Eurostar boosts online marketing

Cross-channel passenger rail operator Eurostar has appointed online consultancy Clarity to advise it on its new media business strategy.

Although the company has made no definite commitment to e-commerce, the agency is expected to examine the feasibility of introducing online ticket ordering for its rail fares and other package holiday deals which are detailed on its site.

Clarity chairman Martin Chilcott says: “So far, much of the focus for online travel has been centred on the airline market. However, Eurostar has demonstrated its clear understanding of the huge potential for generating revenue online.”

The agency will also concentrate on how to develop an online customer loyalty programme as part of Eurostar’s frequent traveller programme, as well as promoting special offers to customers through the Internet.

Clarity (www.marketing.co.uk) is thought to have been appointed without a formal pitch. It lists Railtrack on a client list which also includes BT, The Carphone Warehouse, Hutchison Telecom, Royal & Sun Alliance and Waterstone’s.

The high-speed rail operator’s existing Website (www.eurostar. com) attracts about 2,000 visits a day. The site, originally built by Start Design, was designed as an information rather than a “sales site” and has not been aggressively promoted, the rail operator concedes.

“We realise the Internet has added potential in strategic marketing and commercial terms,” says Ian Rogers, head of direct sales for Eurostar. “Effective product and brand differentiation are the sources of Eurostar’s existing competitive advantage. We now want to move forward and achieve similar results online.”

UK retailers are missing out on the Internet, according to the latest report from Fletcher Research. The study estimates the total value of online sales in the UK last year, excluding financial services, stood at a modest 230m.

UK retailers are either ignoring e-commerce or under-exploiting their e-commerce sites by failing to acquire and maintain an active online customer base, concludes the report.

US retailers have already “stolen a march in sectors such as computing and books by offering better service and better value for money”, according to Fletcher Research.

Factfile, page 36.

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