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Video tools: the future of face-to-face

September 16, 2012

(Published in TTG 15.08.12)

YouTube may be a growing force in SEO, but to truly connect with clients, live video is hard to beat

 

Whether it’s putting together complex itineraries, upselling, or even trying to explain consumer protection to customers, face-to-face contact is hard to beat as a sales tool, and helps reassure customers.

But for those travel sellers who don’t have an extensive retail reach, or are looking to grow their sales online, the website steps in as their shopfront – and the challenge is to ensure the homepage provides a true reflection of that agency’s expertise and passion.

This is where video comes in. While destination videos can inspire and, if hosted on YouTube, help a company’s page ranking on Google, live video chat is being exploited by more and more agents.

Global Travel’s Geoff Monk caught onto this in October last year, when he launched Skype-based seeyourtravelagent.com, a free directory that connects the public with agents that actively use video.

Back then he said: “I expect a lot more travel sites will [eventually] have a personal consultant you can chat to. You can determine exactly what the client wants and how enthusiastic they are.”

Building rapport

As of this month, Monk has now doubled the amount of agents using the service, to 40. He remains committed to video as a sales tool, citing research that claims conversion rates rise 20-50% with video technology. “Potential customers can see who they’re dealing with,” he says.

Matthew Silverstone, OhHi

OhHi is another company – from a very different background – that has recently entered the travel sector. OhHi emerged from the adult entertainment sector, and launched in November 2011. Despite its non-travel background, founder Matthew Silverstone (pictured) says this works in its favour: “There are two driving forces in web – gambling and adult entertainment. If people see you are part of that, you get a tick.”

His company embeds video technology into websites, and allows the agent to see exactly who is visiting the site – by revealing the browser’s IP address and location – and even allows them to directly ask that user if they want to video chat.

“We wanted to recreate the experience people have in shops,” says Silverstone. “Holidays are big ticket items. We’re looking at what the customer needs, and reaching out to them.”

OhHi currently provides the video technology for Titan Travel, and claims that installation takes “just five minutes”, as it is simply a question of adding a few lines of HTML code. Prices start from £49 per month.

Suzy Wardle, online marketing manager at Titan Travel, says conversion rates are at 15% with video, but there is more to it than
just selling. “We approach people who have been on the site for a while, or seem lost, and we receive video calls from people post-purchase, asking what to pack for their tour,” she explains.

And with an average tour price of £3,000, Wardle says video communication can also bring back that reassuring personal touch.

What’s next?

Silverstone believes that while OhHi is also perfect for hotel concierge desks, another focus is on live-streaming. With live video from mobile devices next on the cards, there is great scope for the cruise sector too. Ship entertainment officers, for example, could stream live from their mobile phones, or tour operators could stream tours, with guides “showing people what they’re missing out on”.

Monk, meanwhile, recommends that agents jump on video as soon as possible, because of the increasing number of TVs that have webcams and Skype installed.

Other video options

Skype is synonymous with video, and offers a range of tools for agents. Kim Milosevich, senior communications manager at Skype, says that, internally, it’s ideal for homeworkers who work remotely, as they can feel part of a team. Meanwhile, she recommends the Skype for Business version (from £3.65 per month including VAT) which offers free calls to Europe and the chance to broadcast video to groups – ideal for any customers going on the same tour.

“Another feature is screen sharing,” she suggests, “as agents could show images of hotels to customers using Skype.” Another useful feature of Skype for business users, she adds, is the instant messaging. “And with Skype now part of Microsoft, we are looking at getting it embedded,” Milosevich adds.

Elsewhere, ustream.tv is a free service that travel companies can use to stream live video. It is not interactive, and more event-based, but the site does allow users to create their own branded channel. Examples can be seen at ustream.tv/ americaneaglefoundation

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