Speed of Web Innovation leaves the small business confused

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The Web is changing fast. The iPad now has the iPad 2. Apps are the new goldrush and meanwhile consumers devour the web like it is their lifeblood.Â

Apple and Smartphone technology has made the web always on. The broadband revolution started the consumption, the ‘always on’ devices have made the appetite hungrier. After all, who wanted to check the web when it took 5 minutes to power up your computer?

What does this mean for small businesses such as travel agents? Well, 89% of all travel research starts on the web according to Google. If you have any form of travel business then you simply must be on the Internet. But not just that, you have to have a presence that can compete against the big budget brands or you will not attract customers (or worse – lose them). We have seen this already in travel with the rise of Expedia. The online agent Travel Republic has stolen £400m of the UK travel agency market through being internet savvy (the guys that set this up were not even travel agents).

Getting online in a meaningful way that engages the consumer, what with social media, blogging, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, not forgetting expertise in SEO and Paid Search is now a mindfield without a huge budget to outsource and who has that in 2011? Travel companies have always survived with remarkably small margins, certainly very little to re-invest in new technologies that aren’t guaranteed to provide an immediate return. So how does this unfold?

What’s the customer looking for and what are you selling?

The answer to this applies equally to bookshops and other businesses as it does to travel agents and tour operators. Asked what the business does and no owner or MD ever replies of these traditional businesses “We are a web company, investing in ways to ensure that we compete against other websites”. What they actually say is all to do with good old fashioned service, ability, expertise, BUT they have none of their time or budget available to do this. What they should be doing is investing time in blogging, engage their customer so the customer can believe in them. Launch a YouTube channel (check out Gary Vaynerchuk’s internet success phnenomenon using YouTube). Then vanity checks in and they worry about having the same site as a competitor and wouyld rather spend an aweful lot of money haveing a site designed that they felt gave them a differentiated presence for heaps of money – and then it went out of date in a year.

If you stand back from a business and assess what it stands for then the only answer to the internet presnece one is to rely on a third party to provide the technological innovation and share this with others. Don’t worry about the fact that everyone else looks the same (we all like the fact that the Veg isle is first in ALL  the supermarkets and certainly don’t compare supermarkets based on ‘ambience’). For any business a webiste should first and foremost give the user what they are looking for quickly and then the use of social media channel and blogs the compnay can start to engage in a conversation with customers to ‘sell’ their service and expertise.

Perhaps the reason why 96% of travel agents don’t have a website is because they just haven’t got the money, or expertise, or up until now a solution to be able to showcase their product to customers in a professional and cost effective way. That’s the reason we set up Net Effect Travel Web Solutions – to even the playing field and let everyone get on with their proper job rather than become sidetracked by the web.