Thomas Cook Concept Stores Bring Digital Innovation To The High Street
Travel brand's digital initiatives combine technological innovation with traditional retail experiences.
For many years now, established British travel agent Thomas Cook has been gradually architecting its own digital turnaround. Digital has had such a impact on consumer travel that the 173-year-old travel company has had to proactively reinvent itself.
In a recent interview with the Guardian, CEO Harriet Green outlined the importance of continuing digital transformation of the brand.
“The only way you turn the doubters into believers and owners of our corporation is continuing to deliver the transformation. There will always be short-term trading and issues, but I think we’re incredibly on track.”
Change has been embodied by the company’s ‘Sunny Heart’ branding refresh, uniting the many brands and marketing activities of the group under a common symbol.
Uniting Etail And Retail
One of the main challenges for the travel agency has been in uniting its traditional stronghold, namely that of high street travel agency, with the incredible impact that digital technology has had on consumer purchasing cycles.
The new concept stores embody the “high-tech, high-touch” approach that defines Thomas Cook’s digital strategy. Users are able to browse destinations on in-store tablets, and make their own travel arrangements should they wish to. Importantly, consumers are also able to talk to the in-store advisors bringing the expertise, experience, and excellent service of Thomas Cook staff to in-store customer experiences.
Research has shown that as much as 46 percent of consumers look for “face-to-face” advice before they are willing to make a final transaction for a travel purchase.
One of the products that integrates online and offline retail in the travel brand’s concept stores is Dream Capture. With Dream Capture, when a customer sees a product they like, agents add that option to a virtual bucket list with a single button press.
Once the customer has finished browsing, the agent emails that bucket list to the customer at their home address. The list is then shared with friends or family, who then go on to view or share it on their computing devices, and increasing now, on their tablets.
Chairman of the Digital Advisory Board at Thomas Cook, John Straw, explained that it has proved to have a highly effective conversion rate, combining the influence of advisors in retail stores with the ability to research and evaluate purchases digitally as consumers are now naturally inclined to do.
The brand have also implemented “Ask and Answer,” giving online customers the chance to ask specific questions about the products they are interested in to the brand. The product fulfills a clear touchpoint in the purchase cycle, and provides customers with informative content about hotels and resorts. The reassurance consumers are able to gain from these answers have resulted in a 150 percent increase in the conversion ratio according to initial figures.
John Straw, Thomas Cook chairman of the digital advisory board, said:
“Harriets omni-channel strategy between retail and etail is starting to show real delivery against the original optimism… specifically our DreamCapture product – produced from the Thomas Cook Digital Advisory Board is producing exceptional cross channel integration and results”
The ‘Human Touch’
The new concept stores have been opened in Lakeside in Essex, as well as Aberdeen, Harrogate, Gateshead, Merryhill, Liverpool, Maidstone, Darlington, Bolton, Newport, Plymouth, and Fareham, and is a further sign of brand’s commitment to high street retail empowered and modernized by digital initiatives.
“Retail is such an important part of Thomas Cook’s omni-channel approach,” said Joanna Wild, Thomas Cook retail director. “We know that an annual holiday is precious to many, and the new stores further illustrate our efforts to inspire customers and help make the purchase process as enjoyable and efficient as possible.”
The strategy is indicative of a wider trend within businesses to integrate retail shopping experience with digital channels, for the benefit of overall customer experiences. Even Amazon are looking to roll out a series of retail stores later this year.
It shows that for the Thomas Cook Group, there is still a great deal of room within the organizations “high-tech, high-touch” strategy for the “human touch.”