20 Jul FLOOR TO OUR MERCHANTS: VERATOUR
Digital Marketing and Contact Center Manager, Veratour S.p.A.
VERATOUR: THE SUCCESS STORY
Veratour was born in the 90s, in a time when the market was very competitive. With over 30 years in business, the company has grown significantly over the years. What are the major turning points of Veratour’s history and how has tourism evolved since your beginnings?
A distinctive feature of Veratour is the ability to provide its customers with a “Made in Italy” holiday experience in tourist resorts located in the most beautiful seaside destinations in the world. In fact, in each of our resorts, local traditions meet the style and flavours of Italy in the key areas of food, assistance and entertainment services.
This is the idea that in 1994 gave birth to our very first Veraclub holiday resort in Sardinia, while 1997 saw the launch of the first catalogue exclusively dedicated to Veraclub resorts.
Today, we count over 50 Veraclub resorts in Europe, Africa, Asia and South America. Moreover, Veratour has been a leading player in the Italian tourist resorts sector for over ten years now.
This has always been our core business. In addition to all-inclusive packages for seaside holidays, long haul multi-destination travels have registered a significant growth over the last ten years: our offering includes scheduled flights with the world’s best airlines as well as tailor-made options based on customers’ wishes.
As far as tourism is concerned, I can say that, undoubtedly, a lot has changed since the 1990s. Over the years, the choice of holiday options has become much bigger, thus business opportunities for tourism players have become more limited also due to market fragmention.
The unsophisticated and pioneering era, characterized by a large number of companies with a predominantly undifferentiated product offering, is now a faded memory. Many tour operators have left the market and today, those of medium-large size are not many, unfortunately.
What objectives have you achieved over time?
The turnover in 2019, the last pre-pandemic year, had exceeded 252 ML: we aim and count to reach the same results in 2024. An even more important entrepreneurial result is that, from the year of its foundation to today, the company consistently recorded a profit for 32 times in a row.
I would say that what has allowed us to thrive in spite of the many crises experienced by the travel sector since 11 September onwards, was the ability to differentiate our brand with a distinctive product format, to implement lean management and efficiently contain costs, and our authentic passion to serve customers.
It is no coincidence that many among over four million Italians who have travelled with us over the years keep choosing us.
In fact, Veratour has over 40% of repeaters, i.e. customers who book a holiday for the second time with the same tour operator within 12 months from their previous travel purchase.
Just last week, we received the “Best Customer Service 2022” award from Corriere della Sera as the first classified in the Tour Operator category, based on an online search that saw the involvement of over 16,000 users.
2022 has seen the launch of your B2C sales. How are your sales and distribution channels organized?
Veratour has always sold 100% of its product through travel agencies. As of last April, it is possible for customers to buy directly from our website, however we are not revolutionising our distribution model.
Rather, we are enriching and further developing it, while remaining true to our longstanding partnership with the traditional distribution which, even in the future, will continue to represent the vast majority of our revenue.
So, why did we do it? The actual goal is to build a new and additional purchasing channel for end users, because not all of them buy from a travel agency. The customer buying journey has been going through digital touchpoints for years now.
Furthermore, the Covid-19 pandemic and the related restrictions acted as a great accelerator: all of us, as consumers, have considerably increased the use of digital channels in our daily life and there is no going back.
The percentage of people who book their holidays via a travel agency compared to the total of those who go for a holiday is minimal.
Traditionally, we are well-positioned in that market segment and we will continue to be: it is all the remaining end users that we want to reach out to with this project.
Having both B2B customers, i.e. travel agencies, and B2C customers with the new e-platform, certainly requires you to adopt different channels and strategies. What are the cornerstones of your approach towards these two different customer types and what tools do you use to implement your strategies and promote yourself on the market?
The B2B channel is manned by a commercial office with a network of trade accounts that nurture relationships thanks to in-person interaction with the best travel agencies throughout the country, thus playing a very important role of dialogue and facilitation.
At our headquarters, telephone communications is king: a telesales team is dedicated to smaller or emerging travel agencies. All of them can count on a dedicated reservation center and a reserved work area on our corporate website.
For the new B2C channel, as previously mentioned, today’s challenge is to reach out to new customer segments, such as those customers who still have to discover us or those who normally do not book their holiday via travel agencies: to this purpose, we have foreseen major investments in digital marketing that will be implemented throughout the year.
The activities linked to this new digital strategy actually started in April, at the time we went live with the new portal. They include all the tools offered by digital media to reach out to new users via the web and social networks.
Clearly, in addition to knowing how to effectively communicate on the digital channels that have been selected to increase visibility of the brand, a new, innovative communication style is needed to get the audience’s attention and interact with new potential customers.
This is why we decided to set up a Contact Center manned by our Travel Advisors who will provide the best possible support and assistance while illustrating the features of Veratour offering. New users coming from our new portal will be able to benefit from our Advisors’ service both on the telephone and via the live chat.
In short, a new channel is there, which is additional to the existing one and does not replace the travel agencies. Regular customers will continue to book and purchase Veratour holidays via their trusted agency.
How important are digitisation and digital payments at Veratour?
Nowadays, our website is a fully-fledged e-commerce, thus payment methods are a key and crucial aspect. On the one hand, we need to offer users the widest possible choice of payment options for their online Veratour holiday purchase.
I am among those who think that, especially when considering an audience that is used to buy online, which is our case, payments are a key differentiator as well as business drivers for merchants.
On the other hand, payments are a fundamental aspect for businesses, as efficient collection makes organizational, management and accounting optimisation possible.
This is even more true in our business, given that in the B2C sales configuration we cannot benefit from an intermediary such as the travel agency, which, in addition to providing a service to customers, is also the guarantor of their booking request.
MyBank is one of the digital payment solutions available on your website. Who are its users? What are its advantages and why does this solution suits both your B2B and B2C development strategy needs?
In fact, MyBank has been a payment solution available to travel agents in their reserved booking area for many years now. For us, it was an absolutely natural choice to include it among the payment methods made available to end users.
For many travel agencies that do not adhere to credit transfer networks, MyBank is definitely the n.1 payment option: its redemption rates have been good right from the start. For end users with an online banking service, this solution is convenient and easy-to-use.
I would say that users who already know it, tend to choose it and use it on a regular basis. Moreover, thanks to your latest partnerships with further PSPs, its adoption rate is even more on the rise.
What results have you achieved with MyBank over time?
Our B2C sales channel went live only three months ago, so it might be too early to evaluate it. Purchases made via the website currently represent 3% of this year’s turnover: this result is fully in line with the expectations and wishes of the company, however we certainly not took for granted.
Regarding payment tools, we will be able to better evaluate later on, once bigger and more relevant online purchase data will be available. However, what I can already say is that all transactions made via MyBank on a daily basis were successful and frictionless, no technical issues were encountered so far.
Merchants from the travel and tourism industry, as well as those operating in other sectors, tell us that MyBank has helped them increase their average order value and attract customers who are reluctant to enter their card credentials online or who prefer not to have issues with their credit card limit. Is this something that you also experience at your end?
Yes, we do. In some cases, customers are not comfortable with the idea of entering their credit card details, therefore, sometimes, this creates some friction in the purchasing process. We observe this reluctancy especially among more adult demographic groups. Besides, those represent our core customer base.
Furthermore, the spending limits of credit cards can sometimes be a problem for our users: it may not be a particular issue for them when paying the deposit to confirm their booking, but it can be critical for the payment of the remaining balance or payment of the full amount.
Our online average order value amounts to 3,500 euros, which is a quite high amount. With MyBank payments, customers do not have any of these problems.
How would you describe MyBank’s solution in 3 words or slogans?
Three is the perfect number in advertising, it is great for creating simple but memorable slogans that always work.
If I had to create a slogan for MyBank, it would be: easy, fast, secure.
- Easy for users as in the payment procedure they simply have to authorize a fully pre-filled bank transfer.
- Fast as it provides real-time confirmation of the transaction and brings customers back on the merchant’s website, with no friction in the payment journey
- Secure as customers do not need to enter any card details online, and their bank transfer order is not revocable.
By providing immediate confirmation of the transaction, MyBank payments allow 100% automatic reconciliation. How does this feature streamline your collection processes?
This is a truly crucial feature for us, as when we get users’ reservations, we have to book the services they selected, and this means that we will remove those services from our sales. If we did not have the certainty of payment, this could not be possible.
In high season for example, it often happens that users’ booking requests can be confirmed only if, once the services they require have been found at the suppliers’ end, you are able to buy them in a timely manner before they are sold to others and they therefore are no longer available.
A digital tool providing speed, security and ease of reconciliation such as MyBank, enables sales that would not be possible with the processing times and inefficiencies of a standard bank transfer.
20 Jul 2022