Consumer trends in technology directly impact the new reality of better travel experiences. While we monitor the course of COVID-19, we reflect, plan and prepare. Take your cue from travellers based on how they want to travel and how they want to purchase travel. Let’s check in with the tech trends forecast for the year ahead to see how you can adapt to stay afloat and move with the times.
Understand your market: they’re young(ish), getting progressively younger, and they’re setting the pace for innovation straight out of the blocks in 2020. They want that frictionless digital experience and the ability to control every part of the journey with and from their mobile phones.
Why not, when they conduct almost every other transaction in their lives and socialise on the phone?
Millennials, followed on their heels by Generation Z, are moving travel resolutely along the digital highway with expectations of comprehensive information on demand.
The destination, accommodation and activity content they seek and find out there drive their travel decisions.
There’s a lot less lead time to that decision being made than before too; so it’s vital to present them with everything they need to know quickly, conveniently, and mobile.
Travellers feeling appy
If the obsession with Apps feels fickle to you, it’s because consumers are searching high and low for the almighty app that does everything. It’s supposed to help them research, book and manage their trips. According to Travelport, 81% of travel brands will this year increase their investment in mobile. You’d benefit from incorporating a mobile-first API into your service that brings travellers the access they crave. The content must be interactive, allow them to control how they consume it, and enable them to influence the purchasing journey by selecting options and alternatives.
Happiness is an app with engaging UX, accessible on all devices, with voice search too, booking and payment options. Gen Z travellers won’t find push notifications invasive – they want those steady alerts updating them on what’s happening next on their trip, or even new offers for future travel planning.
If this sounds like you’re being phased out by tech, relax: you’re not. They still need you, your expertise and destination knowledge very much. Your human touch amidst all this technology is crucial because travel remains a human experience that they hope will transform them. Direct messaging at different stages of the journey goes a long way to instilling trust in their travel professional.
When planning a trip, 77% of Generation Z travelers are open to help & inspiration.
Travel Agent Central
Service above and beyond tech
Communication remains a key service component and your competitive edge, with customer experience set to surpass product and even price as a brand differentiator. The 55+ year old segment will still predominantly want an old-school experience, but you can easily service both with equal love and TLC. So whether you give your silver traveller a call or enable direct messaging with the younger, tech savvier crowd, keep those lines wide open to service queries, solve problems and manage your brand reputation in all the media your target markets engage with.
Now’s the time to bring metasearch and your social media (SM) presence into sharper focus. Google is doing whatever serves Google Travel at the moment – it’s no use relying solely on Google to drive traffic to your site. Implement relevant, short meta title tags to grab that initial attention, and tease your content with a succinct meta description to lock in viewer interest. As for SM, Instagram in particular is growing in influence as a source of travel inspiration. With increasing traffic flowing through Instagram, you should express your brand voice through a healthy combination of your own beautiful product content and UGC from satisfied clients. Hashtag it and grow your following.
Service and product reviews from happy clients will continue to influence many more travel decisions – the distance between access to you or your content and whatever platforms host those reviews, must be short and painless to keep those viewers engaged.
Once they’ve seen your content and are inspired to purchase, they expect to be serviced with zero friction for instant gratification.
Has your client opened and interacted with the itinerary you prepared for them? Opening a paper itinerary is as loud as a tree falling in a forest when nobody’s around but fortunately, we’ve moved on from the old email read-receipt message to blue-ticking on Whatsapp and instant ‘open’ notifications on digital itineraries. You want to know who’s engaging with your content and how often, because it indicates a level of interest and tells you how close you are to converting that lead. If your client needs a quick change to their itinerary before they confirm – no time to waste, availability pending – direct messaging helps you extend those vital lines of communication. The demand is just as great during travel:
53% prefer to use a messaging service to chat with travel brands in case of trip disruption
Working better with tech
Imagine the traveller’s frustration and annoyance if they use a company more than once and their preferences weren’t noted and remembered… That’s the reality of personalisation in travel – it remains relevant to all traveller types, regardless of their age. An easy fix is to collate client data in a safe cloud storage space accessible to anyone in your company.
Big data – harvesting and harnessing it – will become increasingly important in your planning. Supplement whatever you collect directly from conversations with the client by back-end tracking their clicks on your content and voice CTAs. Fill the info gaps by doing your own proactive data collection. Marketing is as much about eliciting as dispensing information: you can compile targeted surveys and opinion polls for select groups or traveller types, or for the general travelling public. Facebook is great for polls done visually with static or gif images. It’s a great way to demonstrate how your brand blends tech with professional expertise and empathetic communication.
Consumers leave breadcrumbs leading you to their preferences and particular needs – tap into that data to follow the trail.
What came first: the tech or consumer demand? I think they’re evolving simultaneously, intuitively. Fortunately, it doesn’t leave you with a mountain to climb just to stay apace: tweak your processes and adapt your best practices to make travel better for your clients, and better for you to sell.