Insights

Digitizing Travel

The travel industry is in the middle of a nexus of forces that are trying to get the attention of the customers. American Airlines recently made a public statement that they will respond to every tweet about them. The travel industry is going digital for providing its customers a holistic experience to create new revenue and growth opportunities in the digital business era.

Digital Transformation

Moving from Fragmentation to Consolidation

Understanding the customer is the first step of digital transformation. Enterprises must model the customer’s end-to-end journey to understand each touch point and the role it plays in satisfying his/her needs and journey across the different customer segments.

In the past, we identified many aspects of the customer but failed to see how they were related and connected to a whole ecosystem. Should we connect the pieces and integrate the fragmented customer views, this holistic view will help us find ways to increase our service.

Integrated Customer Hub is about consolidating and routing of data across channels to meet audiences wherever they are. It helps all channels be intelligent towards the goal of engaging audiences with something of value and contextual relevance. Technologies in the age of the digital business are intelligent, and hence the travel industry must be visualized as the omni-channel ecosystem consisting of apps, product experiences and digital products.

The main features of the Integrated Customer Hub are:

  • Master Traveler Profile
  • Intelligent Orchestration to sequence and coordinate the content to intersect with specific travelers at the right moment
  • Measurement and Optimization to trace investments to outcomes, optimize the yield through deliberate adjustments and interventions

Integrated Customer Hub provides marketers and applications with standardized access to traveler profile data, content, messaging, analytic functions for orchestrating and optimizing multi-channel campaigns, conversations, experiences and data collection across online and offline channels.

Consolidating data further focuses on transforming the internal operations within the organization. Process digitization enables improving the processes, workflows and operational efficiency. British airways RFID enable baggage handling, helps in providing a holistic customer experience.

Moving from Consolidation to Contextualization

Customers expect their buying journey to be relevant and personalized, to reveal consistent offers and features, based on experiences, where they’ve been, what they want and how they choose to get it. Enterprises should also rely on the information assets such as data and statistical analysis to drive enhancements to customer experience through product recommendation, website optimization and insights discovery.

Inspiration

Here the objective is driving the customer to the site and engaging with him. Personalizing the user journey can have a major impact on conversion. Travel organizations should also tap into the power of social media. Social commerce is one of the primary channels to drive website traffic, and there is a growing number of referrals to the travel retailer through social media.

It is important to engage the customers at the point of need and to deliver the right information. Within each channel, engage the customer with adaptive experience where it can make any combination of selections while continuing to view content. Such as suggestions like trip guides and advice that are relevant to their interest.

Companies have now started to explore technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality to inspire customers. These technologies would enable the customers to experience their vacation even before they actually visit the place.

Booking

Converting visitors relies on relevant interactions that are event driven and not just broadcast. Google claims that a customer visits 23 sites before booking an air ticket. Hence, enterprises must provide their customers all the information to make an informed choice. Hotels could integrate reviews from other customers to help customers make that informed choice.

Try innovative ways to engage customer attention. Create categories for popular tour packages to inspire customers. Enable customers to build a wish list, select preferences and other parameters for their trip and enable the system to suggest the best option or place to travel. Enterprises should also provide customers with real-time context aware offers and discounts. Meaningful offers and discounts are big motivators for opportunistic customers. Information such as customer’s baggage data, meal requests, customers volunteering to re-accommodate and any extra facility requests by customers can be considered in the analysis and be used in planning the operations effectively.

The information collected can be used in up-selling and cross-selling of their own products & services or it can be done through affiliates.

Pre-Trip

Mobile apps and mobile-enabled sites play a major role when customers are on the go. Apps or mobile sites should be context- and location-driven, providing useful information such as flight status, gate number, reminders, updates, notifications, weather information, airport maps, currency exchange rates and partner offers.

Social features baked in the customer journey can be uplifting for customer experience. Analyzing the customer journey is the best way to improve the service. Add value to the customer by providing offers and promotions (social loyalty) that will lead the customer to interact more with the brand.

In-Trip

There are plenty of ways to engage customer during their travel. The customer can make their purchase in the website or in the mobile app and get the item delivered at home or in trip (Buy Online and Pickup in Flight). The customer can be provided with the option to make a purchase in-trip and finish the transaction using mobile POS. A Dutch grocer has launched a new pick up point at the Amsterdam airport. The customer experience has to happen in real time and requires that the customer can be reached ubiquitously anywhere and anytime.

We can also provide our customers with an opportunity to interact and engage with other customers with similar interests. The Turks & Caicos Board created by Jetsetter on Pinterest leapt to more than 720,000 Pinterest followers and engaged users pinned the information more than 9,500 times. This information, collected during booking, past travel feedback surveys and other relevant data, can be used to tailor offerings for the present trip based on their preference and interests.

In order for online community interactions to sprout and blossom into trust, we must give them reasons to engage passionately. One of the ways could be gamification, where the customers can be rewarded for their loyalty, for building a knowledge base for unassisted support and by making your community more vibrant and engaging to new visitors.

Post-Trip

Post-trip engagement is often forgotten. We need to engage with the travelers to understand how their experience was! Enterprises should always encourage customers to think about their next trip, ask for (digital) feedback and ratings on how their trip went, the places they stayed or tours they’ve taken. This builds a profile and helps in rolling out future tailored offers and will serve as testimonials to attract new customers.

With the proliferation of customer channels, multiple points of customer engagement and the new power to mine big data, travel companies now have a chance to delight their customers at every turn and build loyalty into their everyday interactions. It’s essential to create the most relevant experience for first-time buyers, while bonding with existing customers and moving them towards a loop of loyalty.

Moving from Contextualization to Digitization

Travel companies must target the digital fulfillment by transforming the internal operations within the organization. This results in differentiating the enterprise through customer experience management by leveraging the digital technologies, embedding analytic sensors and Internet of Things.

A sensor placed in an aircraft flying between New York and Dubai detects a flight anomaly. This might hint that a component is heading to its end and may fail sometime in the future. Automatically, we can start linking the schedules of the aircraft and check for an airport that has the capability to change those components. After the aircraft lands, the component is fitted to the engine, and the aircraft returns to air as soon as possible. This whole process is being orchestrated using Internet of Things, big data, etc. Rolls Royce sensors sending continuous stream of data illustrates the value, added, not only in customer experience but also in other processes such as predictive maintenance of the engine.

This stage also focuses on workflow, enabling the enterprises and its customers to interact in a better manner so that the front office could be more efficient, leading to more revenue, more sales and efficient operations in the business process.

Digital travel enterprises must re-position themselves as ecosystem players. Each business through the digital application – flight booking, travel advisory, car rentals and hotel booking – brings an element of value to the customer. Travel enterprises can grow their business faster but not with any single product or service instead with a combined approach that focuses on the customer experience.

Conclusion

With competition in the travel industry at an all-time high, today’s enterprises must find new ways to attract customers and inspire a high level of customer loyalty. Building relationships with individual customers is an open avenue to business success and has become imperative for the travel industry. To achieve customer engagement, organizations have to align themselves with the idea of building a base of high-value, loyal and committed customers.

Article written by Akshey Gupta and Andrew Stephen
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