14 July 2008

UK Catches Up In Online Searching Profile - with a Twist

A recent study of UK Online Vacation (OK then Holiday) searches shows that the UK has a similar profile to the USA. However much like the USA the dissatisfaction with the process and the lack of trust in the information is showing through.

Firstly some hard numbers from Foolproof the agency who conducted the survey:

Of the respondents, 28% said they would go to Expedia and 20% to lastminute.com (travelocity) for information, compared to 11% for Thomson and 8% for Thomas Cook. So clearly Opodo is not on the UK radar in significant form and Orbitz has no presence. eBookers also failed to make a showing which shows how much the brand has deteriorated. Further the study went on to point out that "When researching holidays or short breaks the most popular sites that shoppers intended to visit were ones that offered information on their intended destination (48%), online only travel agents like Expedia and lastminute.com (48%), low cost airlines (42%), price comparison sites (40%) and sites that offer customer reviews like TripAdvisor (39%)."

The conclusions from the study cannot necessarily be held as true. Foolproof concludes that the High Street brands have a chance to reclaim their position. I disagree. 2 main reasons.

1. The name change from Lunn Poly to Thomson for the retail outlets and the vast reduction in footprint of all 4 major brand groupings (now just 2) has led to a reduced brand footprint to compare. Further the confusion of the TUI vs Thomson brands has diminished their ability to make headway against the 2 leading online brands.
2. The product offerings from the former retail brands do not provide enough differentiation to return to them.

However there should be some hope for either a resurgence of the traditional brands or the emergence of new brands because the product offering of all current players is so poor. This should give some hope to the zero content players such as meta searchers and social/UGC sites such as trip advisor et al.

There is a clearer message from the study. Provide better value as a source for information if you want to sell more. The next stage however will be a return to the product owners - just like there is in the USA. Here the LCCs will continue to power ahead with greater value. Now if Ryanair and Easyjet could only do a better job on their hotels and other products.



No comments: