Traditional travel agents – mobile-based aside – are defined by their shopfront, their retail presence, and the ability to serve customers from within their brick-and-mortar setup.
And now Flight Centre has addressed the worth of these shopfronts, and how successful they are at engaging a wider customer base in their travel ambitions.
Speaking in the latest AANA Marketing Dividends episode on Sky Business TV, Flight Centre GM of Product Advertising, Customer Experiences and Sales, Darren Wright, said the agency actually sees the storefront as a competitive advantage, rather than a burden.
“We leverage the significant capacity of these retail stores to bring consumers back to the brand and also to position who we are,” he said.
“We use that bricks-and-mortar store to work in that ‘dreaming’ phase, to surprise, delight and educate and get our customers excited and obviously then celebrate once they travel. It gives you that tactical element in a customer experience model that you don’t really get when you’re transacting online.”
Flight Centre has worked to bring virtual reality into the retail experience as the technology grows in popularity and usefulness, given its powerful ability to showcase products in a totally new way.
“We’re aiming to empower our consultants to allow us to make deeper connections with our customers so that they stay with us,” Wright said.
“Customer service is still king.”
But there’s no denying the ever-present threat of OTAs, and Wright said that in order to compete with them, in-store updates need to be as immediate as online. He told Sky News that the agency has a speed-to-market strategy that sees new products and offers advertised onsite within two hours.
“If a new offer or fare becomes available, Flight Centre wants to ensure it is advertisers across our store network and communicated to our customers as quickly as our online-only competitors can,” he said.
“We can communicate that in our storefront with our digital screens within two hours.”
You can watch the whole interview here:
Meanwhile, speaking on the topic of brick-and-mortar benefits, Wright’s co-panellist Mark Reinke, Suncorp’s Chief Customer Experience Officer, had a few good insights of his own.
“The ability to create immersive experiences… is a great way to bring our brand to life,” said Reinke.
“Those stores are us experimenting around the right recipe to really engage people by creating a set of services around buying an owning a home, or a car.”
Suncorp has launched two concept stores in the last six months in Parramatta and the Brisbane suburb of Carindale, and also has a branch footprint similar to that of Flight Centre.
The bank will also be launching its first ‘discovery’ store in Sydney’s Pitt Street Mall, which will be presented in the form of a large-format store aimed at bringing a new level of experience to customers not seen before in financial services.
“Stores are a physical manifestation of a platform and an ability to match supply and demand,” Reinke said.
Flight Centre also runs a business, called ‘little argos’, a business that looks for, and feeds into, travel-related startups, with Wright saying it’s important that they can grow quickly, and integrate into the many verticals Flight Centre now owns. Remember those mass months of acquisitions? Yeah, those ones.
“Smaller companies that can plug-in in an almost modular way to the Flight Centre beast,” Wright said.
“They allow us to stay in touch with the customer all the way through their experience.”