Oct 25, 2021
8 mins read
This study aimed at determining the positioning of domestic air travel brands in India. A set of nine brands was finalized based on a preliminary exploration, including a mix of airline companies and flight aggregators - Indigo, Jet Airways, Makemytrip, Yatra, Goibibo, Paytm, Cleartrip, Google Flights, and TripAdvisor. A two-dimensional brand positioning graph was plotted using the Multidimensional Scaling technique. Our study also investigated other aspects of consumer behavior while booking air travel, such as do users explore different options or buy their tickets from the first site they visit, whether consumers prefer airline websites or aggregators, what factors are the most influential in determining the choice of air travel brands and if social media had a role to play in the choice that consumers make.
The perceptual map showed four clear groups. The flight aggregators formed a cluster, and so did the airline companies. Google Flights and Paytm, an online payments company that has ventured into air travel booking stood out in distinct positions. As regards other findings, we found that social media played a limited role in the choice of travel sites and that most respondents chose a travel brand after looking at two or more options to compare. Airline websites or apps were the first choices followed by aggregator sites/apps. Price and Convenience were the most valuable factors dictating choice. We expect that these findings will help both airlines and aggregators target customers with better value-propositions in line with consumer perceptions.
Keywords: Multidimensional Scaling, Travel brands, Airlines, India, Positioning.
Purpose of the Study
A number of air travel brands have emerged in the market in recent years. For the purpose of this study, we shall focus not just on traditional airline companies, but also on new players such as air-ticket aggregators which are increasingly emerging as popular and convenient platforms for comparing fares and booking tickets. The reason behind the entry of these new players in the market is also the adoption of mobile shopping by consumers. Some reasons for the adoption of mobile shopping include Price Saving, Variety / Choice, and Convenience. Retailers can provide mobile-exclusive offers and can also exclusive variety/choice for consumers who shop from mobile.
The abundance of air travel brands in the market has opened an avenue for research, where it becomes interesting to determine the positioning of these brands in the market and their perception among consumers. The Internet has empowered consumers to identify, customize and purchase travel-related products and services. A whole new area is open for researchers to understand this area and communicate the significance of new technologies and try to forecast how things will move from here.
A lot of literature exists in the field of air travel, such as what drives consumers to purchase airline tickets, which factors are the most important when it comes to buying tickets after choosing from different available brands in the market, and so on. In this report, we draw from various resources that shed light on some of the important aspects of this study.
For the purpose of this study, we shall take into consideration only the online purchase of travel tickets and not offline. This is because many brands that we have selected for the purpose of this study are online platforms like- MakeMyTrip and GoIbibo. Other brands such as traditional airlines have offline ticket booking options as well. But as stated earlier, we shall focus specifically on online ticket booking behavior. Let us start by exploring, what makes customers buy air travel tickets online. A study states that- perceived value is the main antecedent of online purchase intention for travel products, and so it is recommended that the managers of travel websites direct their marketing strategies towards creating and maintaining consumers' maximal perceived value in the online transactions. What is meant by perceived value here is the money paid by the customer and the efforts made by him/her in lieu of the risk that is present in online transactions.
Some other points worth noting have been highlighted by different authors in their work online shopping trend is dependent on various sub-processes such as navigation, searching for information, online transactions, or customer interactions (Lee and Lin, 2005). Online travel purchase is also dependent on the design and layout of the website, service quality (Yi and Gong, 2008), and availability of information (Jeong, Oh, and Gregoire, 2003). So, these points can be taken care of while designing online travel ticket purchasing platforms by different brands.
Once we established what drives consumers towards online travel ticket purchasing, let us focus on what makes a customer choose one particular brand over all others when it comes to domestic air travel in India. An interesting study by Escobar-Rodríguez & Carvajal-Trujillo (2013) states in its findings that the main predictors of online purchase intention are, in order of relevance: habit; price saving; performance expectancy; and facilitating conditions. Thus, online purchase intention depends on the individual habit of using the website; the price saving obtained indirect purchase of airline tickets directly from airline company websites; the levels of performance expected by the consumer in completing the online transaction; and the facilitating conditions available. This brings up an interesting point because during data collection when we asked the respondents regarding their preferred air travel brands, many of them took one name- Indigo and stated that they have been using Indigo to travel for a while now and are habituated to it. So when it comes to buying tickets, they do not even try to explore other options, but straightaway buy tickets from Indigo.
Delving further into what makes some brands more appealing than others, we came across a study by Crespo-Almendros, & Del Barrio-García, (2016) that concludes, that online sales promotions concerning an airline ticket are particularly appropriate when aimed at users who are relatively new to Internet browsing. For this group, monetary online sales promotions are the most appealing, while for those users with a high level of experience of the Internet, nonmonetary online sales promotions will be the most effective. This is an interesting finding and may help marketing professionals design their campaigns according to the different target groups they are aiming at.
This research paper also aims to find out different factors that consumers take into account while booking air travel tickets. And thus give an idea to the industry professionals about the various sought-after factors based on which, consumers decide their preferred air travel brand.
The respondent base for this research was restricted to students of Indian Institute of Management Indore (an Indian business school), between the age brackets of 18-24 years who traveled by air. The aim of this study was to find out the perception of users regarding different air travel brands.
The data collection process was divided into two phases. The first phase comprised exploratory research through qualitative methods. A set of 18 respondents were interviewed regarding which website/app they used for booking domestic air tickets.
The findings of this first phase of data collection have been attached along with this document. Some interesting comments (although respondents were not explicitly asked for comments) have been mentioned as well. The most popular names that surfaced were Indigo (airline) and Makemytrip (an aggregator) with 27% and 24% of the sample mentioning them. The findings of this first phase of data collection helped us to zero into a few more air travel brands on which we would further conduct our study to determine how they were positioned in the market. These brands were Indigo, Jet Airways, MakeMyTrip, Yatra, GoIbibo, Paytm, ClearTrip, and Google Flights. In addition to these brands, we added TripAdvisor to our dataset as well. The reason for its inclusion was that TripAdvisor is one of the biggest global travel brands and we wanted to compare how it fared in comparison with the Indian brands. Xiang, Z., & Gretzel, U. (2010) mention TripAdvisor in their work “Role of social media in online travel information search.” They say that some websites are ‘‘ubiquitous’’ in online travel information search in that they occur everywhere (i.e., on different search results pages in Google and for different tourist destinations) no matter what search keywords a traveler uses, and that one such widely used website is TripAdvisor.
The second phase of data collection consisted of gathering both qualitative and quantitative data through a questionnaire. A dataset of 9 brands was finalized and a total of 45 respondents were requested to fill the questionnaire that aimed to find out the perception of different travel brands in the market and also garner some information regarding consumer behavior.
The first question of the questionnaire was compulsory and consisted of a 9*9 matrix where participants were asked how similar or different they perceived a particular pair of brands to be. Indigo and Jet were airline brands and others were aggregator brands.
Limitations of the study
The sample size was limited to students of the Indian Institute of Management Indore. There are many places in the country that are connected to Indore only via Indigo flights. This could be one of the reasons why Indigo was one of the most preferred brands. If we conduct the same experiment in different geographical locations, we might get different results.
A study by Wen, C. H., & Yeh, W. Y. (2010) states that passenger perceptions of airlines are substantially different across air routes.
The airline companies such as Indigo and Jet Airways are perceived as the most valuable and preferred brands with respect to all flight aggregators. Also, brands like Paytm have yet to make an impression in the minds of the customers regarding the air ticket booking services they offer. This can be a helpful study for brands like Paytm which may design their marketing campaigns keeping in mind that they must focus on projecting themselves as a reliable domestic air travel brand in the Indian market.