Since 2008 there has been a massive 47 percent increase in online holiday bookings and there are no signs of this slowing down. The convenience and speed of online booking means that consumers just aren’t booking vacations over the phone or in person anymore.
In response, STA Travel have taken up the Internet revolution baton and said goodbye to the dusty days of the weary travel agents selling tired package holiday deals.
STA is the world’s largest travel company for youngsters, providing flights, accommodation, tours and expeditions for 2.5 million customers every year in more than 450 stores worldwide. Faced with the potential death of the high street travel agent, STA recognised the need to rejuvenate their flagship London store with new ways to increase customer engagement throughout the booking process.
A huge screen in the store window streams posts of dream getaways luring passers-by into the fully Wi-Fi enabled store, which is segmented into three zones. The first includes a ‘Travel Clinic’, a foreign currency exchange bureau and a Eurolines coach desk. The ‘Inspiration Zone’ is packed with numerous atlases, books, magazines and Bouncepad tablet kiosks to encourage in-store research and self-service. There is also an amphitheatre space where STA Travel Assistants host travel events and give talks. Finally, the ‘Planning Zone’ has replaced standard issue travel agent desks with large interactive tables; staff sit side-by-side with customers to advise and help with the booking process.
STA are going to 'reinvigorate physical retail on the high streets' and mould the industry by 'catering to the most tech-savvy travel generation ever,' according to Jackie Knell, STA Travel Sales Director.
The biggest challenge for many retailers, especially travel companies like STA, is the convergence of consumers’ online and in-store experience. A PwC consumer survey found that 73 per cent of consumers browse products online before coming in-store to complete the purchase – millennials may be the online generation but they do still have to surface for air.
This is exactly what makes STA’s adoption of a cross-channel approach so forward-thinking. Retailers must offer transparency both online and in-store and tap into youngsters hunger for an unrelenting online presence, as well as the demand for a service-led in-store experience. By recognising the importance of the bricks-and-mortar to align online sales and traditional customer service, STA was able to create a unique and seamless path-to-purchase for their consumers. It seems we can certainly expect many more beach-packed Instagram feeds for a while to come.