The title is journalists vs. bloggers, by itself a misnomer, as the lines have blurred between what used to be until quite recently very different categories as the article makes very clear. Like so much else, the role of journalists has been affected by how the web develops and this will very likely continue to be the case. The conversation continues......
the TravelersChoiceAwards2008 list of top hotels which I'm sure is full of hotels that not only deliver on their promise but very likely over deliver and are rewarded for it. They probably also are aware of how they are perceived in the marketplace by participating in the conversation that happens about them and take corrective action quickly if needed to avoid the fate of those who take things for granted and probably don't care.
It's a great - and for some scary! - example of the radical transparency businesses are facing today. There is no place to hide and anyone would be advised to manage their online brand reputation way before they end up on a list like this. I'm convinced that these establishments must have received negative feedback directly over a period of time that would have allowed them to improve the situation. More likely they just didn't pay attention or care.
according to eMarketer which presents a collection of studies that proof this point. Although not dealing specifically with travel, I would venture the guess that similar numbers apply.
This is further proof of the importance buyers place on comments by buyers/users of a particular product or service and as I've commented previously, if those comments are made by someone close, like a relative or friend or member of a social network they will have an even higher impact on purchasing decisions. Ignore the conversation about you in social media at your peril!
this study, the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), released today by the University of Michigan with e-commerce partner ForeSee Results is a wake-up call mostly for the online travel agencies, but if I were a travel supplier I wouldn't be too pleased about myself either.
It clearly shows that the low hanging fruit in selling travel online have by now all been picked. The pace is picking up as far as innovation and foremost improvement of the buying experience is concerned.
Consumer expectations have been raised by those other online categories, especially retail with companies like Amazon leading the way. The fact that it requires much more complex technology to sell a complete vacation online, especially one tailor made to customer requirements, than selling books, records, DVDs etc. is not relevant to the discussion, a the online shopper doesn't know or care.
What needs to happen, is a step-up in technology that allows for more personalization and a combination of the various travel tools that are out there but only address part of the total chain in travel research, planning and buying. The whole process has to become seamless and performed on one site, as is the case with online retail. The customer expects no less in travel and as we all know, a successful business depends on satisfying customers.
as described in this article in strategy+business, the journal published by leading consultancy Booz, Allen & Hamilton, is one of the best overviews of the state of the online travel industry I've read in quite some time. link to PDF
It outlines very clearly the great challenges posed to today's players and the technology improvements that are required to get to the next level and make the planning and purchasing experience more user friendly, relevant and less time consuming.
Today's extreme price focus and simple transaction oriented reality needs to be replaced by a customer centric, brand enhancing, convenience focused approach resulting in much more relevant products and services being offered to online travel shoppers. This will require the innovative combination of social media / networking based search tools with technology investments to allow truly dynamic packaging functionality of all trip relevant elements.
As the article correctly states:
Winning over the travelers of the future will require technologies that, like human travel agents, can segment customers accurately and give them what they want.
So, the main stream media are starting to pay attention to the topic of online reviews and other UGC.
As always, the seem to look for the controversy in the story, in this case the immediate demise of print guides but Steve Kaufer didn't bite! Good. Reminds me of what was said about the same immediate demise of all travel agents when web 1.0 came barreling in. Hasn't happened either.
What tools to use will remain a personal preference of each individual traveler. The trust factor of anonymous reviews is already the second highest after personal recommendations by family or friends. The combination of social networking and reviews such as used by VibeAgent and valuing those from my personal network higher will add a new dimension of usefulness.
Today I came across a front page article on the website of the NZZ, Switzerland's leading daily newspaper, reporting about the accuracy of snow reports by Swiss mountain resorts.
With the importance of winter sports for that country, this is a subject of great interest to many visitors and the source of complaints when the daily reports are deemed inaccurate.
Now, the paper reports, it is possible for visitors to report their comments directly on the Switzerland Tourism site
This is a great example of the usefulness of user generated content (UGC) that enhances the information provided by the local tourist board and increases the trust factor for potential visitors
It's a great example of using the new mobile platform the iPhone offers, and which is superior in user friendliness over other smart phones due to the integration of a full version of the Safari web browser. This adds integration to the process of viewing, evaluating and booking the deals offered on this platform.
I'm sure we will see more of this in the coming months and years.