Here we go - I have five predictions for 2010 (two of them drawn from my contribution to the Tnooz post "Tnooz predictions for 2010"):
- The non-refundable not enough: 2009 was the year of the deal. Lastminute specials returned and ADR/Ave ticket price fell through the floor, past the basement and almost reached magma. But the main (maybe the only) weapon in the 2009 deal war was the non-refundable. I predict that to win round two of the deal smackdown will require suppliers and intermediaries to come up with something more creative that just non-refundables The non-refundable is successful in driving demand while protecting "normal" pricing (ie BAR). But it is a crude weapon - targeting only those with no scope for a change in plans. Driving demand in 2010 will mean finding additional market segments. Which in turn will require more creativity and subtlety in pricing and deal structures than afforded by the non-refundable. Jeremy Philips in a review on WSJ.com of the book "Priceless" by William Poundstone ran an interesting quote that summarises the prediction here. As Robert Crandall, a former CEO of American Airlines, has said: "If I have 2,000 customers on a given route and 400 different prices, I'm obviously short 1,600.";
- Year of the app: mobile may finally be here as a force in online travel but in 2010 the action will be in "apps" not phones. By app, I mean a piece of software designed to perform a function where the function is stand alone but can only exist as part of an operational eco-system. I am not thinking just iPhone here. Though the numbers are extraordinary. On March 27 2008 Apple launched its SDK to the public. Just eighteen months later (Nov 4) they announced more than 100,000 apps available for the iPhone and more than 2 billion downloads. But this is only part of the app story. On May 24 2007 Facebook opened up its platform for third party application development. On their stats page (checked 3 Jan 2010) they are claiming 500,000 apps. It does not stop at smart phones and social networks- HP have launched a printer with an interface and app store. The easy part of this prediction is to say that app numbers will grow again both in number (they will more than double in 2010) and in platform (more sites and more phones launching more of them). The real prediction is that I think the app trend equals a change in how web services are accessed. While not the death of the browser, the rise of the app is a sign that the browser is no longer an essential part of the Internet experience. Further proof that we have left the Web 1 era that defined web success through website stickiness and are well into the Web 2 world of syndication being the success measure. That confining your internet viewership plans to the computer and browser is a doomed strategy;
- New marketing measurement metrics will emerge: The very mature online media and advertising world has settled into a comfortable metric duopoly of clicks and page views. Measuring audience reach and advertiser value by either the number of clicks generated or pages views. I predict for 2010 that we will see a new metric emerge. Not sure what it will be but it is clear to me that the market is looking for a measure of engagement rather than traffic. A way of showing marketers that consumers have taken in a brand message not just clicked on a link or maybe glanced at a flashing 468x60. The portals have had behavioural targeting technology for more than two years (Yahoo! has Blue Lithium, AOL has Tacoda) and Google is looking for the Next Big Thing to be video advertising (read more in interview with Rob Torres of Google reported on Tnooz). These are clear indicators of the need for a new metric;
- Consolidation in the sector (surely!). This is a left over prediction from 2009. The conditions in the year of the GFC seemed perfect for consolidation. Stock prices were depressed, cost cutting acceptable and appetite for organically funded expansion low. But we saw virtually nothing that could be called a “big deal”. There was deal activity but at the lower end such as through regional tuck-ins (ie Travelocity buying Travelguru, and Ctrip buying EZtravel), small local deals (ie Wotif buying GoDo) and constant content site acquisition by TripAdvisor. With bankers chasing bonuses and companies chasing growth in 2010, I expect to see some consolidation in the big end of online travel town (from Tnooz post); and
- Recommendations as the future of online travel: Search – as a means for customers finding what they want in online travel – is no longer as effective in 2009 as it was in 2005. Two causes – the explosion of content through the UGC revolution and consumers desire to seek answers to open ended questions (ie where should I go next) that are not easily answered by a search model based on taking you to one site. 2010 will see even more investment by start ups and established companies on different ways of searching and on methodologies for recommending. The long term future is the ability to generate a recommendation of one based on the individuals unique combination of desires, needs and interests of an individual at a particular point in time (EveryYou). The 2010 future is increased profiling, increased data collection and even more start up activity around search and discovery (from Tnooz post).
If you are interested - check out my 2009 predictions
thanks to pfala for the photo via flickr