TUI Travel upgrades web offering, sets out digital visionNews / Distribution | TechnologyBy Linda Fox | December 10, 2013Share This article was originally published on TUI Travel has shared some of the elements it wants to put in place to improve the customer experience from inspiration and research through to the holiday and when they return.Peter Long, chief executive of the Thomson Holidays-parent company said many of the things such as its MyThomson mobile application and in-resort reps armed with iPads are already in place and promised additional elements from its innovations labs.Long, who was speaking as the company announced full-year results for 2013, described it as a "journey" the company is on and talked about inspiration in research, booking, the holiday experience and returning and sharing as the four elements where the company can interact with customers.He added that TUI has a adopted a "do it once and replicate it" philosophy with the development of a single platform over the past 12 months which will now be rolled out to different markets.Mobile is a key part of the strategy and the company said that all growth it was seeing was on mobile devices and tablets. Long also talked about moving beyond the idea of a digital assistant to more of a concierge service. "The challenge is getting the functionality right on mobile and on apps. With mobile phones there will be a lower conversion rate because all the functionality will never be there because of the screen size. With tablets there's no reason why that should be different at all so we're looking at creating an experience on tablets that does effectively replace the PC."Share this quote Part of the company's web upgrade is new search functionality including what it terms "faceted" search enabling customers to filter holiday results according to relevance hopefully leading to a more intuitive experience.Long also spoke about the new web platform creating more landing pages which would enhance search engine optimisation and increase the volume of organic traffic to its sites and therefore lower distribution costs. "We can all go and throw money at search and the only thing that is certain is high SEM costs, discounting on the web and low conversions."Share this quote A new user-generated app is also being trialled enabling customers to upload and share content and see what other customers are saying. The app functionality will be integrated within MyThomson once the company is happy with the results.During the results presentation Long also showcased "My Journal" functionality which will enable consumers to put their rough holiday ideas into a single place with recommendations also made to them based on browsing history of everyone involved in travel plans.The My Journal service can also be used within shops to gain additional advice and explore options.Meanwhile, the company is considering how it might extend its high-tech store concept, the first of which opened in Bluewater in October, to other high volume shopsLong said that in the long term all TUI Travel businesses would get their growth from the internet but that the company was excited to see a 25% sales increase in the new high-tech retail unit making it more successful than anticipated.The company reported online sales of £4 billion for the year and a 12% growth in mainstream online holiday bookings through a combination of higher volumes of traffic and conversions. Online revenues have increased 13.5%.Other initiatives discussed include a project to harmonise the company's reservation system using Anite @com technology. The company says it is three years away from completing the project with a plan to migrate Germany across to the platform in the coming months.Online accommodation brands LateRooms, AsiaRooms and Brazil-based Malapronta, which are part of TUI's wholesale accommodation unit, made a £7 million loss because of investment in AsiaRooms, a new platform for LateRooms and losses at Malapronta (acquired by TUI about 15 months ago).The company said the development of mobile optimised sites and tablet applications had had to be put on hold for LateRooms which damaged volumes although it is confident these will return.A mobile application for LateRooms is now available and the company is also planning mobile boarding passes and excursion bookings in the New Year.