in 2005 and 2009: “What are the most important factors for selecting an OTA?”
Of the 15 factors listed, one of the only two to have increased in importance during the four year gap was “customer reviews and ratings”.
Interestingly the factor labeled as “provides travel ideas/information” dropped in importance, but I suspect this was due to the rise of user generated content over the four years in question; OTA inspiration content is nothing today without incorporating tight integration with UGC and I suspect people don’t really classify that content as being provided by the OTA even though it is facilitated by them.
This brings me to an updated Bow Tie diagram using the red line to understand the inspiration dimension.
I suspect that in future we will see a return to 1970’s fashions inspiring the shape of the Bow Tie. The knot can never be bigger than one unit (unless we start talking shopping baskets and dynamic packaging), but it will flare out creating much steeper angles leading into the knot.
In the Amadeus Amateur-Expert study, 82% of participants in a panel of industry experts predicted that we will observe people seeking more adventurous travel experiences in future – this will definitely require a greater need for inspiration websites if it indeed comes to pass.
The same percentage of experts (82%) also predicted booking windows will shorten in future. This latter point makes complete sense when you look at the way teenagers make their plans and rarely commit to anything until the last minute.
The implication is that people will just increase the amount of information they consume from various sources, but they will do so in a shorter period of time.
The eVOC Insights data claimed 47% of travelers in 2009 were using four or more websites when planning a trip compared to only 30% four years earlier. I tend to think the numbers in reality are even higher.
This line of thinking is getting closer to understanding the fourth challenge, but before that, we need to decide exactly where in the travel inspiration space we wish to compete.