|Drew Daly, VP sales and performance, addresses conference attendess // All photos by Susan J. Young|
Agents need to think globally, utilize mobile technology and create customer loyalty, executives told 785 agents attending the annual CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. conference in Orlando this month.
Agents must think globally, Rick Sasso, president of MSC Cruises USA (www.msccruisesusa.com), told the agent attendees. “You cannot survive [simply by selling travel to] your family, your next door neighbor or the grocery store down the street,” Sasso stressed. With the Internet, he said agents have a simple and effective way of promoting their brand and themselves.
In addition, “You need to show the person that [you’re pitching] that there is enthusiasm behind the messages. If you do that, think globally, and educate yourself a little more, your brand will flourish and our brand will flourish,” Sasso told the group.
Looking at how consumers buy travel, Sandi Szalay, vice president of information technology, CruiseOne (www.cruiseonefranchise.com) Cruises Inc. (www.sellcruises.com), told the agents that 47 percent of all travel planning in 2012 starts on a mobile device/smart phone. She emphasized that will soar to 60-70 percent by 2014.
She also said mobile cruise searches will increase 74 percent by 2013, and currently, Google searches for cruise terms are up 27 percent – driven solely by mobile.
By the end of this year, more people will read e-mail on a mobile device than on a desktop computer. And by 2013, more people will use mobile rather than a personal computer to get online.
“Your consumers are on the go,” Szalay stressed. “They need to be able to reach you whatever they’re doing, wherever they are.” She announced that CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. will launch new mobile websites for consumers to access; the first phase of that project will begin in the second quarter of 2013. Development work is under way and agents at the conference got a sneak peek at the technology.
Looking at the World Travel Holdings brands, Szalay said mobile visits to the various websites have more than doubled since the beginning 2011, with nearly 20 percent of visitors to the brands’ websites coming from mobile devices. “The shopping pages are representative of 95 percent of those visits,” she said.
Szalay said consumers desire to have the same shopping experience on their smart phone as on a webpage. Mobile-designed websites will eliminate visual problems that develop when consumers try to look at a traditional website copy on their smart phone – often viewing small text, difficult navigation, and pinching and squeezing of copy.
Right now, consumers prefer mobile websites versus a mobile application. Why? First, Szalay said, “it’s instant,” without the need for downloading, which an app requires.
With the mobile websites, “we’ll have a broad reach [and will be] easily found through search engines,” she said. The organizations’ new mobile websites will be compatible across many mobile devices including iPhone, Android and others.
According to Szalay, 81 percent of consumers prefer mobile sites to mobile apps for looking at pricing. Also, 79 percent prefer mobile sites for product reviews, and 63 percent prefer mobile sites for shopping.
The new CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. mobile website releases will include a mobile-friendly home page. Visitors will be able to locate an agent, sign up for an e-mail newslatter, find pricing, access cruise line promotional pages, and find itinerary details.
Technology is great but agents must also build customer loyalty to succeed in business. “Loyalty overall is synonymous with devotion,” said Drew Daly, vice president of sales performance, CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. He asked the trade audience what brands they preferred, such as the Coke versus Pepsi battle, or iPhone versus Blackberry and then talked about why people prefer one brand versus another.
“What’s the secret sauce,” he asked. Just like the phone or soda or other brand product, when people think of a travel agent, “I want them to think of you,” he stressed.
He said it’s important that agents tell potential clients that “I sell fun or I sell dream, not that I sell cruises or I sell vacations.” He said that opens up the conversation. He urged agents to think what they can do to wow customers; a personal note is one example, but it could be something very different.
One agent wears a lot of bling, for example. Try one thing different to see your business start to grow. “The more personal you make something, the more truly remarkable it is,” Daly said.
He also urged every agent to treat every call from a potential customer as though the customer is asking for a World Cruise, even if they’re only asking for a three-day cruise. It’s all about being enthusiastic, getting them in the door, building loyalty that beats any price-only transaction, and selling the dream and yourself.
Daly asked: “What is the product you sell? At the end of the day, you are selling the service and you. You are the brand.”