TD Visa pushes Web boundaries with incentive site

Choice, ease of use and speed are the leading features sought by online shoppers when they surf the Web.

These were the basic points that TD Financial Group followed as well when it decided to revamp its travel booking Web site for the banks Visa travel rewards clients.

The new TD Visa Travel Rewards Centre, according to bank representatives, now provides TD Gold Travel Visa and TD Business Travel Visa cardholders with access to more flight, hotel booking and auto rental choices than the bank’s previous website.

TD’s travel reward site enables holders of these Visa cards to book flight using rewards points the have accumulated on the credit cards.

“Our clients now have greater options available to them and have a much easier and faster time accessing them,” says Carolyn Suter, product manager for TD Visa.

She said this was achieved by replacing the older system based on a single distributor model to a site that is able to access information directly from websites of airlines, hotels and other companies. “By going direct to the source we are able to provide our clients with a greater array of up-to-date bargains.”

The new site also contains improve user interface feature for easier access and navigation, Suter said.

Previously, the banks travel rewards Web site accessed information on such items as flight schedules and prices or hotel room availability from the database of Sabre Holdings Corp., a global distributor and developer of travel and retail products.

Sabre enables travel agents and companies such as TD booking information around the world through its global distribution system (GDS)

The system includes more than 400 airlines, approximately 60,000 hotels, 53 car rental companies, nine cruise lines, 36 railroad and 232 tour operators.

Unfortunately, TD found out that its clients wanted more options that the system could provide, according to Dean Dacko, vice-president of travel solutions for Canadian arm of global marketing firm Carlson Marketing.

Carlson developed TD’s original and new travel rewards Web site.

“The Sabre GDS-based site was connected to a single pipe of information. The new website is hooked up to a multitude of sources,” Dacko said.

Both sites operate at roughly the same speed, but the main advantage of the new set-up is the range of choice and lower cost.

By connecting to the official Web sites of the service providers, Dacko said, TD clients are able to access information that was previously “invisible to them on the GDS system”.

“For instance, some hotels or airlines would choose to keep information about their lower bargain rates on their proprietary sites,” he said.

By connecting to the provider’s Web sites, TD clients also obtain “more detailed information on such items as flight availability and alternative flight options.”

The switch, he said, was a result on regular customer polls that TD took. “The message was clear clients were saying ‘give us what we want at the lowest possible price.'”

All Web sites need to provide users with three basic elements, quick access, ease of use and variety of choice, according to a Toronto-based website developer and online marketing expert.

“User don’t want to have to relearn how to use the computer and they want to get what they want in as few clicks as possible,” says Nick Dumitru creative director for Basis.

He said site developers have to be careful not to waste what he calls a surfer’s “tolerance capital” or the estimated time that person is believed to allocate for his search.

Typically, he said, after three to four clicks on a page people start going for the site’s search function if they haven’t found what they are looking for. “Customers get turned off and move on to another site after futile viewing of three or four pages.”

The TD travel rewards site might have a stronger hold on its viewers because they are more like captive audience who must access the site to redeem the rewards, Dumitru said.

Still, TD has to ensure that the site “associates with the bank’s brand.”

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