A seamless travel experience is what your customers crave, writes Matt Boffey, co-founder and director of consulting at Great State
Over the past decade, the number of flights taken globally has risen by 40%.
Over one billion tourists travel the globe annually, with nearly two billion expected to do so by 2030.
On the face of it, the travel industry is in rude health.
Yet more brands than ever compete for consumers’ spend. These include traditional high street travel agents, online travel agencies, aggregators and metasearch sites, airlines, airports and hotel chains.
The travel sector has undergone successive waves of disruption over the last 25 years.
Pre-internet, it was a highly-mediated market, with consumers shopping through travel agents.
Then, growth in internet penetration enabled consumers to go direct. Whilst this brought freedom and choice, it also came at a price.
The consumer had to do more work and take on more risk. Today, the middleman business model is back in fashion.
Many brands are attempting to become a platform or a ‘one stop shop’ for everything a traveller needs – offering joined up choices, convenience and ease, and a personalised service.
By developing all-encompassing services, these brands are aiming to win by having the majority share of consumers’ attention, data and spend.
Brands can establish long term growth by improving the customer experience and making digital services available end-to-end. But, where do you start and what’s right for your brand?
In a recent report, brand technology agency Great State identified three areas of opportunity for travel brands that want to stay ahead of the competition.
Delight to attract and keep customers
Consumer expectations are constantly being reset by the world’s leading digital platforms. Technology is also making it easier for travellers to choose who they research, book, fly and transact with.
Ryanair, Europe’s largest airline, has declared its intent to become the ‘Amazon of travel’.
Yet its business model has historically relied on friction to drive revenue, polarising with Amazon’s friction-reducing one. Amazon tops the UK Customer Satisfaction Index. Ryanair doesn’t make the top 50.
Ryanair’s ambition is a noble one but unless it improves its customer experience, it’s more likely to disappoint than delight through an expanded range of services.
Google on the other hand, with its spread of products and services across the customer journey, is best placed to deliver the unified, personalised AI-driven customer experience of the future.
It’s easy to imagine a joined-up ‘Google Travel’ experience and what the future of customer experience might look like for the leisure traveller.
Connected experiences win
Consumers want a seamless experience throughout their travel journey. Easing the pressures of travel and adding delight through personalised, digital experiences will make for happier more loyal customers.
Travellers often experience a consolidation of what multiple travel brands provide.
Whether from airlines, the airport or other entities, the customer experience is viewed as one.
Commonly, airlines hold a tight grip on customer data and don’t share it with airports. Yet there is an opportunity to share with mutual benefit.
A more positive and productive airport experience, aided by digital technology, would encourage people to get there early.
If you could access exclusive areas of the departure lounge, work spaces, high speed Wi-Fi and in-airport entertainment, you might avoid a last-minute rush.
Personalised in-airport upgrades and services can add delight and increase revenues.
Fast-track security, food delivery, gyms and Amazon lockers all exist in some airports already. But technology is not always on mobile or through a single app.
A unified smartphone app would enable both airports and airlines to earn greater revenue per passenger, better customer satisfaction and ultimately greater customer loyalty.
Technology can enable your brand to travel faster and cheaper
Driving efficiencies can make the difference between flying high and running into the ground.
New technology continues to emerge that promises growth and cost savings, but tech alone is not the answer.
Serverless, for example, which abstracts developers from server complexity, only truly flies when teams are restructured to best support it.
Increasing data collection, machine learning and new ways of developing software will emerge to exploit serverless to drive even more operational cost savings.
The ongoing journey
Ultimately, a brand’s success and ambition lie in owning more of its customers.
To do this, experiences need to be more compelling. Those that rise to the top are underpinned by three core principles:
- Seamlessness – forget the on and offline divide and fragmentation of ownership
- Friction free – alleviate pain points before investing in delight
- Data driven – use data to customers’ advantage, not purely for business benefit
It’s an exhilarating time to be in travel. Rapid change is influencing all brands in the sector.
The opportunities for those who delight travellers are enormous, but there’s not enough room for everyone.
Those who exploit these opportunities will gain an increasing share of the customer’s attention, data and spend. Are you ready for take-off?