In my previous post, I discussed how earnings have continued to skyrocket for travel providers who sell ancillary products “smarter” by deploying strategic optimization practices, backed by real-time technology and advanced data analytics.
NB: This is an analysis by Bob Dufour, president of Fusion.
With this follow-up article, I’m going to take a closer look at how companies can get started on the path to what Fusion calls “Ancillary Revenue Excellence.”
There are three steps to achieving this, as outlined below:
1) Shifting focus: First things second!
While search engine optimization (SEO) became a priority for every savvy CMO over the past decade, few marketers were as focused on how the corresponding uptick in visitors would eventually convert to sales.
When it comes to ancillary sales, it’s safe to say there’s been even less consideration.
Yes, if you build it (and market it correctly), they will come. But once they get there… then what?
As long as search engines rule the digital landscape, SEO will always remain an integral part of any successful marketing strategy.
And since search is typically regarded as the first step in a customer lifecycle, marketing strategists and decision-makers often like to start there.
But the truth is this: selling smarter to existing customers is often a more valuable investment than ushering in thousands of new visitors to a site that isn’t prepared to push higher conversions on the back end.
Digital marketers would be wise to shift some focus from SEO/SEM towards the secondary conversion funnel that’s sitting right in front of them, with existing online visitors that can be offered both primary and ancillary products and services.
After all, travel providers spend so much money and effort acquiring visitors… why would they be content with the sale of a single product? Smart ancillary sales ultimately improve the ROI on any SEO-related lead generation spending.
Talk about a worthwhile investment! Refining the existing customers’ experience, spending less on acquisition, and increasing average order values all at once – we’re talking about spending less to make more.
2) Selling smarter: Simplifying the purchase decisions for online customers
Some might think ancillary excellence is as simple as offering the most products to as many people as possible. But how many customers really have the time and patience to navigate through that sort of unorganized and inconvenient mess?
Here’s a quick tip for those seeking happy customers who convert: keep it simple. Not all ancillary products will apply to every customer in every scenario.
With the proper data analytics in place, travel providers can define detailed segments and initiate more appropriate offers throughout the customer journey. By doing this, providers are also simplifying decisions, increasing product relevancy, and ultimately the likelihood of purchase.
This all stems from the goldmine of data that any company with a transactional website already has at their fingertips. Why wouldn’t they tap into this?
I recently did a quick search involving major U.S. airlines (see below), finding that ancillary products are still being treated with a very one-size-fits-all approach.
When purchasing tickets for a single day flight (returning on that same day), I found that more than 30% of the major airlines still offered their customers a hotel cross-sell that clearly wouldn’t be of much use.
Meanwhile, none of the airlines I searched seized an appropriate opportunity to offer any type of ground transportation, parking, or dining options.
“Curated” opportunities – those that take into account the traveler’s actual plans and create a more customized and appropriate ancillary product offer – have worked for e-commerce brands across a variety of industries.
But to date, travel providers have been painfully slow to adopt these digital strategies - despite the potential gains.
3) Thinking bigger: Providing value throughout a customer lifecycle.
There’s an old saying about books and their covers. With that in mind, travel providers probably shouldn’t attempt “optimizing” an e-commerce site simply by giving the homepage (the “cover”) a facelift and ignoring the rest of the site – right?
DIY optimization tools that allow for quick, surface-level testing of a website have become a trendy purchase for organizations. But things can quickly become complicated when you move beyond the homepage.
Using real-time data to enable advanced segmentation, modeling, and scoring isn’t something the average webmaster can successfully administer overnight.
Also, as customers navigate further through the online purchase path, each interaction inevitably becomes more critical to the travel provider’s business. The UX choices that successfully captured their attention on page one might not remain effective at every subsequent twist and turn throughout the site.
Marketers and e-commerce decision-makers need to know where exactly customers are falling off and implement a solution that’s based on analytics rather than rely on a gut feeling or a refresh of a homepage.
And let’s be honest - even when a site is hitting homeruns before and during the checkout, there’s always work to be done that can improve the overall customer experience.
Travel companies should also be thorough about staying connected with buyers after their initial purchase – and not simply to promote loyalty. There are additional opportunities further out in the customer lifecycle where certain products may become more relevant.
By being there for customers with the right product, at the right moment – providers are more likely to keep their customers happy, generate return business...and maximize revenue through both primary and ancillary sales immediately and in the long-term.
“Ancillary Revenue Excellence” – a key goal for any online retailer – is both desirable and achievable.
It takes dedication, analytics and smart execution, but will result in stronger customer relationships and additional revenue, creating a winning situation for the people visiting, and running, your site.
NB: This is an analysis by Bob Dufour, president of Fusion. It appears here as part of Tnooz's sponsored content initiative.