Using technology to inspire customers
The travel industry is one of only a handful of industries that truly has the ability to inspire people. Inspired travellers are more likely to move quickly from search to purchase, which is important considering competition is fierce and choice is abundant.
However, to inspire, you need a deep and sophisticated understanding of traveller motivations. Travellers make decisions for many different reasons – both rational and emotional. Rational decisions are easy to understand and predict, but the challenge lies in understanding the emotional, spontaneous and unpredictable side of consumers.
We each create our own sense of “subjective social reality”, to help make faster, easier decisions. For example, you might have read a book that inspires you to travel to a particular destination, even if rationally, the destination may not offer them all the amenities you would usually seek.
These complex underlying emotional and social impulses make it hard to understand a traveller’s true motivations. This is where technological advances can play an important role in helping IT leaders better ‘anticipate’ and ‘predict’ what travellers want, and offer inspiration and personalisation at scale.
By recognising that travellers make decisions based on psychological, emotional and social factors, and by building rules and algorithms that take into account all three, the industry can more effectively upsell products and services. Here are just a few examples of how travel sellers can use technology to understand and inspire their customers.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning
By combining choice modelling techniques (examining the factors impacting customer behaviour) with historical data, travel providers can gain more accurate, precise and actionable insights. Once a customer-choice model has been created, travel providers can offer customers more relevant products at desirable prices.
As for a current example of the use of AI and machine learning, last year Qantas launched their ‘chatbot concierge’ – a Facebook Messenger bot designed give customers travel inspiration while saving them time and effort involved with planning their travel. The chatbot learns from previous conversations to understand how to make responses friendlier and more effective over time.
Machine learning also allows travel providers to target travellers with more subtle advertising and messaging. It’s now possible to better predict if consumers fit the target traveller profile of your digital adverts before the ad is even served.
Advanced search techniques engage consumers at the beginning of their travel planning before they have even made decisions on where to go. Solutions range from inspirational maps to open-search criteria which can answer questions like “where can I go for a three-week adventure in Africa that costs below $1,500?” These solutions can then can be fully-integrated into the booking flow, meaning that travellers don’t have to visit the second website in order to research options.
Traditionally, if a brand wanted to test the effectiveness of their website or online advertisements, they would have to conduct A/B testing. However, technology now enables travel providers and sellers to continuously test their booking tools and adverts. This gives them the ability to glean vital information, to better understand how to best market and sell their products.
Virtual reality (VR)
VR technology can have a powerful influence on travellers purchase decision because it allows them to virtually try before they buy. To demonstrate the power of this technology Navitaire unveiled the world’s first VR travel search and booking experience, which enables travellers to spin a globe of the world, visit a destination, search for flights and pay for their entire trip – all without leaving VR. In the future, the VR experience could include social functions, where the traveller can see where their friends have been as they explore their options.
These are just a few examples of how technological advances are helping the travel industry understand and act upon travel motivations, and offer a more personalised and creative customer experience.
It starts with understanding what drives your existing customers. Consider both rational and emotional reasons, as well as underlying needs such as adventure, comfort and trust. Think beyond the usual data sets and consider what other sources you can use to glean insights into your customers’ wider behaviour and motivations. Finally, focus on your creative execution to inspire.
Article by Marion Mesnage, Head of Research, Innovation and Ventures, Amadeus