Before the internet age, booking travel was a tedious process. Either you could shell out for a travel agent to do the legwork for you, or you had no choice but to undergo the time-consuming process of calling airlines and hotels, comparing prices, and determining travel times based on all other factors.
Thankfully, things have changed over the last couple of decades. Most people couldn’t imagine planning a trip without using cost-compare websites, review platforms, and seeking online recommendations for restaurants or fun things to do in different areas. In the last few years, the travel industry has gone beyond the web, embracing mobile platforms and innovative technology. Here are five ways the industry is using new tech to engage customers.
Comprehensive Mobile Apps Make Travel Easier Than Ever
When it comes to airlines, hotels, and other travel services, the industry has embraced the use of mobile apps, which customers can use in a variety of ways. Airline apps let travelers book flights, check in, and flash their digital boarding pass. Hotels offer similar options, with some even using room key apps. These platforms also come in handy when things don’t go according to plan, with instant alerts letting customers know about gate changes or delays.
In the current environment, a fully functional app isn’t just nice to have – it’s a necessity. In early 2018, 77% of Americans owned a smartphone, and the majority of internet usage comes from mobile platforms. A good travel app should be easy to navigate, making it simple to compare, book, and pay for services.
Aim for A Cohesive Cross-Platform Experience
A well-developed app is a good start, but don’t forget that in this ultra-connected age of technology, most people have more than one device. In fact, the average consumer owns a whopping 7.2 internet-connected devices.
While this provides travel brands with even more opportunities to engage with customers, it can also lead to a disruption in services if the experience doesn’t track across all platforms. If a frequent flyer can book a trip with cash on the app but needs to use the website to redeem miles, that’s not an ideal experience. Optimized smartphone options need to work in synch with tablets, computers, and even other internet-connected devices like smartwatches.
Utilize Emerging Tech to Keep Engagement High
As anyone in the travel industry knows, technology moves fast. Every year there’s a better, more powerful smartphone, a new wave of IoT devices, and a speedier service to connect them all. Marketers need to stay on top of evolving trends in the tech and mobile fields in order to keep up with customers moving on to the next thing.
There are a couple of emerging technologies that travel marketers should pay especially close attention to: voice control and 5G data networks. Millions of people now have voice-activated speakers and devices, and companies like Uber have already teamed up with Amazon’s Alexa to let people order a car without needing to type a thing. This voice-activated experience, much like the mobile experience in general, needs to be consistent across devices, so that whether at home or on the road, customers know what commands to use to get something done. And with the launch of the faster-than-ever 5G mobile data network on the horizon, travel companies should be ready to offer even more productive mobile experiences to consumers.
Artificial Intelligence Keeps Customers Connected
AI is necessary in almost all aspects of marketing, and the travel industry is no exception. Millennials in particular tend to avoid talking on the phone, making competent messaging apps and chat bots necessary for that ever-important group.
The travel website Expedia has embraced AI in meaningful ways, allowing customers to send a quick message over a variety of apps to cancel or change plans. According to Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, “For me to be able to message Expedia on [Facebook] Messenger or text… ‘cancel my hotel booking in New York next week,’ is a much more delightful experience than calling or even getting on the website.” This sentiment was echoed by Altimeter CEO Brad Gerstner: “This idea that we’re going backwards instead of forwards, that we are going to re-engage all these human offline agents to do this, I think, personally, is unlikely… [Expedia] knows my preferences, they know how often I book, they own my calendar. Their ability to do predictive and suggestive search is incredible.”
Data Profiles Provide a Personalized Travel Experience
It’s something all skilled marketers know: even with the use of AI and other technical systems, customers still want a personalized experience. Just like any other consumer-facing industry, travel providers should leverage customers’ history and user details to make specific recommendations and provide useful options.
People traveling for business tend to have different priorities than those traveling for leisure; the former is more focused on saving time, while the latter might be on a stricter budget. Families with children, groups of adults, couples, and solo adventurers each have their own preferences. As Adobe’s Julie Hoffman stated, “The best of the best travel brands leverage their CRM data with tools like Adobe’s Audience Manager to create powerful unified audience profiles that can drive real-time experiences across channels,” making customers’ mobile experiences targeted and customized. Similarly, the Google Trips app utilizes mobile data and customer reviews to help its users plan unique, off-the-beaten-path journeys.
According to a recent survey, travel companies report that more than 20% of traffic comes from mobile devices, and that number is only expected to grow. Embracing mobile platforms is critical, and using the techniques outlined in this article will keep travelers of all kinds engaged wherever they may roam.