How Do Businesses Convey Trust Online?

We have recently dealt with many travel agents who struggle to convey the same level of in-branch trust on their website. The personality and traits that their customers love are often lost. In view of this, we put together a guide to help - which applies to all businesses (not just the travel industry). It’s already the case for most industries that a web presence is required to compete – but for some, the internet can be an intimidating arena and consequently a reason they are yet to transition to the digital world. Another reason could be their current base of loyal customers is built on years of physical and human interaction, word of mouth and recommendations…  so how do companies, still holding on to their traditional values, make the leap without diluting or jeopardising their long standing level of trust and quality? What does your First Impression Look Like? First impressions count for a lot. When a customer walks into your branch, how do you portray a warm and welcoming image? What information does a new customer need from you that will help them feel at ease with doing business with you? I’m sure you have so many answers to those questions – but – how do you then translate the intangible elements so online customers get the same first impression? Start with listing down your key values which set you apart. Put them down on paper. Then have a think about what they look like to a customer. Is it a happy, welcoming image? Is it the diversity of your staff with a wealth of knowledge? Think about it even down to the colour scheme of your branch and what makes your customers feel happy when they’re buying from you.  Now that you have a list of your key attributes which create the first impression you want, it’s time to get that same image across on your website. Use branding and images that reflect what you’re all about. Your values, your staff, your customer service. You could even use images of the staff who your existing customers have come to know and love. Be a personality and portray that welcoming image and the trust you rely on. Once you have the right first impression, you need to look at usability. Customers find it easy to come into the branch/store and talk to you because you do all of the work for them. If they’re buying online, you need to make sure that their online experience is as simple as possible too. If you make it difficult, you instantly start to lose their attention.   What do your Customers really think of you? I know that we’ve said it before, but another way to make sure that you portray the right image online is to use your customer reviews. If other people buy from you and are willing to take the time to shout about their fabulous experience, it will instantly affect the first impression of new customers landing on your site. Customer ratings and reviews count for a lot more these days. That first-hand experience is now a far more valuable and reliable source of information.Speaking of customers, and their (hopefully) glowing reviews, how do they contact you? Obviously they could still stop by your shop but what about those visiting your website for the first time? Ultimately, you want people to get in touch, therefore, call to actions such as contact information and enquiry features need to be bold and reach out to the visitor, rather than them having to find it. As we said above, it’s important to completely cater for the customer so their online experience is seamless and effortless. Ever thought about using surveys? Finally, another great way that you can utilise your valuable customers, is by asking them for their opinion about your site. Ask them to have a look and see what they think. Do they like it? Does it portray your image correctly? What would they do to improve it? You can use tools such as Surveymonkey to collect valuable information like this which you can then really use to your advantage. We hope that for those of you currently considering a move to online have found this post useful. If you want any extra help about how you can make this transition, please get in touch and we will be very happy to help.

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Traditional Travel Agents: How to portray the right image online

On a recent post comparing OTA’s and traditional travel agencies, we received comments from far and wide offering a variety of opinions on the matter. It was interesting to note that the comments favoured towards the more traditional agencies highlighted one particular element when it came down to human interaction: TRUST. It’s already the case for most industries that a web presence is required to compete – but for some, the internet can be an intimidating arena and consequently a reason they are yet to transition to the digital world. Another reason could be their current base of loyal customers is built on years of physical and human interaction, word of mouth and recommendations…  so how do companies, still holding on to their traditional values, make the leap without diluting or jeopardising their long standing level of trust and quality? What does your First Impression Look Like? First impressions count for a lot. When a customer walks into your branch, how do you portray a warm and welcoming image? What information does a new customer need from you that will help them feel at ease with doing business with you? I’m sure you have so many answers to those questions – but – how do you then translate the intangible elements so online customers get the same first impression? Start with listing down your key values which set you apart. Put them down on paper. Then have a think about what they look like to a customer. Is it a happy, welcoming image? Is it the diversity of your staff with a wealth of knowledge? Think about it even down to the colour scheme of your branch and what makes your customers feel happy when they’re buying from you.  Now that you have a list of your key attributes which create the first impression you want, it’s time to get that same image across on your website. Use branding and images that reflect what you’re all about. Your values, your staff, your customer service. You could even use images of the staff who your existing customers have come to know and love. Be a personality and portray that welcoming image and the trust you rely on. Once you have the right first impression, you need to look at usability. Customers find it easy to come into the branch and talk to you because you do all of the work for them. If they’re booking online, you need to make sure that their booking experience is as simple as possible too. If you make it difficult, you instantly start to lose their attention.   What do your Customers really think of you? I know that we’ve said it before, but another way to make sure that you portray the right image online is to use your customer reviews. If other people buy from you and are willing to take the time to shout about their fabulous experience, it will instantly affect the first impression of new customers landing on your site. Customer ratings and reviews count for a lot more these days rather than how many stars a hotel or resort might be officially awarded. That first-hand experience is now a far more valuable and reliable source of information.Speaking of customers, and their (hopefully) glowing reviews, how do they contact you? Obviously they could still stop by your shop but what about those visiting your website for the first time? Ultimately, you want people to get in touch, therefore, call to actions such as contact information and enquiry features need to be bold and reach out to the visitor, rather than them having to find it. As we said above, it’s important to completely cater for the customer so their online experience is seamless and effortless. Ever thought about using surveys? Finally, another great way that you can utilise your valuable customers, is by asking them for their opinion about your site. Ask them to have a look and see what they think. Do they like it? Does it portray your image correctly? What would they do to improve it? You can use tools such as Surveymonkey to collect valuable information like this which you can then really use to your advantage. We hope that for those of you currently considering a move to online have found this post useful. If you want any extra help about how you can make this transition, please get in touch and we will be very happy to help.

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Web Attack Survival Guide

Web attacks were the number one cause of data breaches in 2015. 63% of confirmed data breaches involved weak, default or stolen passwords, and a whopping 95% of confirmed web app breaches were financially motivated! It is vitally important that you understand the online threats that face your business – and what you can do to eradicate them.Imperva have put together a Web Attack Survival Guide to help you fully understand the threat landscape and the technologies you can use to safeguard your website from attack. It provides a step-by-step guide so your business can survive. Topics covered include: Understand the Threat Develop a Security Response Plan Locate and Assess Applications and Servers Strengthen Application, Network, and End-Point Security Controls Counter the Attack: Monitoring and Tuning Procedures When Under Attack Bring in the Experts: Optional Security Consulting Services Conduct a Post Mortem of the Attack Web attacks are on the increase so don’t be of the mindset that “it won’t happen to you” because everyone is a target. Act now. Understand the threats and protect your web assets before it’s too late!

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Choosing a Web Application Firewall (WAF)

The Internet is a scary and dangerous place, or so the press keep telling us. There are stories almost every day of an online attack taking place and the consequent loss or exposure of customer data. When the very nature of what we do is to put our assets in the direct firing line of such attacks, by enabling literally everyone to connect to our web server, what else can you expect? But let's examine that last statement a bit further, “let everyone connect to our webserver”; is that really what we want to do? On the one hand the marketers encourage traffic to our web shop, it’s their job, surely we do want any and everyone to be able to connect? Well no, anyone and everyone is not what we want or need, we want legitimate traffic only, real users who are shoppers or browsers there to take proper advantage of the services you are offering, or real Google* bots there to help you get your site ranked and visible. (*there are other search engines available) What we don’t want is to allow the bad bots, the scrapers, the false search bots, the automatic bots that are scanning your site for vulnerabilities or the users who are testing your defences manually with hacking tools, picking at your locks. Of all the web traffic hitting your website, the proportion of welcome traffic compared with unwelcome is probably less than 50%!* Use a Web Application Firewall  (WAF) A WAF, such as the cloud service offering from Imperva called Incapsula combines a number of features to provide a complete outer layer of security for your web presence. Using a Web Application Firewall like Incapsula ensures that your website or application is always protected against any type of application layer hacking attempt. Choosing a Web Application Firewall There are many different web application firewall solutions to consider - all with different capabilities. We have looked at the solutions available and have tried out some of the alternatives, but our WAF of choice is definitely Incapsula by Imperva. Incapsula is the only WAF which has been positioned as a leader for the last three consecutive years in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Web Application Firewalls. It has been independently validated as the market leader - and for good reason.Here are a few links to the independent reviews so you can make up your own mind: The Gartner Magic Quadrant for WAF has rated Imperva as the only Leader for three years running, 2014, 2015, and 2016 – Click Here Forrester’s 2015 Wave Report for DDoS Service Providers rates Imperva as having the industry’s strongest current offering – Click Here The 2016 ‘Top10Review’ of DDoS protection rates Imperva as #1, with a Gold Award - Click here

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How Much of Your Web Traffic is Good Traffic?

The recently published Incapsula bot traffic report 2016 has some surprising insights into the good and bad of website traffic hitting your website. On average, automaton or bot traffic now comprises just over 50% of all web traffic. This means that of all the visitors to your website less than half are likely to be actual humans. More worryingly, more than half of the non human traffic, the "bots", are likely to be malicious or "bad bots", overall almost 30% of your traffic is likely to be in this "bad bot" category and the trend is on the up. malicious traffic accounts for almost 30% Imperva Incapsula With Incapsula you can eliminate all unwanted web traffic to keep your website and the data behind it secure, and to increase overall performance. Incapsula is a subscription-based cloud service that's easy to deploy, and according to Gartner is the most effective web application firewall in the market. Download the full Bot Traffic infographic here. You can find out more about the full features of Incapsula and how it works here. Alternatively,  please use the contact form below for more information and to arrange a free trial.

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Google Chrome: SSL Connection Indication

Google and others have been aiming to make the use of website certificates easier, cheaper and therefore more common amongst website providers. The intent being that this makes the internet a safer, more reliable and trustworthy place for everyone. One key issue is making something technically complex, visible and easy to recognise by the average user. It's now very clear that SHA-1 signature algorithm is well and truly compromised and should not be used to issue certificates at all. As a consequence of this, Firefox and Google Chrome now no longer accept older SHA-1 certificates when they encounter them on a website and flag the site as "insecure". It's important that the average user understands what's going on and whether or not they can trust the connection and therefore the website they are looking at. This flagging indication of the status of the SSL connection has undergone a number of iterations in Chrome especially, as the process has been evolving over the past year of so. A recent change in Chrome has removed the capability to immediately see the actual certificate that is being used by a website. Until this latest release, it used to be possible to view the details of the certificate with a couple of clicks of the mouse. In it's place there's a link to "Learn More" which leads the user to a comprehensive explanation of the certificate process. Now it's only by firing up the Developer Tools window that it's possible to see the certificate information.A really detailed explanation of Chrome HTTPS UX and the thinking behind it is on one of Google’s Security Engineer’s blog noncombatant’s blog post. Mozilla and The End of SHA-1 on the Public Web Decoding Chrome’s HTTPS User Interface SHA-1 Is Broken If you need any help or advice regarding SSL certification, please get in touch with our team.

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Are you ready to embrace Travel Technology?

Following on from my previous blogs (Can Travel Agents Really Compete and the Travel Agent’s Survival Guide 2017) we have received a lot of very interesting comments and points for discussion – so thank you to all of you who got in touch. Being a Travel Agent isn’t an easy job. Providing a highly comprehensive, personal level of service is definitely the key to success – but I still stand by the fact that you have to embrace new technologies to make sure you get your message out there to your customers. So – how do you do this? Start with your website When was the last time you updated your site? Does it now look dated? How do you compare to your competitors? These are all valid questions to ask yourself – but more importantly – is your website mobile friendly? If you want to stay ahead of the game, you need a fresh website that provides an excellent user experience, that works across all mobile devices and which inspires your customers to travel. If your website does none of these things – then you need to invest some time and money in this to bring yourself up to date. Your website is literally your biggest sales tool and if it’s done and marketed correctly, customers will come straight to you. I personally would never purchase anything from a business whose website was outdated and difficult to use when there are so many better options out there. Take a look at the website that we recently redeveloped for Rough Guides – how does your website compare to this one? The benefits of redeveloping your website far outweigh any initial outlay so it’s something you should seriously consider. Define your Message and Shout about it As you know, there are so many travel companies out there, all competing for business. Find what sets you apart from your competitors and market the hell out of it using the latest technologies. Whether it is a niche area of expertise, extra levels of service that no-one else provides or something completely different – get that message out there far and wide. Once you have a new website to market, make sure that message is strong and that its also consistent across your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. You will also need to work hard on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), but keep that message unique and strong to really stand out and use Social Media as much as you can. Your new website should be integrated with your social media feeds anyway so this will make this task an easier process. Use Reviews Customer reviews can really make a big difference when it comes to getting new business and technology helps you to get your reviews noticed. Your customers buy from you for a reason. They keep coming back to you because they love the service and expertise that you provide – so why not get them to shout about you too? Everything is on the internet now, and people love reviews. I don’t book any accommodation without checking Trip Advisor first and I wouldn’t employ any tradesperson without seeking positive reviews. The same applies to the travel industry so ask your customers to write reviews and testimonials for your business and get them out there via Facebook, Google and your website. Add an additional level of service Customers love to feel valued. They also love hassle-free travel. You already do all that you can to make the booking process as easy and informative as possible for your customers, but why not go that extra mile? Most people now expect to have everything they need on their mobile device. Consider investing in a Travel Itinerary app for your customers so that they have all of their travel information with them on their mobile wherever they go. The app can also include local tourist information and recommended activities to really enhance their travel experience. This is a great way of showing your customers that you care and that you're a modern, forward-thinking company who is moving with the times.I hope that you find all of this information useful and that it helps you to stay ahead in a very competitive market. If you need any assistance or would like to speak to us about developing a travel website or app, please get in touch with our team.

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Travel Agent’s Survival Guide 2017

It’s safe to say that the travel market is a challenging one. There is so much competition out there and you need to make sure that you’re seen, heard, and more importantly – that you’re the one people think of when they want to book their holiday. So how do you do this? It’s actually not rocket science – it’s more about having the know-how and tools to do what you do best and to shout about it. Following on from my previous blog about traditional travel agencies vs online booking agents, I’ve put together a Travel Agent’s Survival Guide to help you to stay ahead of your competitors. 1. Start with the Facts With so much political unrest and the threat of terrorism, it’s no surprise that people are nervous about travelling to certain destinations. I’m afraid to say that I am one of those people – and whilst I refuse to give into terrorists, I also refuse to put my family in harm’s way. This is a huge reason for people to turn to the traditional travel agent. Arm yourself with the facts. Know about your destinations inside out, and have answers to those all-important questions ready to reassure your customers. If customers feel they can trust you to look after them and their loved ones – they will feel confident to book with you every time. You simply cannot get that level of service online. 2. Go that Extra Mile Unfortunately, good customer service is often hard to find. If that one person goes out of their way to help you – it really stands out. Listen to your customers, give them what they need – and then give them even more. If you provide outstanding service, your customers will shout about you on social media. Ask your customers to rate you on your Facebook Page, on Google and on Twitter. Positive reviews and recommendations are the best form of marketing out there and they're completely free! All you have to do is be excellent at what you’re already doing. 3. Re-educate the Do-It-Yourself Traveller Do-it-yourself travellers tend to use online booking websites because they think it’s easier and saves time – but what if the traveller has special requests or needs to change their booking? The do-it-yourself travellers need to see that it’s actually easier and much more beneficial to go through a travel agent. But how do you re-educate them? In my opinion, the best way to do this is through your marketing (and your customer reviews of course). You need to really showcase your expertise and the benefits of booking through you. Be a one-stop-shop where nothing is too much trouble (even the family with one vegan, one coeliac and a lactose intolerant child). Take the pain out of every element of the booking and you will stand out a mile. 4. Technology, Technology, Technology You have to embrace new technologies. It’s as simple as that. How does your website look to potential customers? Can they find you on Google? Can they use your site easily on mobile devices? If not, then you need to do something about this. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t do their research before going on holiday. Whilst you are the experts and you have all the knowledge to guide your customers, they need to be able to find you online and they need to see, at a glance, what you’re about. Use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Post beautiful images of your destinations to inspire people to travel. Shout about your excellent customer service and knowledge, and have the technology to back this up. Your website needs to be fresh, modern, easy-to-use and mobile friendly. It needs to be inspiring. If it is none of these things – why would customers choose you over your competitors? 5. What about an App? Offering your very own free travel itinerary app shows customers that you care about them. It shows them that you have their best interests at heart and that you want to make their trip as easy and enjoyable as possible. Why wouldn’t your customers want all of their booking information on their mobile phone rather than carrying 20 pieces of paper around with them? Offer this service and it's another string to your bow. All of the above points are, in my opinion, essential for travel agents to not only survive, but to thrive in a challenging market. You know your customers better than anyone but you have to keep up with the latest technology, trends and information to maintain a high level of customer service.

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Can Travel Agencies really compete with big Online Booking Agents?

Booking.com have been given the award for Europe's Leading Online Travel Agency 2016 at the World Travel Awards. Last year they won the award for the World's Leading Online Travel Agency Website. We've decided to take a look at the possible reasons behind this, and if traditional travel agencies can really compete. It’s safe to say that you will have heard of Booking.com. You might have even used it yourself. It is easy to navigate and has everything a traveller could possibly need to plan and book their perfect trip…or does it? Whilst the website is very comprehensive and worthy of its awards, many would argue that the personal touch is still best when they are planning on booking their trip of a lifetime. If you know where you want to go and when, then Booking.com or similar sites are ideal. However, if you are unsure about your destination and would like some advice, or you don’t want the hassle of booking every individual part of your trip yourself, that’s when the traditional Travel Agents come in. Travel Agents can do things that the internet just can’t – but – customers still need to be able to find an agency to speak to.Travel Agents not only sell their holidays, but they also sell expertise and guidance – from the best time of year to visit a particular destination, to the best resorts to go to based on the individual’s needs. Identify what you’re good at – and shout about it! Whether it’s a niche type of holiday you offer, or you go that extra mile to take the hassle out of the booking process, you need to get that message to your customers. How do you stand out in the crowd? Shout about your Strengths – Everywhere! Once you know what sets you apart from your competitors, you need to get that message out to as many potential customers as you can. Use your website, social media and customer newsletters to keep customers and potential customers aware of the services you provide. You can even use an app to get notifications to your customers about news or special offers. Get Your Customers to Help! These days, most people won’t make a purchase or booking without checking reviews. Contact your customers and ask them to post reviews about your services on their social media, on Google and on your Facebook page. Positive reviews are excellent for business, and you can incorporate these into your marketing strategy. If you happen to get any negative reviews – don’t worry! You can also use these to see if there are areas you need to improve on, and then let your customers know that you’ve listened to what they had to say. Embrace New Technologies I know we keep going on about it – but keeping up with the mobile trends is vitally important! Make sure your website is fully functional on mobile devices or your customers might be pushed towards your competitors. Use the Resources Available Most companies do not have the time or money to invest in huge amounts of market research. However, ABTA and Google have released reports into the latest travel booking trends. Study these and make sure you’re doing everything you can to keep up with customer trends.So, to summarise, huge companies with extensive marketing budgets and a huge online presence are hard to compete with if you are targeting the same market share as they are. However, most Travel Agencies that we speak to have a niche offering, and are more about giving customers quality, service, expertise and the personal touch. If you use the research and statistics available, keep up with the latest technology and trends, and continue to provide excellent service - then we think you'll be just fine. If you are struggling to keep up with the latest technology though - please give us a call. We'd be happy to point you in the right direction.

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Travel Agents: Go Mobile or Go Home?

Following the recent article based on the ABTA 2016 report, Google have also released their own statistics which show that 90% of consumers used a desktop computer for holiday bookings, yet they relied heavily on their smartphones for researching prior to making that final booking*.Whilst many users may switch devices simply out of genuine preference or routine, here are few points that I feel, from my experience, are worth mentioning that can help encourage a pleasant end-to-end booking experience on a mobile device with the aim to retaining your visitor: Keep it simple. Less is more when it comes to mobile websites and because of the reduced dimensions, it’s important for the experience to be as straight forward and stress-free as possible. This is particularly important with calendars and menus. Think with your digits. That’s right – your thumbs and fingers. Make sure the “targets” are easily within reach and large enough to be selectable. Keep it concise. There’s no room for waffle on a smaller device. Get to the point and go easy on the text to keep things clean rather than cluttered. The average user’s attention span is incredibly short, so make sure the words you choose are the right ones. Keep it fast. Whilst mobile internet is constantly improving, it’s still considerably slower when Wi-Fi might not be available. We’re an impatient bunch so make sure page loading speeds are kept to a minimum. Another feature that speeds up the process is predictive search and autofill. Keep forms straightforward. When it comes to the booking stage, this can be where most people switch devices or simply switch off. Request the minimum yet most important information where possible. It’s important to optimise usability through the technology available in a smartphone. Taking advantage of features such as GPS to pre-populate forms or splitting forms into steps/stages to give the appearance of less for example, can encourage the user. Keep payment secure and convenient. Provide options for payment methods whilst also keeping the page features to a minimum. Presenting this on a single screen can save additional loading time. To ensure this, take advantage of one tap and drop down options for pre-defined options such as dates or payment type to avert any fiddly typing. When a visitor to your website decides to leave or stay: the mobile user experience is huge factor and must be a positive one to allow a start to finish conversion on that single mobile device. The design and navigation is key. It should encourage users to stay and finish their journey; rather than make them reach for their laptop or plonk themselves in front of their desktop, which can potentially act a distraction sending them off course to another website. This opens up a great opportunity for travel companies to close the gap in what is fast becoming a mobile dominated world. And if your website is already optimised for mobile use and performing well, the next level to consider to further benefit your customers, would be a mobile app. Keeping this streamlined and secure allows for a wonderfully simple end-to-end user experience and would help set travel companies apart from the competition.*Source: Sojern Internal, U.S., H1 2015 vs. H1 2016; Google Internal, U.S., Jun. 2015–Jun. 2016.

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Online Travel Booking Trends 2016

ABTA have now released their report into the holiday habits of UK consumers for 2016 and it is a very interesting read. Despite the ever increasing terrorist threats, UK consumers still want to travel – albeit sometimes to alternative locations – but they still greatly value their annual holidays which is good news for Travel and Tourism organisations. The statistics that interest us most – and which you should pay careful attention to if you’re a travel company yourself – is the method people use to book their holiday. As many as 76% of people booked their holiday online in 2016 with the PC being the most popular choice. 23% booked using a tablet and 13% used their mobile phone. Out of the 13% who used a mobile for their booking – a whopping 56% said that the process was difficult compared to booking on a PC. What does this mean for Travel Companies? You need a strong web presence across all devices If 76% of UK consumers are booking holidays online, you need to make sure that your web presence is strong and that customers can easily find you in the first place – you certainly can’t rely on the remaining 24% calling you or walking through your door.You need a mobile-friendly website which can be used on all devices. 80% of internet users now own a smartphone and the average web activity is now 50.62% mobile. This means that mobile has over taken PC/desktop browsers across the board for the first time since the beginning of the internet and this trend will only continue. If your website isn’t optimised for mobile use, you are missing out on some serious business. You can check if your current site is mobile friendly here. SEO As well as a mobile friendly site, you will need to invest time in SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) as well as your marketing activities to make sure that you appear in relevant internet searches. It is also worth checking to see where you appear in relevant searches. If you do not have access to Google Analytics, the best way of doing this is to use the incognito mode in Google Chrome (so that your previous browsing history and trends do not affect the results). You can do this by: In the top-right corner of the browser window, select the Menu (computer) or More (mobile). Select New Incognito Window(computer) or New incognito tab (mobile). A new window will open with the Incognito icon Once you’re Incognito, carry out a few searches and see if and where you appear, and who your competition is. Make sure the user experience (UX) is seamless People hate websites that are difficult to use. If the website takes too long to load or the information they need isn’t easy to find, they won’t waste time trying to use your site. The average time a user will wait for a page to load is between 0.5 and 2 seconds. People will not return to a website that took more than 4 seconds to load Amazon found every 100ms of page delay cost them 1% in sales. A broker could lose $4 million in revenues per millisecond if their electronic trading platform is 5 milliseconds behind the competition. Source: http://blog.gigaspaces.com/amazon-found-every-100ms-of-latency-cost-them-1-in-sales/ You must make sure that your website provides the best user experience (UX) possible to make booking with you a simple, enjoyable process. Have you tried using your own site? Give it a go and see if you need to make any improvements. Stay on the right side of Google You should make sure that you have a valid SSL certificate on your website. If you’re not sure – just take a look at your URL. If it says Https you’re good to go – if it just says http then you need to get a certificate and have it installed by your web providers. 25% of SSL-enabled websites sit within the page-1 results on google. You are penalised by google if your website doesn’t sit within their guidelines and in 2017 if you’re not on SSL it’ll be game over for your SEO. Online Booking should be easy This ties in with the user experience and sounds straight forward – but unfortunately it often is not. If booking a holiday ends up being stressful – it defeats the object of what the consumer is trying to achieve! Your website should have an easy-to-use booking engine that allows the customer to find, book and pay for the holiday of their choice. The PC is still the most favourable choice of device for booking holidays online because people find it easier – but it is possible to allow your customers to book with you on their mobile – and to provide an enjoyable experience of this (which many holiday companies seem to fail on).  To back this up, even further, Google have released their own report which shows that consumers carry out most of their research on their mobile device. On weekends, mobile queries related to travel outweigh those on desktops. They then tend to revert back to their desktop to make the actual booking though. You can definitely use this statistic to your advantage - investing in a user-friendly mobile booking system could set you far ahead of the competition. Virtual Tours Another option to consider is adding an additional dimension to your website. If you can allow customers to virtually ‘walk through’ your resorts to really get a feel for the place they are thinking of booking and spending their hard-earned cash on – wouldn’t this increase your bookings? Planning for 2017 Going forward in 2017, the trends show that accelerated mobile pages (AMP) are going to be huge for news/article websites and they will help to greatly improve SEO. There will also be more focus on interactive content, videos and illustrations, with the goal being to provide maximum amount of information in a short space of time. If your website contains reams of text – it’s time for a change. All of these points need to be considered carefully so you can make sure you keep up with the holiday booking trends which are turning increasingly online, increasingly mobile and need to be delivered as quickly as possible to customers. If you need any advice, please get in touch with our Travel Development team – we’d love to help you achieve your goals for 2017.

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How to use technology to boost travel sales

Have you ever wondered what you can do to improve your travel agency's online marketing and get customers to come to you? It may seem like a pretty complicated process to keep up with your competitors in the current climate, but there are some simple things that you can do to help your business stand out and to improve your online sales. Start with your website It amazes me how many companies out there do not realise the importance or power of a website, even though the business owners do the majority of their own personal shopping/booking online now. If you don't believe you that your travel website is an important tool - then you are literally cutting yourself out of a large part of the market share immediately. Your website can be the most powerful sales tool for your business - if it is done right. Ask yourself the following questions to see if you're on the right track: Do you have a responsive travel website? 148.3 million travel bookings are now made online each year. By 2017 it is predicted that a quarter of all online bookings will be made on a mobile device. To stay in the game and increase travel bookings, you need to have a travel website which can be found easily by your potential customers – and it MUST be mobile friendly. Can your website be viewed on all mobile devices? You can easily check this here. Is your web hosting adequate? You also need to make sure you have adequate website hosting to cope with web traffic and prevent slow page loading speeds (if you’re like me you simply don’t have the time to wait for a page to load – you will just move onto a different website which can quickly provide what you need). There are loads of hosting providers out there – but please remember that you get what you pay for! Cheap web hosting can lead to poor website speeds and vulnerability. How easy is it to find the right information on your site? We come across so many websites that have been filled with keywords for SEO or are littered with information on the home page. Business owners are often too close and can’t see the potential issues with this. If I land on a website and can’t find what I am looking for quickly, I will not buy from that company. User experience and ease of use is so important to your travel website design and simplicity is key. You must make it easy for your customers to find what they’re looking for. Take your website visitors on a journey. Show them photos to inspire them to travel and make the online booking process seamless. Make sure you have clear call-to-actions to ensure that you’re not missing out on any opportunities. A good way to find out about user experience is to ask someone you know to try out your site and provide honest feedback. How easy is it for your customers to book online? Providing an online booking service for your customers is not as difficult as you might think, and it is definitely something that you should consider. We live in a technical age – people like to buy online and book trips without ever having to speak to anyone. If you don’t offer this on your website, you are again cutting yourself out of some of the market share.A real-time online booking system greatly improves the customer experience and makes it much more likely for you to get the sale. Does your travel website integrate with social media? Facebook and Instagram are becoming the most used social media platforms for businesses to use to increase sales - and this is especially true for the travel industry. You need to use this and keep up with the trends. Create a Facebook page for your business, link it to your website and if you have the budget, you can look at Facebook advertising. You should also integrate your site with social media so that your customers can share what they like about your website with their social media contacts. Do you have a travel app? Another area to consider is whether or not a travel app will be beneficial to your business. A travel app can be used to make life easier for your customers and can encourage future sales. A good example of this is a Travel Itinerary App where you can provide all of your customer's individual itineraries on their smartphone and let them know about nearby locations and experiences. You can even go one step further and allow additional bookings from the app for tours etc. Put yourself in your customer's place Please ask yourself all of the above questions and try to look at your website from a customer's perspective - not your own. If your travel website is not bringing in the sales, there are things you can do to change this and this article will hopefully help you to get started. If you do need any assistance, please feel free to get in touch.

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Is your website safe?

DDoS attacks are increasing at an alarming rate and are being used by data thieves and hackers to prevent you from doing business online. If you are hit by a DDoS attack, the likelihood is that you will end up with a big dent in not only your revenue but your reputation too,  and you may even have to replace hardware or software. Recovery from a DDoS attack can be a lengthy process. Don't wait until you've been hit by a DDoS attack! Whether you’re an enterprise, e-commerce business, local organisation, or government office—it’s merely a matter of time before you’re going to have to deal with the inevitable DDoS attack. The good news is that there are steps you can take to protect your websites and ensure that you have adequate defences in place. Imperva have put together a practical guide for planning and executing a DDoS response plan. Please fill out the form below for your free copy.

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Calling all brilliant Developers!

It’s no secret that in this digital era, the current demand for developers is off the scale when compared to the available supply: There simply aren’t enough to go round. Over the last couple of months, Ecommnet has been through the process of seeking a new frontend developer and full stack developer, and we have experienced this challenge first-hand. For what has previously been a very straightforward and relatively short process has drawn out to weeks of some, but very little progression and much frustration.Despite our small size as a development company, it’s no reflection on our offering or capabilities. We work on projects with some amazing national and international clients that even larger dev-houses could only dream of working with. So here’s the deal, we need to recruit new staff to carry out a multitude of frontend and backend development tasks; from design to implementation of web pages and apps, all whilst maintaining a mobile first approach for both existing and new projects. It’s worth noting that a streak of unmatched genius wouldn’t go a miss as well as the ability to make a cracking round of hot beverages. On further review, it turns out that finding this mythical being is not so easy, so I ask myself the inevitable: Do I need to seek help with this? Should I speak to the gods? Are magic powers permitted? What/who can I offer up as a small sacrifice? The recruitment process for Ecommnet starts off in-house, which is how we (and most other small companies) like it. Particularly if it’s worked well before. We’re keen to maintain in control of this so we place the obligatory, polite yet firm (and completely ignored) “No Agencies, Please” at the footer of the advert. But it doesn’t take long before the phone starts to ring – and unfortunately it’s not an abundance of eager applicants. The “thanks but no thanks” process repeats itself and we’re still being inundated by persistent recruiters. Sometimes the same ones. No matter what we say to them they still keep calling - often just hoping that someone else will pick up the phone and give them a different answer. We do not work this way and can't stand dishonesty - so if you're from an agency and are thinking about calling us - please don't or at least offer a refreshing approach!We decided to take a look at our job advert today to see if tweaking the requirements would get a better response - and upon reviewing the existing advert, here’s what we found out: It is so BORING! Even we didn’t find it interesting as it didn't begin to show what working at Ecommnet is really like. So if you're a Front End Developer or Full Stack Developer and you’d like to work in a fabulous office on the outskirts of Newcastle with great views, a relatively stress free commute, and a pub and brilliant cafe next door (regular team lunches are mandatory!), take a look at our new job advert!

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Mobile Technology and Travel

Some years ago, an essential travel checklist may have looked something like this: Passport Airline boarding tickets Hotel check-in documents Guide book Map Currency Camera/Video Camera Indeed these lists still might exist, however, the physical appearance of the items within have undoubtedly transformed (and ultimately left more room for duty-free purchases). It’s safe to say that for most, the era of carting most of these listed items about and rummaging through luggage in a panic to locate them is extinct. The reason? Mobile technology. It’s portable, convenient and always in your possession; taking the form of a smartphone or tablet. Mobile technology allows us to be connected 24/7, and consequently, the relationship between travel and technology has become closer than ever. More and more businesses are increasingly adapting strategies to this behaviour so that they can reach customers on whole new level. Due to these developments, travel is a very different experience today from what it once was. Mobile devices have not only affected what you bring on your travels, they completely alter the way that trips are approached as well as experienced. They are involved during all phases relative to the trip; having an increasing impact on the way the travel industry works. The ease of access to extensive information at our fingertips removes the need for extensive planning; the ability to locate and book hotels, restaurants or attractions can be done immediately and on-the-go, just a few days in advance. What should travel and tourism businesses do to keep up? As of 2015, mobile internet user penetration sat at just over 52% and the outlook suggests that this will continue to rise. This means that companies who have a stronger mobile presence and take the opportunity to engage and interact with customers in emerging technology environments, have a higher chance of being successful. It’s therefore important for businesses to now adopt a “Mobile-First” approach as users lean towards their phone and tablets as primary vehicles of interacting with the internet and apps. Consider the follow questions as a starting point: Is my website optimised for mobile use?  If not, this is a fundamental step in ensuring you’re competitive. Is it easy to navigate and access information?  Mobile devices mean smaller dimensions. Less is more when considering designs for user interfaces but not compromising the quality of information. How is my business engaging with customers?  Social media plays huge role in mobile usage. Having an active Facebook or Twitter account is a great way to interact with customers as well as receive feedback. What about an app and what’s the difference?  This depends on the overall requirement and objective. Take a look at this recent entry on the differences between Mobile Apps and Mobile Websites What Next? If you’re thinking of a new website that’s geared towards mobile users or perhaps an app to engage with customers and improve the overall customer experience for your travellers, please get in touch. You can find some examples of our travel and tourism solutions by clicking the button below.

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5 Reasons why you should choose app development to promote tourism

Over a quarter of the global population now use smartphones and the majority of consumers expect to have everything they need readily available on their mobile device. The same requirements apply to tourists and the travel & tourism industry is thriving. According to the World Tourism Organisation, international tourist arrivals grew by 4.4% in 2015 to reach a total of 1,184 million (that's 50 million more than in 2014!). I recently visited a zoo (which is one of my favourite visitor attractions in the UK). I have been to this zoo a few times, but there was one thing that spoiled the visitor experience for me. There was no information around the zoo about what is on throughout the day and there was no map. The only thing available to buy was a large book all about the zoo - which was a pain to carry around all day. I found that I had to keep going right back to the visitor desk to find out about the feeding times and activities, and I ended up taking a photo of a poster on my mobile so that I could have the information with me. The answer to this problem seems plain and simple - an app would greatly improve my visitor experience! If you are still opting for expensive paper-based leaflets and maps, here are 5 reasons why you should choose a tourism app to promote your local region or visitor attraction. 1. Attract more visitors: Using a tourism app to promote your local region or tourist attraction provides a new way of communicating with a much larger audience. You can showcase everything you have to offer, as well as presenting your attraction in a modern way that is in-keeping with their needs which helps to attract more visitors. 2. Enhance the visitor experience: People use smartphones to enhance their travelling experience on a daily basis which provides an excellent opportunity for you to get in front of them and help them discover everything your region/attraction has to offer. From visitor information to local history and events - you can provide everything they need at the touch of a button.  3. Provide easy access to visitor information As I said before, easy access to information such as maps and daily activities can really make a huge difference to the visitor experience. With a tourism app, your visitors can have real-time access to all of the relevant information they need to make their visit more enjoyable. 4. Add the fun factor As well as providing all of the information your visitors need, adding a fun, competitive element to your app in the form of interactive games & quizzes can help to engage families and generate repeat & longer visits. 5. Reduce printing costs! Every visitor attraction I have ever been to seems to rely on printed material to get information in front of its customers. Whether that's in the form of a leaflet, map or visitor guide book - all of these must cost a fair amount of money. Investing in an app can reduce these costs as you can provide everything your visitors need on their smartphone. Don't get left behind! What I'm trying to tell you is don't get left behind! Everything these days is mobile - and if your competitors offer an app service, they are already way ahead of you. If you're still not convinced, try this interactive online tool to see what your own app could look like and get in touch with us to see how much difference an app could make to you.

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The Development Budget Reveal

Why you need to tell your developer how much you’re prepared to spend. So tell me what’s your budget for this project? How often have you had that question answered with either a blank stare or a more direct, “we’re not prepared to tell you”, or “that’s for you to tell us?” many times I guess, I certainly have. You have to think why prospective customers refuse to reveal what their budget constraints are, they will have them, they all do. For some it’s a fear that as a developer you’re just going to put your price up to a figure equal to or just below any number they give you. For others there may be a genuine reason for not telling you, they may not have thought about it sufficiently. For some too they may just be being awkward and think by not telling you they retain some control over the price negotiation. All of them are misguided and so are you if you let them get away with not revealing what a realistic budget might be. It’s a Question of Worth If, as a customer, you are not able to or don’t want to describe what you want in terms of what it’s worth to the business, then I as a supplier can’t match your expectations in any way. If you as a supplier can't describe what you expect to be able to achieve to meet your customer’s expectations and what it may mean to their business, then you can’t possibly describe the value you’re trying to give, and therefore the price. In a really productive project, both customer and supplier need to share the objective of the business, that means sharing what it’s worth to the business and how best and what it will cost to achieve those goals. If you’re not prepared to trust one another and share all the relevant information, then it's highly likely the relationship will not get the best out of each other and expectations will not be met. Someone, and probably both of you will end up disappointed. The Keys to Success Here at Ecommnet we pride ourselves in getting to know the customers we work with and we seek to adopt their business objectives and apply our skills to deliver technology solutions that help meet them. We measure our success based on how successful our clients are. Need web development or advice?

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Customise your own Tourism App!

We've recently launched a new online tool to help you see what your own customised tourism app could look like. The tool allows you to upload your own logo and background image. You can also choose all of your own colours to see exactly what your own app could look like. We're looking for honest feedback on this (both good and bad!) so please take a look, get creative and let us know what you think!

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Mobile App Development vs Mobile Website – Which is best for you?

A mobile website is an absolute must for all businesses if they want to succeed online – but what’s the difference between a mobile app and a mobile website – and more importantly do you need both?Following on from my previous blog “Do I need an app for my business?” it’s important to understand that an app is not suitable for all businesses. You need a mobile website as mobile browsing is now the most popular choice for consumers, but there are some distinct differences between a mobile app and a mobile website. Which one is right for you depends on your business and what you want to achieve. What’s the difference between a mobile app and a mobile website? A mobile website is similar to any other website – but it is designed to be responsive and work well on smaller screens with touch-screen capability.  A mobile app is a software application developed specifically for use on smartphones and tablets and is platform specific. The main advantages of a mobile website: Searchability – Mobile websites appear in search results and can be found easily by customers Compatibility – Mobile websites are compatible across many different mobile devices whereas a different app has to be developed for each platform (Apple/Windows/Android etc) Instant access – A mobile website can be viewed instantly by your customers (whereas an app must be downloaded first) Easy to update – Mobile websites can be updated quickly and easily Time and Cost – It costs considerably less to develop and support a mobile website than an app. A mobile website has many advantages, but a mobile app makes sense for certain businesses and can be an essential business tool.  Many consumers prefer mobile applications because of their convenience (think Facebook, banking apps, Amazon etc – do you use their mobile site or go straight to their app for ease?) The main advantages of a mobile app: Speed and performance - Native applications are generally faster than websites Offline availability – Mobile websites are only accessible with an internet connection. As an app is downloaded to the user’s device, even  if they’re in a low/no signal area, they can still use the app offline and it will sync when it regains connectivity Interactive functionality - Games and other interactive features work better in apps than on the web Regular use and personalisation - If your users intend to use the service regularly, users will always prefer to have an app instead of using a website Complex calculations – An app is useful for anything that requires a lot of power, reporting and graphing etc Other advantages of a business app can be found here. When is an app the right choice? A mobile application is a good choice if you expect customers to regularly use your service or demand functionality that a mobile website cannot easily provide. A dedicated app can enhance your user experience, which will help keep customers engaged and can have a direct effect on revenue.  My advice – invest in a mobile-friendly website first and then look at the benefits of an app when your service requires more advanced features.

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How a travel app can enhance the travel experience for your customers

As the world becomes more and more engaged with a lifestyle influenced by digital, the need for companies to conform is higher than ever. Whilst this can be applied generally, it has never been truer for the travel and tourism industry. A few weeks back, I talked about how mobile technology impacted and changed the way we travel. To follow on from this, I thought it would be useful to discuss an example. *drum roll*Scott Dunn, a luxury tailor-made travel provider came to Ecommnet with the need to engage and communicate further with their customers; by adding a fresh layer to their digital strategy through means of an itinerary app. This app would not only allow customers to access their bespoke travel itinerary schedule at a glance but also create a travel journal to capture and share experiences with friends and family – all on the go. Whilst travel and holidays are exciting occasions; the organising, checking and double checking, to the point of developing OCD, leading up to the trip can be extremely stressful. For companies like Scott Dunn, the need to eliminate this is key. Therefore, when developing an app, a positive user experience and usability is paramount. It’s important to maintain the quality reflected in an organisations website and their overall brand but also not to over complicate things. When it comes to the design, less is more. A user interface with clear navigation, providing easy access to the useful and informative core features.Scott Dunn required an app to act as an exclusive commodity for their travellers, their digital port-of-call, if you will. If you recall the travel essentials checklist list I began with in the last article and how it has condensed through the world’s conversion to digital, this is exactly how Scott Dunn & Ecommnet went about the task at hand: making it a one stop shop of useful information and more importantly, one that customers wanted to utilise. The convenience for the customer goes beyond just the app’s features however. The customer itinerary is available and visible at a glance; detailed flight information, hotels, transfers and experiences during the trip. The best part is that it’s completely low maintenance for the customer. All of the information is downloaded automatically and kept fully up to date, even when changed; so there is no manual input required on the customer’s part. And if there’s a worry about data usage whilst abroad – the data is cached and available offline.The need for feedback plays a big part for both travellers and companies. Both positive and negative reviews help shape a customer’s decision to visit a particular attraction – or not. The Scott Dunn app provides this exact facility as well as allowing customers to view other users’ journals and overall experience for further inspiration. To participate, using their existing itinerary, users can send travel postcards populated by their destinations which go towards building their own unique travel journal which too can be shared with other Scott Dunn customers as well as through social media and selected individual contacts. In turn, Scott Dunn benefit from high quality user generated content as well as promoting brand awareness.  In Summary: The travel and tourism industry need to keep up with digital trends. Mobile technology is used worldwide to make people's lives easier and to help them stay in touch with friends and family - and this can (and should) be applied to the travel & tourism industry. Providing an extra layer to your digital strategy by putting the user experience at the forefront and simplifying travel via a mobile travel app is definitely the way forward. Get rid of piles of paperwork for itinerary and give your customers everything they need on their smartphone - where they now expect things to be.

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