Over the next 10 years, travel industry experts predict that the digital travel space worldwide will expand at an annual rate of 3.8% to reach $11.4 trillion. High street travel agents no longer have the monopoly on booking holidays. With the ever-growing digital technology at our fingertips, consumers have numerous channels available to research their travel options around when and how they decide to book. To stay in the game, the travel industry needs to take a good look at how consumers prefer to interact.

The rise of digital communication

Digital transformation has heavily impacted the travel industry, both in digital technology and the multiple channels through which consumers can research and book travel plans. A recent report by ABTA shows that four in five people (81% in 2018) are now booking holidays themselves online or via online travel agents. Booking on a PC or laptop remains the most popular way (86%) to book a holiday online. However, nearly 50% of global web page views have been from a mobile device. The proliferation of smartphones and a digital-savvy consumer base mean that travel companies must continually invest in technology platforms that help them connect with potential customers across all channels, including mobiles.

Freedom of choice to self-serve

Holiday information is readily available to consumers 24/7, so loyalty among travellers is no longer guaranteed. A 2018 Tech Radar report showed that 80% of customers prefer to self-serve in order to obtain the information they’re looking for. They have the freedom of choice and technology channels to book their own arrangements. Consumers are often willing to devote considerable time and effort to investigating price and quality before making a decision on their travel plans. Recent Nielsen research found that travellers spent an average of 53 days visiting 28 different websites over a period of 76 online sessions, with more than 50% of travellers checking social media for travel tips.

Personalising the travel customer experience

According to McKinsey, when a customer journey is done correctly, customer satisfaction jumps by 20%, revenue improves by 15% and the cost of serving customers lowers by 20%. A study by American Express also shows that 83% of millennials would let travel brands track their digital patterns if this would provide them with a more personalised experience. Delivering individualised customer engagement is one of the most important strategies for travel companies to master if they want to succeed. The biggest challenge to overcome is when organisations use several disparate systems to engage with consumers across different channels. The outcome is often siloed data and an inconsistent customer view, inhibiting future sales opportunities. Successful customer experience strategies are dependent on establishing a comprehensive customer profile to deliver the most relevant messages for each individual customer. With more digital channels available and more devices on which consumers can interact, travel companies need to consider implementing an omnichannel customer strategy. Customers want to switch between channels and mediums, reading reviews and cross-checking prices until they’re happy with the results. By providing a seamless omnichannel experience, consumers can pick up their journey wherever they left off, whether that be researching hotel options on their mobile or booking flights on their desktop. If a brand can provide this experience, they create a more trusting, one-to-one personalised experience and browsers are more likely to make a booking.

How can AI impact the travel sector?

Gartner predicts that by 2020, customers will manage 85% of relationships with an enterprise without any human interaction. For the travel and tourism industry, customer engagement and a personalised experience are critical to staying ahead in a competitive market. There is evidently a real requirement to introduce artificial intelligence, which will allow a more sophisticated level of personal interaction, while also improving quality and performance. By serving multiple roles, ranging from a virtual assistant or chatbot, AI-enabled platforms can help businesses take customer queries 24/7, without the need for dedicated human staff. Aside from robotics, artificial intelligence is being used in other ways. The most obvious use within the travel industry is for customer service purposes, enabling chatbots to deliver rapid response times to problems or queries. By using machine learning, AI systems can study user behaviour and offer automated recommendations and services, continually learning from customer interactions.

The future of the travel industry

The future of the travel industry will largely be dependent on who makes the wisest technology investment decisions. Ultimately, providing an exceptional experience across the full customer journey―by executing a comprehensive, omnichannel strategy―is going to be critical for travel companies to sustain competitive differentiation and succeed in an already crowded industry. As consumers and technology alike continue to evolve, travel brands must adjust their investments in mission-critical technologies to retain their customer base and attract new ones.

Contact your Mitel representative to find out more about how you can improve the customer experience.

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