Monarch’s collapse and Ryanair’s high-profile pilot pay dispute have cast a shadow over the travel sector in recent months. But it must be remembered that many of the innovations and services retailers use today had their roots in travel.
Companies such as Skyscanner, with its comprehensive online listing of flight options, and Trainline, via its Price Prediction tool, are offering services that delight customers. As these businesses help consumers find the best prices via the use of sophisticated technology, it should get retailer bosses thinking what their equivalent service is.
The destination for finding the right price point
Skyscanner has become the go-to website for researching future air travel trips, with its clear pricing details becoming a real draw for users. That’s a strong user case for similar models in the wider retail sector.
Indeed, research commissioned by Pricesearcher found that, on average, UK shoppers will typically visit four websites when researching a product online. Some 59 per cent agreed they would be more likely to buy if they could easily view all available options using just one platform.
While Skyscanner has been a key part of the air travel booking process for some time, Trainline’s Price Prediction tool is a much newer arrival that has the potential to revolutionise the train ticket-buying process. I was excited to see the launch of the in-app service, which purports to help save consumers money by letting them know when it is the best – and cheapest – time to book in advance.
Travellers search for journey times and let the app do the rest, with Trainline’s tech using billions of data points from customer journey searches to predict when advance fare tickets are likely to jump in price.
Price Prediction is expected to improve in accuracy as it continues to collect journey search data over time. What its launch shows us is there’s consumer demand for platforms offering trustworthy pricing information – and that should interest retailers as much as it does travel companies.
The path already travelled: Where airlines have led before
Loyalty schemes arrived in retail following the success of airmiles and membership schemes in the travel sector, from the likes of British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. The promise of upgrades, access to private lounges and money-off flights highlight how airlines’ loyalty programmes can truly reward customers for flying with their brand – and then retailers got on board.
Online bookings for flights typically came before the major retailers were selling products on the web, too, showing once again how the travel sector took a leading role in some of the digital interactions consumers take for granted today.
On the flip side, retailer leaders will point to some of the fantastic innovations they have developed and which are now appearing in the travel world, such as click & collect at airports and product fulfilment to aircraft seating, reminiscent of home delivery.
But I would argue the next knowledge exchange between these two forward-thinking industries comes in the form of online pricing.
Just like those planning travel arrangements, shoppers want trustworthy resources from which to gather information before making a purchase as well as the certainty that they have considered all options before parting with their hard-earned cash.
Samuel Dean is CEO and founder of Pricesearcher
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