In 2020, Skift Research estimates roughly 1.34 billion international trips, which means as many airline booking, hotel bookings, research on various online travel curation sites and more. This growth is primarily fuelled by the desire to experience new cultures, rising disposable incomes and the quest for an Instagram feed filled with perfect sunrises.
But in addition to all that, the boom in the industry is also driven by how convenient travelling becomes - right from finding destinations that they will love to booking their stay to curating their experience during the trip.
In the new decade, customers expect a highly frictionless experience from brands in the hospitality industry. This can be segmented into the need for:
45% of millennials and 37% Gen Z travelers are very or extremely likely to book a flight after receiving a personalized notification.
Personalization in travel can cover a huge spectrum. It can mean anything between a simple “Hi Sarah” when she opens a website, to a complete microsite that has information on Sarah’s favorite destinations, tour offers at custom prices, and even booking options for pet-friendly hotels for her dog Max. Customers are already relying on these personalized recommendations to plan their travel, actively looking for the next good deal, the next unique experience.
In the new decade, customers’ dependence on personalized recommendations will only increase and they will expect brands to know exactly what they like - their favourite destinations, activities, travel preferences.
There will be a couple of aspects here that the business’ digital experience and marketing stakeholders will have to focus upon:
Travel plans can either be months in the making or spur-of-the-moment decisions. But in both cases, the final conversion will take place on your digital properties - your website, or app, or on your Facebook chat messenger if you have one. So ensuring that your digital properties offer seamless, well-curated and intelligently personalized experiences is crucial. Right from the navigation, to finding information to payment to reviews - every element of the experience should be easy and intuitive to interact with.
For travel enterprises - hotels, airlines, cruises, OTAs - delivering this kind of personalization will depend upon how they collect, sift through and extract behavioural insights from the huge volumes of customer data. This is data coming in from user interactions across different digital channels and consolidating all of that in one comprehensive profile of each customer is key to predicting their needs and fulfilling them even before they can express it.
This kind of comprehensive profiling can drive:
- What destinations and experiences are showcased to which customers
- Which pricing plans, deals and offers are promoted to which kind of users
- Match the travel planner to previous customers with similar demographics and showcase their user-generated content as compelling social proof
Content Management System
The other technology solution required to deliver personalized experiences is a content management system that can:
- handle the vast amount of content types being produced for personalized experiences
- enable tagging, segmentation and categorization of content based on a wide variety of parameters
- can push out content onto multiple display formats
Intelligent & Contextual or ‘Smart’ Experiences
Customers also expect the complete process - from finding the destination, to booking tickets and hotels, to booking the cab to pick you up from the airport - to be as seamless as possible. They don’t want to be kept waiting for an answer, switch multiple devices or even switch tabs to complete their booking, and definitely do not want to be standing in lines.
With several hotels launching virtual concierge services and ‘smart home’ devices like Alexa or Google Home integrated into their rooms, the next decade will be all about creating low-contact, hassle-free experiences. The ones that are expected to become more commonplace in 2020 and beyond are:
This will be a key aspect that travel brands will want to get right - ensuring that customers can pick up their journey on any channel, from right where they left off last time. While most of the top brands are already omnichannel to an extent, the focus will be on expanding the number of channels, and reducing the effort required to deliver consistent brand experiences across them.
The intelligent assistants with chirpy personalities are making travel booking and hotel experiences as easy as talking to a friend or answering a set of questions. Facebook Messenger bots and website chatbots will become more commonplace, and a key digital channel for interacting with travel brands, replacing customer service executives and even manually searching for information on the website. But besides that, chatbots will also become more contextual as technology advancements iron out the challenges of accurately understanding and responding to natural language queries.
Talking to disgruntled receptionists at different counters will be out as brands battle to create intuitive, simplified self-service experiences. While self-check in kiosks have become commonplace across airports, others like hotels,theme parks and cruises will also focus on creating similar solutions to help customers quickly get through the transactional elements of their trips.
67% of customers prefer self-service over speaking to a company representative.
To aid people in booking the right travel experiences - destination, holiday activity, hotel rooms - brand will start offering AR/VR tools. Feel that bungee jump or take a tour of the hotel room before you book it.
Progressively Enhanced Experiences
With the increased focus on customer experience, the point of differentiation will shift to how brands work to retain their customers. Maintaining brand loyalty will be a key goal and customers will see this translating into enhanced experiences for them.
79% of travellers mentioned loyalty programs as a main reason for choosing specific airlines or hotel brands.
Tailormade loyalty programs that offer improved personalization, better offers, and exclusive experiences are becoming increasingly popular. Beyond 2020, travel brands will dedicate significant strategic thought to crafting and marketing stand out loyalty programs to attract and retain customers.
The other aspect to customer loyalty is how it will help brands serve users better. As customers interact more with a brand, they share more data, allowing brands to better understand and service them. Advanced recommendation engines are one of the key solutions to emerge from this symbiotic relationship, benefitting both customers and the brands. For customers, it’s a way to discover new destinations/adventures/food that they will like, and for brands it’s a way to drive more sales.
As you can see, 2020 and the coming decade will see the pie expand for the complete travel and hospitality industry. But your share of the pie depends upon how well you are able to deliver a superior digital customer experience. We’ve talked previously about how digital transformation underpins your digital customer experience and that stands true for travel as well. Every customer experience expectation comes with the need for significant technology solutions, and Srijan is poised to help you design and implement those.
Ready to step boldly into the new decade?
Tell us a bit about your transformation goals, and our experts will be in touch to discuss how Srijan can empower you to achieve them.
Or if are you looking to adopt digital transformation practices for your media enterprise, here's a round up of 2020's trends for media industry.