A Culture of Success: Adopting Experimentation in the Travel Industry

Introduction The informal, internal motto at one Boston-based travel company is “Speed Wins.” After the company began running several tests in its first month of experimentation and optimized its customer experience, it doubled its revenue in record time. The initiative got them up and running quickly, and the company now runs thirty or more tests per month using an iterative approach. In the travel industry, experimentation is becoming increasingly successful as it can be applied to improve every aspect of the customer experience—from product development, to email marketing, to the customer service, and more. Testing in digital environments in any industry can also help to improve personalization. This is particularly important in travel, where personalized pricing, features, and recommendations are key to differentiating organizations selling a wide range of products, services and experiences. Today’s travel consumers demand special pricing on airfare, for example, as well as smart hotel recommendations and a wide range of personalized add-ons for any travel experience. To what degree are travel organizations implementing and succeeding with experimentation? How are they facilitating its success, and what aspects of testing and experimentation are driving their businesses forward? Digital Travel partnered with Optimizely, the world’s leading experimentation platform in Q1 2017, to conduct a benchmark study of 91 industry leaders in order to better understand the impact of testing in the travel industry. + + 3 Key Findings Travel organizations of all types and sizes invest in testing and experimentation to support key growth initiatives, such as increasing conversions, acquisition, and revenue. Most travel organizations align experimentation directly with improving conversions and acquiring new customers, as opposed to nurturing, design, and cost reduction. Travel organizations see their greatest results from testing in their acquisition and purchase phases over prospecting, upselling, and retention. Travel organizations must create a culture of experimentation to drive testing initiatives forward. The most mature organizations are already analyzing data and test results to make educated decisions about improving the customer experience. This begins with increasing the frequency of tests and analyses to capitalize on new data, or performing more targeted experimentation. For example, a travel organization could analyze both market and keyword data to understand the potential value of new prospects. Travel organizations’ greatest barrier to implementing winning tests is cost. Nonetheless, most travel organizations earmark at least 1% to 10% of their online budget for investment in experimentation, and most also attribute at least 1% to 10% of their commerce growth to testing. 4% of organizations earmark 20% or more of their budget, and 9% of organizations attribute 20% or more of their commerce growth to testing as well. In the study, travel organizations still on the threshold of formal testing and experimentation indicate that overcoming barriers to adoption is a more complex process than simply acquiring financing. They must first assimilate personnel into new testing initiatives and ensure their internal IT departments are trained and ahead of the curve in their mastery of experimentation. By adopting a testing culture, they can encourage executive buy-in, properly train personnel, and acquire the right resources to support testing initiatives that will move business forward. + + 4
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