All travel companies should be in the midst of a transformation to becoming technology companies. The role of digital in both back-end and consumer facing processes is simply too important for companies to consider themselves as anything else.
Consumer loyalty – or lack thereof – would suggest that stakeholders reorient themselves towards becoming platforms for experiences. A number of relevant and interesting technologies, such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are the more obvious examples, with Thomas Cook’s ‘Try Before You Fly’ scheme featuring Samsung Gear VR headsets generating flights and hotel bookings of over $17,000 and instigating a 190 percent increase in the number of New York excursions booked[i].
In able to provide the personal touch craved by many travellers though, the need for a substantial data architecture capable of capturing information accurately at any points of contact is pressing. In addition, such a system must be capable of effectively combining sources of external data – such as from social media or else other ecosystem stakeholders – since the data on file for a given traveller may not be complete enough to offer a true glimpse into their lifestyle, interests, aspirations or personality. Such information is likely contained within the industry ecosystem but dispersed and siloed between the many different stakeholders; hotels may have insights that airlines don’t or vice-versa. Whilst great care needs to be taken to protect the security of such data, the attraction of some sort of data ecosystem – whether controlled by the individual consumer (in a sort of data profile) or stakeholders putting their pieces of data together – is clear. It is also possible of course that some next gen apps, based on deep learning and algorithms will be able to learn these things without the need for wider partnerships and formulate push messages and offers to consumers based on their specific circumstances.
It could even be argued that a highly segmented, market of one mentality is the only way that the majority of industry stakeholders will be able to pursue the future successfully. Whilst niches will always exist -some highly profitable – a culturally diversifying global consumer base and fragmenting mass market will mean more focus is needed on the individual than ever.
The promise of such individual data is that through digital technologies, analytics and innovation provide much more seamless experiences for consumers[ii]. The outside-in perspective provided by customers and their data will become a key lever in shifting to a truly customer-centric future.