Consumers Love Convenience, And The Travel Industry Should Take NoteI’m sure I’m not the only one who views any complex travel planning with a mixture of stress and terror. As part of a generation that’s become very accustomed to ordering a cab through one press of my Apple Watch screen, I feel that pretty much everything should be this easy.
Like most frequent business travelers, in order to mitigate this fear I’ve created my own set of one-button experiences: my hotel and airline preferences are so consistent I could book them blindfolded.
This desire for convenience is becoming a battleground for attracting the next generation of hi-tech traveler. A recent OAG Flightview survey even said that millennial flyers would be prepared to pay for such basic features as in-seat power and curbside rental pick-up.
But technology never stands still, so already we can see the next generation of convenience-driving gadgets and services coming over the horizon.
Google recently reported that over 20% of all searches from mobile devices are now done by voice command, turning Siri from a standing joke to a serious source of information.
Voice has great potential to enter the travel space. This month, Ford announced that Amazon’s Echo is to be integrated into their Sync smart car interfaces, allowing drivers to control their home heating, lights and more by talking into their dash.
The rapid uptick of voice control surely has even more benefit in the travel space, where people are in unfamiliar surroundings or where they don’t speak the language. Imagine a hotel room abroad where you can simply order room service or find out when the airport transfer is just by “asking your room.”
Of course, voice is not the only way to have a conversation; the rise of the chat interface is seeing a steady move away from traditional search or browse design patterns.
While the future of chat-based commerce undoubtedly lies in AI-driven bots, this is still a ways off, as anyone who’s tried to get a sensible response out of IBM’s Watson will confirm.
But that’s not to say chat shouldn’t be an immediate area of investment. Kayak co-founder Paul English is launching an app called Lola, which connects users to human travel agents who personally tailor travel schedules.
Chat channels are quickly becoming the norm for delivery of service: KLM has delivered over 50,000 boarding passes through Facebook Messenger in the first three weeks of offering the option.
There’s little more convenient than having someone else make your decisions for you. And planning the small details of your vacation, which a recent GoodThink study finds to be the greatest source of vacation stress, is another front being addressed by technology.
This ability to do your thinking for you is advanced through the use of predictive data, analyzing your digital footprint and making suggestions based on things the analysis suggests you may want or need.
Google’s new Trips app is a prime example of this trend. Powered by Google’s omniscient data model, it combines maps and travel data with friend’s recommendations, your travel bookings, restaurant reviews and more into seamless day-plans for seeing cities.
Airbnb uses similar predictive data techniques, but with a human lens. Their new Matching offering leverages their host data to provide each traveler the perfect host to organize not just their stay, but all of their activities as well. The hope is that by using this data, hosts will be able to offer them a more authentic experience in line with the Airbnb mission to help travelers live like the locals.
The implications are clear: where next-generation travelers are becoming increasingly lazy, yet increasingly demanding of their travel experience, the travel providers they choose will be the ones who take the planning off their shoulders, and provide natural and intuitive solutions to get them where they’re going.
This article was originally published in MediaPost.