With trends pointing to a need and preference for better travel experiences, technology will impact this new reality in a very direct way.
As we monitor the course of COVID-19, we reflect, plan and prepare, taking our cue from how travellers want to travel, and 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.
Understanding the Trendsetters
Your market is 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.
The Pursuit of Appy-ness
If the App obsession 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
Communication as a service
This will be your new competitive edge with the customer experience set to surpass product and even price as a brand differentiator: communication! The 55+ year old segment will still predominantly want an old-school experience, but you can easily service older and younger markets with equal love and TLC. Give your silver traveller a call and direct message your younger, tech savvier crowd, whatever it takes to keep those lines wide open. Service their queries, solve their 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, the influence of Instagram is growing as a source of travel inspiration. With increasing traffic flowing through Instagram, you should express your brand voice with a 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.
Service is a Book Now Button
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. When you know who’s engaging with your content and how often, you can quantify the levels of interest and qualify the prospects of lead conversion.
Once they’ve seen your content and are inspired to purchase, the client will expect zero friction for instant gratification. So give them the option to book or enquire directly on their itinerary. If they need 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
Taking cues from Travellers
Imagine the frustration and annoyance travellers feel when they’ve used a company more than once and their preferences weren’t noted and remembered… Personalisation remains relevant to all traveller types, regardless of their age. An easy fix is to collate client data in a safe cloud storage space where anyone in your company can access it, anytime they need to respond to a repeat enquiry.
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 CTAs. Consumers leave breadcrumbs leading you to their preferences and particular needs – tap into that data to follow the trail.
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. It’s a great way to demonstrate how your brand blends tech with professional expertise and empathetic communication.
Keep up with the Better Travel trend
What came first: the tech or consumer demand? We see them evolving simultaneously. Even without COVID-19 lurking in the foreground, the better travel trend would still require travel professionals to tweak processes and adapt best practices. Simply put: making travel better for our clients, makes it better for us to sell travel.