Travel is strongly influenced by the technological revolution that is changing our world. Technology has become an integrated part of travel, changing the way travel consumers search, explore, book and experience travel. The whole travel industry has to adapt to new technology trends, rethink our strategies and reshape how we deliver because what was brand new yesterday is rapidly becomes commonplace today. There is a combination of megatrends touching on voice, experiences, disruption and competition, all driven by changes in technology that will affect us all. Let’s have a look at how these tech megatrends shape the future of travel.
1 – The Rise of Voice and the Death of UI
Since the launch of the Netscape browser, we have accessed the web through a screen on a desktop, laptop, phone, or tablet. Today we have Amazon Echo, Google Assistant, and the Apple Home. Add in Apple Siri and Microsoft Cortana, and we are now facing many more entry points and devices to access content. Our customers will become even more used to this in the future, as voice control removes the need to switch on a PC or laptop, search for flights, check the search results and make a booking. Does this mean the death of UI – the user interface?
No UI means no touchscreen, no mouse and interfacing with devices with voice control. Imagine you are a frequent flyer, and all you need to do to book your flights for the next two months is to ask Alexa, how would that affect your plans around merchandising, upselling and cross-selling ancillary products?
2 – Indirect Competition – Big Tech Brands moving into other industries
The big tech brands, Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Facebook are rapidly diversifying their propositions and expanding a whole range of services. Think of Amazon Echo and AWS, Facebook’s Messenger and WhatsApp, Google and their connected home and driving cars initiatives. All of these initiatives appear to be an unconnected mishmash. Indeed, Gartner calls this mix of new interfaces, devices and content ‘the intelligent digital mesh’. And this’ digital mesh’ is enabled by these brands’ powerful digital platforms, creative business models and data. What would happen if Amazon took on the travel industry?
3 – Automatic for the People – Programmatic eCommerce
Imagine this: you wake up in the morning and your coffee maker delivers your first cup of coffee, and, as it pours the first cup, understands that you are out of your favourite brand. Immediately, your coffee machine orders it for you – adding it to your shopping basket and does the same for washing powder and toothpaste. Automatically.
Welcome to the age of programmatic eCommerce: Amazon’s Dash buttons and Nespresso’s Wifi coffee machine are in consumer’s kitchens now. Dollar Shave Club delivered direct-to-customer razor blade subscription business. Programmatic eCommerce is a trend that will redefine retail from the ground up. The danger of brand commoditisation, the opportunities for cross-selling and upselling – these all change when products are automatically reordered. Does this mean that your airline brand will become less important if they are locked out of their relationship with their consumer?
4 – The Customer Experience Imperative
The fourth megatrend is experience: customers are valuing experience over sales. High street retailers and shopping malls are looking into how physical destinations can promote their brand, without pushing product sales. This has led to the phenomenon of product-less retail, where retailers use non-selling physical experiences to promote their brands.
Take what Ferrari have done with Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi as an example: they have distilled the brand and turned it into an immersive experience that amplifies the brand AND earns revenue through entry fees and merchandise sales. Think what Disney has been doing for sixty years with its amusement parks.
How strong is your travel brand as a true customer experience? Are you creating what Jan Carlson, former CEO of SAS called ‘Moments of Truth’ – real interactions between the brand and your customers, placing all the emphasis and energy on that idea?
5 – Multi-Layered, Multi-Screened Engagement
The fifth megatrend is the multi-layered travel experience. The travel experience has expanded and is now multi-layered, multi-screen and fragmented. As attention shifts to ‘always-on’ screen time, consumers are combining devices in new ways to multi-task, heighten experiences and share with others. Understanding the motivations behind these behaviours can help travel brands build interactions under the new set of ‘always-on’ rules, and fit the content to the context of each screen.
Do you understand consumer behaviour across screens enough to take advantage of the opportunities multi-screen habits present? What will you change today about this inexorable rise of the multi-screen and the always-on consumer?
6 – Using Data to Own the Customer and Create the Future
We are witnessing a shift that will completely transform travel. The term given to this shift is ‘Big Data’ and it will change everything. Airlines are awash in terabytes of data that can be unlocked to provide insights, actions and outcomes that benefit the airline and their passengers.
However, there is a problem with ‘Big Data’. The problem is not ‘Big Data’ itself, rather the hype. The hype around Big Data may eventually disappear but the phenomenon is just starting. The challenge is that Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Facebook also want to own your customer data AND their experience. What if your customers get captured by these brands at the top of the decision making funnel? You will have no control over this. The lens of these tech brands is: if we own the interface, we own the customer and we then own the data.
So, what are your plans to acquire, keep and use your own data? How do you plan to unlock the value of your data to make it relevant and actionable? Remember, if your own the customer, you own the data. And if you own the data, you own the future.
What do these Megatrends mean for Airlines?
At OpenJaw, we come across many airlines that are looking at their offerings in a different light to future-proof their business. Just like car brands such as Ford and Volkswagen no longer see themselves as car manufacturers, but as providers of mobility services, airlines are rethinking how they do business.
Airlines are realising that the rapid emergence and adoption of new technologies mean new capabilities are required. Airlines know that they will need much more emphasis on design, psychology and data science. They understand that concentrating on the product alone is no longer enough. They embrace the challenge of creating great customer experiences that engage the customer, drive more personalised interactions and rapidly improve customer service score.
When we look at these megatrends, they represent forces which will shape the future of travel. The questions that arise from these megatrends are simple: is your airline ready for the new age of voice only-interfaces? Are you able to fight back against the invasion of your market by Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Facebook? Can you develop a robust multi-layered, multi-screened omni-channel strategy?
However, there is one question that really matters: are you ready?