While the world waits to see whether virtual reality is going to turn into actual reality, there are a number of other pieces of consumer tech coming to market that could deliver more tangible and immediate benefits for the travel industry, says Charles Duncombe, Holidays Please marketing director
Guest Post: The consumer tech that’s poised to have an impact on the travel industry
While the world waits to see whether virtual reality is going to turn into actual reality, there are a number of other pieces of consumer tech coming to market that could deliver more tangible and immediate benefits for the travel industry, says Charles Duncombe, www.holidaysplease.co.uk marketing director
In January 2019 the “Royale FlexPai” was launched claiming to be the world’s first foldable phone.
I have tried to e mail them a picture of my old Nokia communicator from 1998 but they don’t seem that interested. But let’s not let 21 years (yes 21 years!) of time get in the way of a good story.
While the FlexPai has not been well received by critics, there are some serious manufacturers including Samsung and Hawaii launching flexible phones over the coming months.
When they do, what are the implications for travel companies?
The main implication will be for travel company websites. Visitors using mobile phones typically convert into buying customers at half the rate of desktop and tablet visitors.
This is for the simple reason that it is harder to see all necessary information and to navigate on a smaller screen.
With travel the problem is particularly acute as the consumer often needs to see a lot of quite detailed information and images before they feel comfortable enough to part with a relatively large sum of money.
With a 7-8 inch display, foldable phones are on a par with a number of tablets on the market. You could therefore surmise that visitors on these phones may convert into customers at double the rate of those using traditional mobile phones.
But before travel companies start popping the champagne corks, it’s worth bearing in mind that foldable phones are going to launch with a pretty hefty price tag of £1,500 – £2,000.
These prices will invariably suppress demand to start with and prices may not fall for a while as manufacturers try to recoup the significant R&D costs associated with folding screen technology.
Over time though as the technology becomes more ubiquitous travel companies could start to find a nice boost to the bottom line thanks to the latest flexible friend in their customers’ pockets.
Home assistants with displays
Alexa Echo and Google home smart speakers have been around some time now and we all know they are fantastic way for your 5 year old to accidentally sell your house on ebay.
Now both Google and Amazon home assistants are now available with touchscreen displays. The obvious benefit for the travel industry is the fact that you can now show the customer what you want to sell them.
While meaningful levels of purchasing through home assistants might still be some way off they can still be used at the inspiration stage of the buying process.
“Alexa show me pictures of water villas in the Maldives” is hopefully going to be more interesting than “Restock the toilet roll.”
I confess I have a prototype pair of Google Glass from 2014. I may well be on the only person on the planet who has bothered to keep them but when I eventually get invited to a terminator fancy dress party I will be a sight to behold.
Now with Vuzix Blade, TechKen, Vue and others coming to market you can now buy a normal looking pair of sunglasses that have augmented reality projected on to the inside of the lenses.
This means that the travel experience can be truly enhanced. For example, information on landmarks could be displayed in front of you without having to crane your neck over 20 other tourists to try and hear someone holding an umbrella in the air.
Or you will be able to read those foreign language menus with no problem at all, provided you can read it in a dimly lit restaurant ….. while wearing sunglasses!
Digitally connected autonomous cars
Car manufacturers are already starting to dream up ideas for the internet enabled, totally autonomous vehicle. BMW have said that your car will be able to book your hotel room or make a restaurant reservation as you drive towards it, through their “Connected Drive” system.
Whether this is a real application or a gimmick is academic, the main point is that these cars are going to convert millions upon millions of hours of car journeys, into leisure time. Full screen TV’s, internet streaming, online games are soon to be the “must have” features for cars.
This extra leisure time will result in people spending even more time online which will come as a further boost to internet enabled travel companies.
In fact you can imagine the car as being the perfect place to “pin people down” to decide their next holiday.
Short of the kids climbing out of the windows they can’t escape when in the car you ask them whether they are ok to share a room with their brother as you book their next holiday doing 70mph in the fast lane.
While many of the tech developments that come to market are released with a fanfare of gimmicky applications to grab the headlines, you can often find some very exciting opportunities on a macro level that will help travel businesses who are willing to look beyond the hype.