As travel companies determine how to navigate the “new
normal,” brands preparing themselves for long-lasting changes to the sector
should pay close attention to the retailing experience.
Travel retail has
evolved into a highly complex, challenging environment for providers and
sellers to engage travelers effectively. However, while we were getting closer
to reaching that nirvana, COVID‐19 is now impacting everything in travel.
Before global citizens went into lockdown from the COVID‐19
pandemic, more than 50% of global e-commerce sales were made through online
marketplaces, contributing $1.7 trillion to the economy in 2019 according to
That’s a trend that will continue to grow as we make our way
through recovery. Many have discussed the global shift to marketplace‐powered,
consumer‐preference-guided online shopping and its potential in the travel
Giving travelers insight and control to plan travel
In normal times, whether booking a trip or shopping for
shoes online, consumers largely expect the same kind of shopping experience. In
both cases, businesses need to present the most relevant options to motivate
customers to purchase, while ensuring an efficient and enjoyable service.
Consumers not only expect to see personalized options presented to them, they
want to see the add‐on options available, whether that’s with a flashy pair of
shoelaces or an option for an increased baggage allowance while purchasing a
In fact, again in normal times, our consumer trends research
found that travelers want to gain more control over customizing their
trips, with 42% of our surveyed respondents saying they want the ability to
purchase a meal upgrade or seat with extra legroom while booking. Travel
consumers also shared that push notifications were useful, with 82% saying that
the most important are price changes for a flight they are considering, 81%
wanting a reminder of a booking in‐progress and 74% preferring new products or
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However, that is in normal times… Today is not normal.
have heard from both travel agency and travel suppliers that they need to
quickly augment, or make wholesale changes to, the information they make
available in shopping.
So, what is different? The pandemic made clear that what
is valuable is information about cleaning processes, contactless check‐in, air
filtration, access to sanitation stations, etc. Where retailing had been about
revenue optimization and conversion, it is now about demand generation –
getting people back into airline seats and in hotel rooms at all. Enabling
consumer sentiment to be more accepting of traveling and the safety procedures
behind that has become the message of the day.
As an example of this, just in the last couple of weeks,
Travelport worked with IHG and Marriott, two of our largest hotel partners, to
utilize descriptive space on the GDS screens for their marketing needs. Within
48 hours of initial testing, they had loaded their clean room policies in our
search and availability screens with a link to their respective campaigns on
Other hoteliers are now following this lead. This supports
consumers' confidence and helps market their new policies as hotels start to
Thus, the investments that the industry has been making for
retail optimization were imminently transferable, and immediately available,
for making potential travelers feel good about their decision to travel – the
insight to plan travel.
A retail marketplace to drive recovery
Digital retail marketplaces like Amazon, eBay and Shopify
have made it easier to meet emerging demand with supply, utilizing retailers
with enhanced digital storefronts. The tools provided by these marketplace
platforms help retailers create experiences that allow shoppers to easily find,
buy, return or exchange the merchandise they want from a broad range of
Agencies and airlines were able to do the same through a flexible
marketplace that could be quickly swapped to focus on why travel is safe and
how it can be easily rebooked or canceled.
When Shopify emerged, smaller alternative retailers could
suddenly compete with sophisticated retail giants using new tools that enabled
personalized selling and upselling in any channel (online, on social media or
in person). The Shopify platform offered a much‐needed connection between
suppliers and retailers, giving retailers access to any type of content and the
ability to easily create an online store, tailor product displays and attract specific
These capabilities allowed retailers to create experiences that
drive the “want” from consumers, creating demand. Capabilities like marketing,
order fulfillment and inventory management solutions that the platform offers
have essentially enhanced collaboration between suppliers and retailers, along
with access to the critical tools to deliver personalized retail shopping
While nobody knows the exact future of the travel world, we
do know it will require the ability to effectively retail, increasingly at a
personal level, while stimulating demand. And it will need systems with the
flexibility to respond to a changing environment.
In our new landscape, our
flexible, marketplace platforms provide the tools and content needed to enable
large or small retailers and new entrants to be nimbler and to quickly
stimulate demand – both in traditional retail and for creative travel agencies
in travel retail. That is where we’ve been focused, as well as where we
continue to focus going forward. The Travelport platform has been evolving to
support these changes, and our next generation platform is specifically
designed to foster that flexibility.
About the author...
Eric Lanier is vice president of agent retail channels at Travelport