Advertising industry heavyweight Rory Sutherland has warned businesses against assuming allowing accountants to run their business will drive profits.
Speaking at the Abta Travel Convention in Seville, Sutherland, vice chair of O&M Group, said too often economists prioritise cutting out the middleman to drive efficiencies, but that it often did not result in sales.
“There is an assumption people are only driven by price,” he said, highlighting that most technological innovation recently – such as Uber – had been driven by phycology rather than efficiency.
“Too often it is assumed that people’s behaviour reflects what they actually want, and that is true of travel websites.
“The frustration people have with travel is uncertainty, rather than things like delays.”
He said on online booking sites cost comparison was often made easy for the user, but quality comparison was not.
“There is far more intelligent stuff that could be done,” he said, adding that the need to maximise collective behaviour often led to decisions by an individual being “messy”.
“The airline industry is being forced by web designers into a race to the bottom.
“Economists and Silicon Valley are trying to get rid of middlemen, but actually they provide trust and keep the market honest.”
Sutherland’s final remark was: “Be careful about allowing your business to be run by accountants and procurement experts, as they want to optimise the efficiency of a one-off transaction, which is in conflict with creating brand loyalty and trust - which is where profit comes from.”