Group travel lag when it comes to online shopping. While we don’t know about the early adopters, it’s fair to say that we’re way further behind than usual when it comes to using the web to push consumers to buy from us.
Much of this is a byproduct of technology that didn’t allow us to perform the way we wanted, while part of it comes from an outdated view of what our websites should do for us.
The chart below shows how far behind our industry clusters are. So let’s discuss each of them in some detail.
|Airline||Sea trip||the hotel||Train||Leasing
Pricing based on
Reservations / Reservations
the changes /
|Online Terms Agreements||X||X||X||X||X||X|
Data collection / shopping
At the dawn of the internet, there were “contact us” websites, basically virtual lists of how to get the company you’re interested in. Then that went to “brochure” sites, virtual ads showing what the company did, how they did it, and the tools they used to do it. These were luxury digital brochures designed to influence buyers into wanting to work with the company.
The next development became the ability to “do” online. That is, to move on from what they’ve learned to take the next step of making a deal of some kind. From buying a car to booking a hotel, buyers want to be able to say “Yes, that’s what I want” and click a few buttons and buy them.
The data collection step has also changed. What were once huge websites designed to provide a lot of information have turned into pages designed to offer everything a person needs to make a decision in a matter of seconds. This includes photos, videos, social proof, and more, all organized for speed.
For many in mass transit, their sites have stopped at the “online brochure” stage and haven’t developed yet.
Online instant pricing
Imagine, if you will, how you would feel if you went to a website, and found the room in the hotel you want to book, when trying to book a hotel for an upcoming weekend, and then had to send your details to that company and wait for an indefinite amount of time for someone to They send you a quote, and then you have to send it back to tell them you want the room, and wait again to see if they still actually have that room available that day.
You’re probably thinking what I’m thinking…nope.
In the rental industry, we have always held that getting a quote is such a challenge that it takes the focused efforts of an experienced salesperson to get it right.
This has left our buyers in the specific scenario mentioned above. Frustrated and backwards time.
Pricing based on calendar
Sometimes when I book a vacation, I try to do it on a tight budget. One way I can do this is to shop for days when things are less expensive and play with what I’m looking to bring down the cost.
For example, when shopping for a cruise, in what month I’m going, from which port I leave, what kind of cabin I book, and what trips I want to take can have a huge impact on the overall cost. The best part is that I can do it all in a few minutes online. I can modify all parameters and get exactly what I want before committing to a reservation. Even if I’m daydreaming and trying to budget, I can do everything and never have to talk to anyone or wait for the price.
Because of how the Motorcoach industry has maintained our legacy quoting process, all of this is put on our sales teams to provide and complete quotes, updates, and re-quotes while we work to give buyers what they want.
We often think of comparison shopping in terms of comparing our product/service to others. But there is a stronger kind of this when we enable technology to allow buyers to compare our products to themselves.
Think about car rental. If you go to a website like Enterprise Rent-A-Car, you can compare the cost of vehicles based on dates and locations, all under the Enterprise brand.
You can quickly see the difference between a full-size, mid-size, compact and SUV. You can see what happens if you change dates or pickup location, and you can make an informed buying decision.
In group travel, like the calendar prices above, this falls on the shoulders of salespeople, and if you’re like most companies, when someone starts out in this sort of comparison shopping it feels like endless time and often gets pushed to the back of the list, They will not be contacted again.
Reservations / Online Reservations
This one is very clear. If you look at each category on this chart above, it’s easy to see that you can book anything you want except for a charter bus. We’ve all booked tickets and made a reservation and hardly ever think about it again because that’s the standard we’re used to. That is, unless someone wants to book a bus. Then the game changes.
Send an email and wait for a response. Request a reservation, get confirmation that a reservation is indeed available, sign and email a document that you understand the terms and conditions, pay a deposit via check, and then you have a reservation.
I don’t have to say much to highlight how different things in our industry are from the rest.
Part of online bookings is the inline payments. This means that you paid online as part of the online purchase process. Legacy providers have been dancing around this for quite some time in terms of backend operation. This is where you provide a link to someone once the reservation is complete for them to pay a deposit or pay their balance. But while this is an “online” process, it is not “built-in”.
When you book a flight ticket, you pay, and then the reservation is made. The same is true for hotel reservations, train tickets, car rentals, Ubers, and more.
There are a number of reasons for this. The first is ease and conditioning. It just makes sense – I want it, I click the button, and I pay.
The second is that there is no time like “now” to make someone pay if they are shopping. I’m more likely to pay for burgers when I’m hungry than when I’m not. If you get paid and complete a deal by the time of the initial interest, the chances of selling go up significantly compared to trying to get a sale on a “follow-up” basis.
It has been difficult for the mass travel market to put it into practice.
We have just changed our vacation dates and confirmed that my in-laws will indeed come with us – I need to change hotel and rental car. So I go into the apps, make the changes, see what it does with my total cost, book an extra room, swap in for a bigger car, make decisions, pay any change fee, and get done…within a few minutes.
My football team was just informed that the tournament was delayed by a day and the venue was moved 75 miles away. I have to change the booking with my rental company. Well, buckle up. We are talking about (multiple) phone calls, new contracts, change confirmations and so on, etc. Sum up it all…not a few minutes.
Holding customers accountable for changes, additions, and revisions makes sense for companies whose sales teams need to find more time in the day.
Online Terms Agreements
There is a small checkbox below anything we buy online. It says something like “Continuing to purchase this means you agree to the terms and conditions” or “I understand and agree to your terms and conditions.”
Most of the time we don’t even notice it, but its equivalent is a legally binding agreement between buyer and seller – no less effective than a 30-page document signed and signed, faxed, emailed or digitally signed.
The method of handing over contracts and terms and conditions in the group travel industry is not only outdated, but also completely ridiculous. Innovators pay to go from requiring someone to download, print, sign, scan and fax or re-email a document, to the newer version of the same process that requires someone to go to a website like DocuSign and go digitally through the same hoops. All while our industry peers pre-check a small box at the bottom of a step all the way to a purchase that does the same thing.
Some will say, “I want the person to know what we’re asking of them,” and I agree. There are two types of language in these conventions. One is the legal rules we put there because our lawyers asked us to; The other is things we really need to know, like our cancellation policy. It’s better for both of you to get to know him now than to deal with issues you don’t know they will bring up later.
But our friends in other industries have already dealt with this as well. For example, book an airline ticket since June 2020 and you will see that you have to specifically agree to wear a mask while on the plane and that you will not travel if you feel sick. Legally, they could bury that in the mount of the Terms and Conditions page, but they needed you to know what they had to say, so they called it up and had you check some of the extra, unchecked, boxes. That’s right, they didn’t ask me to sign and fax, just check two more boxes.
So what’s next?
We talk a lot as an industry about why we are left behind, and why we aren’t often at the table when it comes to conversations about the future of travel, making rules, and being part of the long-term solution to the big problems facing us as a planet.
While I’m not suggesting that the reason this happens is because we ask people to fax us documents, what I’m suggesting is that these kinds of behaviors are indications that we’re not facing the future with open arms but rather holding on. “The way it always has been.”
Technology is changing and tech tools are leading the way to put more checks in the boxes which will lead to wider acceptance of our services with a better, more popular and complete online shopping experience.
Chris Riddell is the CEO of bus network, a member of the United Motorcoach Association. The company provides SalesDriver and OpsDriver technology solutions for the mass transit industry. He can be reached at [email protected]