What software tech do travel business owners need to succeed?

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So when I woke up this morning I thought the world had turned upside down.

At the weekend, my butcher in the local farm shop told me he had invested £10,000 in cryptocurrencies. If cryptocurrency mania has reached butchers in farm shops I’m too late I thought…. stick with the £££’s

Then this morning I read a tweet that a VC firm I follow, incredibly well respected firm and very successful, had invested in https://www.cryptokitties.co/  –  a game centred around breedable, collectible creatures they call CryptoKitties. Because they are built on blockchain technology each cat is one-of-a-kind and 100% owned by you; it cannot be replicated, taken away, or destroyed.

OK I thought – so someone came up with an idea to sell virtual kittens and some people might buy them ( I still can’t work out why but then I’m probably too old to). It now turns out that the reason Andreessen Horowitz    invested is because people sell these kittens for a profit.

From techcrunch

” People are spending a crazy amount of real money on the game. So far about $1.3M has been transacted, with multiple kittens selling for ~50 ETH (around $23,000) and the “genesis” kitten being sold for a record ~246 ETH (around $113,000). This third party site tracks the largest purchases made to date on the game. And like any good viral sensation prices are rising and fluctuating fast. Right now it will cost you about .03 ETH, or $12 to buy the least expensive kitten in the game.

So now we have people using Ether, an asset with arguably little tangible utility – to purchase an asset with unarguably zero tangible utility. Welcome to the internet in 2017″

 

So what do Travel Business Owners Need?

If the margins were bigger, then maybe travel business owners would be interested in buying and selling and breeding cryptokitties. But for the time being, we recommend focussing on tangible technology that will help your business grow.

For this we mean:

  1. A responsive website
  2. Holiday Search – research shows that having a ‘tool’ such as a holiday search tool helps keep users engaged with your site and more likely to make an enquiry
  3. Email Marketing Software
  4. Marketing Automation Software
  5. a CRM – Customer Relationship Manager, to keep track of enquiries, create quotes and manage clients
  6. a booking system
  7. an accounting system ( because the booking systems don’t do the whole job)

 

How will Virtual reality affect Travel selling in the future

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I’m in tech so I guess that I’m more used to terms like ‘Virtual Reality’ being banded about in business than my clients who are more concerned with selling holidays. I know that Facebook paid $2 Billion for Oculus Rift ( a VR company), but then hey, they have loads of money and need to be a little ‘futurist’ to stay ahead of the game. Who knows whether it will be worth the investment ( at the time). Investing in tech at that level is a waiting game and a gamble.

But this morning a guy I follow on various social media platforms – Robert Scobleizer, ex tech evangelist at Microsoft and now ex futurist at Rackspace announced he is joining Upload VR http://scobleizer.com a virtual reality company as entrepreneur in residence. If you haven’t heard of Robert Scobleizer then this won’t mean much to you and you were likely to skip it. But this is important to travel – why? because RS would not have made the move unless he thought that VR was worthy of a major part of his career. He must believe this is a game changer in the world.

OK – so by now your thinking that its in the future and won’t affect you. Sorry – it’s already out there and being adapted by travel companies. Marco Ryan, chief digital officer for Thomas Cook Group, was reported by Bloomberg as beginning testing VR content last year to boost sales. “The closer you get to the destination, the more excited you are to have that experience”—i.e., buy that experience. See the full article here: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-06-19/how-oculus-and-cardboard-are-going-to-rock-the-travel-industry.

Sales of an excursion marketed using VR jumped 190% – that’s right, potential clients that had a better and more real demonstration of what they might expect to experience were far more likely to purchase that experience.

What does this mean for Travel Agents?

This is a massive opportunity for bricks and mortar travel agents to use technology to up their sales. While headsets such as Google Cardboard and other cheap VR solutions are likely for some time the only way that the public will experience VR, businesses investing in Oculus Rift and headsets that allow an immersive experience are more likely to be able to sell that holiday or experience.

It’s going to be a long time until people decide it’s not worth actually going on holiday – after all, it is virtual reality, not normal reality and part of the pleasure of being away from home is getting away from all your jobs, so I don’t think that this is going to replace the need for travel companies. But for sure it is going to become part of the sales technique and those that embrace it and do it best, will be the winners.

Keeping one step ahead

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Way back in 2011 we set about solving a problem for Independent Travel Agents and Operators. How to showcase offers across all inbound marketing channels in the most effective way. Operators were making offers available for agents, but agents had no way of getting these offers to their customers due to lack of resource/time/expertise.

Being first into any market has its benefits and downsides. In truth there are many more downsides than there are benefits at first. When the software is new and there are no comparatives invariably potential customers ask the question ” do I need to have this?, it didn’t exist before, no one uses the software and can I get along without it ( cos it costs money!).

When we launched LateCards we had the added difficulty of trying to recruit Operators into the network and Travel Agents. Without Operators posting offers Agents were not interested and without a wide network of agents, Operators were not interested. A double whammy!

But we persevered because we genuinely believed that we had developed some great software that really enabled the Independent Travel Sector that were our customers. Luckily for us it worked and people very quickly saw the benefit of using LateCards and over the course of 2 years built up the network using the software to over 350 branches and 90 operators. Alomg the way we have continued to invest in the software to make it best in class with additions such as LateCards TV, Marketing Email integrations, Consortia management etc. Our vision was to enable Agents and Operators to transparently work together to sell more holidays. Of course there is a price to this, but by charging both agents and operators we kept this to a minimum.

It was only a matter of time before a competitor came along. This time in the guise of a Consortia. Of course it is the responsibility of a Consortia to enable their membership to market their products more effectively, that is why we embraced Consortia functionality and work with a number of groups and Consortia now in delivering offers to their members via LateCards.

Our software remains the largest facilitator of offers between operators and agents. Because we believe in transparency then Operators can see who promotes their offers and agents have the ability to show some operators rather than others, to develop unique landing pages with specific Operator offers on them and generally to be able to work more closely with Operators and their Consortia (if applicable) in generating business.

We remain one step ahead of any competitor software and our solutions are certainly far less than managing any of this individually. We are committed to the Independent Agent network, we support 3 Consortia in the UK in their Offer distribution and welcome any Operator to use our software, thus ensuring that agents have maximum choice and flexibility in deciding the marketing path that they wish to take.

For more information on LateCards comparison – check out our comparison tables here: https://www.net-effect.co.uk/comparelatecards/

Your Purpose? The Same Business Principles still apply in 2014

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There is always talk of the demise of high street ( or indeed any) travel agent. Yet the travel press is full of opportunities with agencies expanding and homeworking networks setting up. The Net Effect network of clients are all having better times now than they did 3 years ago. Some of this is straight economics but some will be down to being relevant with their customer base through the use of online channels that we in part help provide 🙂

I attended an interesting and thought provoking evening at http://www.forwardpartners.co.uk/ last night. Forward Partners is an innovative Seed Capital Investment business that helps entrepreneurs get off the ground and test their model whilst also holding their hand and providing great resources (which is always a struggle in the early days). My ex colleague David Norris – @norrisnode who I worked with at Simply Travel back in the day and has since been involved with some amazing businesses in travel and elsewhere is now a Partner at Forward Partners and he invited Robert Bean, a branding guru ( http://robertbeanbranding.com/) to the evening to talk to start ups.

The interesting point to cut to in Robert’s talk, and that of the general chit chat afterwards was this:

Successful businesses have a ‘Purpose’. Their entire company is aligned to that one common purpose. He recommended changing ‘Mission Statement’s’ to ‘Purpose Statements’ and also warned that these successful companies only work because the product or service they provide is excellent and the people delivering said product or service are aligned with that purpose.

Think of BMW – ‘the ultimate driving machine’ and BT’s ‘Good to Talk’ slogan ( both of which Robert was involved with) – both statements only work if (a) the actual product is good and (b) everything about the product is delivered with the same purpose.

So forget flowery marketing, concentrate on your product, make sure you have decided what your ‘Purpose’ is, communicate this ( to your staff – they have to be on board), your clients (do they know why you exist, what your Purpose is?), write it on your wall so you don’t forget why you get out of bed in the morning and build your business based on excellence. Don’t worry about anyone else, concentrate on getting what you do right. You may build a hugely successful business that is worth millions, or you may end up building a business that you love and pays the rent – but with a ‘Purpose’, you’ll enjoy yourself along the way and build a great sustainable business.

Integration with GoSquared

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Analytics is pretty much where it is at. Everything leads to analytics and understanding your site analytics is one of the most important elements of running and growing your business. Think of Analytics as your eyes on who comes in your shop. I bet if you have an offline store that you spend a lot of time in, getting a feel for who is passing the store, who is coming in, who is buying, and who you are nurturing when they do come in is something you do without thinking.

Well hey, if 95% of your potential customers check you out online before they ever visit you (yep – they do!), doesn’t it make sense to know what they are looking at on your site, how long they are on it, whether they are interested in your latest blog post? My analytics coupled with LiveChat are an invaluable addition to my business. we don’t have a walk in store, and so we have to treat the website as one and try to engage with as many visitors as we can. We also want to know who our visitors are and what they are looking at.

As with everyone, all our sites have google analytics (GA) integrated so that you can read as much detail about every single event that happens on your site. GA is really great for massive data analysis. But in a small business, where everyone is pushed for time and you just want to be able to get a snapshot of what is going on – GA is a cumbersome tool.  Sure you can set up dashboards but they are still quite tricky to follow and while you get some good information, the data is not great for the here and now. We tried all manner of methods in getting business owners to look at Google Analytics, even adding the key metrics to a Cyfe Dashboard and letting users have the dashboard for free. Guess what – no one logged in, nadda, not anyone. Why? That had me baffled. But then I realised, the analytics I was looking at everyday were simply summaries, I could only deal with summary info. Why would my clients be any different?

 

What do Business Owners Want?

What business owners really want is an easy way to follow what is going on on their websites in real time and trends. It’s about keeping up with what is going on. Think of it like a visit to the store on your day off, checking that people are still coming and then think of it as getting those all important daily stats.

I discovered a company called ‘GoSquared’ who are going some way to answering these issues. I have test run their service and all I can say is that I think it is fantastic as a tool for agile owner managed businesses. Designed for the ‘non techy’, easy to understand, easy to use and delivers exactly what it says  – real time easy analytics for businesses.

Turns out this is a British business – yey! Who would have thought that inventing analytics sofware for websites would have been viable when Google have gone so far with their software? Turns out 3 school kids ( now in their early twenties) did and good for them, and us. They are pretty impressive and they’ve bootstrapped the business in the main against some tough competition and now have over 40,000 websites the monitor.

I was so impressed with what they have done for analytics and how I think their easy dashboards enable business owners to get a snapshot of their business online (which you just have to now – even when you are an offline business such as a high street travel agent) that we decided to roll out their software to every client we have as part of their subscription to our service. Now it’s over to them – I for one, have looked at analytics more (every day in fact) than I ever did when I solely relied on Google Analytics and this helps me understand my business and drive growth.

Check out the CEO of GoSquared – 22 years old Gill on Bloomburg.TV below. It’s great to be associated with such an entrepreneurial and talented business.

GoSquared

How does the Burberry Story affect you as a Travel Agent?

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None of you will have missed that the big news of yesterday was that Angela Ahrendts, the CEO of Burberry was leaving to join Apple. The talk was not over where that might leave Burberry in terms of commercial success (though few will have wanted her departure), but more about why Apple wanted her and what would she bring, a fashion CEO, to a technology company.

It’s clear that Apple recognise that they must remain a Premium brand amidst the scrum of smartphone distribution globally. What better way to achieve this than grab the one person that is credited with achieving almost the impossible in her 7 year tenure at Burberry, turning around an ailing business and making a global phenomenon.

So what does Angela Ahrendts focus on for success? It’s simple, positioning the brand and engaging with employees and customers alike and using technology to do so. This video below is a must watch, in it the Burberry Chief talks about the importance of connecting with customers (for those of you that don’t know what Salesforce is, it is a CRM (customer relationship management platform) system. We have some ahead of the curve agents who have recently upgraded their internal systems to include the latest CRM systems (that start from only £8/user/month) and we are happy to help anyone with this. We believe it is crucial to success.

So how does this affect you? This is the future. This is about talking social. This is about connecting with clients. This is about your success. If Burberry NEEDS to be technologically at the forefront to succeed, what does this mean for travel where all consumption starts online in holiday search? Is the Burberry Chief saying it’s all about online? No, it’s about the blurring of lines.