Expect Cross-Selling to Grow as Key to Profits

Predicted revenues from third-party ancillary sales are set to grow 30 percent by 2015, 10 times faster than general sales, according to a new report from Amadeus-Forrester. "Cross-Sell Your Way to Profit — How Travel Suppliers Are Using Third-Party Ancillary Services to Drive New Revenues and Enhance Their Traveler’s Experience" explores the key trends shaping the future of cross selling.

The report predicted third-party ancillary services will represent 2.5 percent of total revenues by 2015 — $25 million per year for a $1 billion company. The report also examined the effects of change in distribution channels — including online and offline agents. One key component of success for suppliers and retailers, according to the report: knowledge and understanding of customers.

Innovative "extreme" third-party ancillary services available by 2020 could include: Virtual reality, allowing customers to experience airports, hotels, cruise ships or destinations prior to travel; Digital concierges on mobile phones to assist with hotel, airport or destination services; and in-journey spa services. Mobile technology is expected to have the biggest impact on the types of third-party ancillary services that are offered and how they are sold.

Third-party ancillary services provide travel suppliers with an under-explored opportunity to generate revenue, and are expected to increase by 30 percent by 2015 compared to 2010. As an example, the report looked at the airline sector. Industry trade group IATA estimated the world’s airlines grossed $560 billion in 2010. If the industry saw top-line revenue grow 3 percent annually each year between 2010 and 2015, the industry would gross more than $649 billion by 2015 — of which $16.2 billion would come from the sale of third-party ancillary revenues.

“There is growing recognition that third-party ancillary services will become important revenue contributors for travel suppliers, provided they offer a relevant product mix and make these services available throughout a journey and across channels. The right technology infrastructure is essential to making third-party ancillary services available when and where needed, and travel suppliers will need to develop a story arc to optimize offer management and communications,” the report said.

And while most suppliers anticipate that their own direct channels — especially their websites — will be their most effective sales channels, many believe that by 2015 their most effective sales channel will rely on a technology that hasn’t yet been invented, the Forrester-Amadeus study reported.

“It is essential that travel suppliers invest the time to think about what it means to become a true retailer offering a comprehensive selection of relevant third-party ancillary services. It is only through customer insights — by knowing what drives them, exploring the different channels they use to interact, experimenting with different third-party products and services, and offering something personal — that travel suppliers will be able to reap the rewards of what is yet an untapped and underexplored opportunity,” the report said.

Key recommendations of the Forrester-Amadeus study:

• Get to know your customers. There is almost no limit to the number of third-party ancillary services available to travel suppliers. Surveying travelers about what they may be interested in buying is a good way to understand potential demand, but only by offering products will you truly know what your customers want.

• Track the sale of your ancillary products and services as much as you track the sale of your core products. Don’t just track sales volumes, but how travelers interact with your Web site and other sales channels. Test products, and test elements such as price, page placement, descriptive text and visual images, and entry and exit points. Track sales of third-party ancillaries to find out which routes and destinations are reaping the greatest total shopping basket value and why. Test, test, test — and test some more, and be willing to make changes based on your findings.

• Communicate your full offer to your customers. Plugging in third-party content to complement your core offer is just the first step. To maximize the full sales potential, implement and track promotional campaigns for your third-party ancillary products and services as you would for your core offering. Invest in joint marketing programs with partner providers and explain the benefits of your total offer to your customers.

• Create a cross-department third-party ancillary services work team. This team will be responsible for setting and implementing enterprise wide business objectives and revenue goals; identifying, reviewing, and approving potential third-party ancillary service partners; collaborating with relevant departments for sales, fulfillment, and support; coordinating third-party partner promotions and customer marketing and communications; and collaborating with IT for necessary systems and applications.

• Feed sales data back into your customer data warehouse. It’s important for travel suppliers to know more than just gross sales volume and similar performance metrics. To effectively measure customer value and evolve into better merchants, travel suppliers need to be able to track the third-party ancillary services a customer browses, puts in her “shopping cart,” and actually books or purchases. This will help you gauge customer profitability while simultaneously building a real-time picture of customer interests that can be used to better target product offers and communications.

Lead — don’t just follow. There is value in taking a longer-term view of the third-party ancillary services that may be in demand 10 years hence. By looking at broader traveler, technology, and societal trends, it is possible to secure a competitive advantage by identifying the most relevant “extreme” third-party ancillary services to test to determine whether and when any demand is forthcoming, with little downside risk.

• Keep your eye on the ball. In a volatile environment, social, economic and political trends will continue to shape and reshape your customers’ preferences and behaviors. Ensure that you keep an eye on these trends so as to ensure that your brand, and its products and services, remain relevant.

Visit www.amadeus.com.

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