Home Apps Breaking out of the travel template — how technology is tailoring trips for customers – Forbes

Breaking out of the travel template — how technology is tailoring trips for customers – Forbes

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From voice-activated assistants to devices designed to make our homes more intelligent, disruptive technology is increasingly empowering customers to take greater control over every aspect of their lives.

Whether they’re grabbing a coffee on the go or picking what programme to watch, customers’ expectations that businesses will provide personalization as standard service is on the rise. According to a recent report from the Retail Industry Leaders Association and Accenture, nearly two thirds of consumers (63%) worldwide prefer personalized recommendations from the businesses they buy from – up from 57% in 2016.

When looking at the travel industry in isolation over the past year, McKinsey drew the conclusion that 69% of customers are more loyal to a company that personalized their online and offline customer experiences. It may be that in a sector where customer loyalty is hard-won and even harder to retain, personalization is the elusive golden ticket.

Keeping pace with transforming traveler tastes

Having spent a significant period of my working life immersed in the travel industry, I have seen first-hand how technology has enabled travelers to tailor trips according to their needs. For nearly two decades, the online travel agency model has turned traditional holiday booking on its head by allowing people to split their journey across multiple airlines and create their perfect package of flights, hotels and additional services. Now, in the era of the personalized experience, online travel agencies need to keep pace with consumer expectations.

Breaking out of the travel template and providing personalized packages is essential for maintaining competitive edge. The companies that can meet this challenge have the potential to disrupt the whole sector, driving profits and customer loyalty.

Personalization in practice – from initial inspiration to on-hand advice

At every stage in a customer’s journey, there is an opportunity for travel companies to provide a personal touch that makes the experience that little bit more enjoyable. It is up to every travel company to show their customers that the benefits of booking with them go beyond bagging the best deal.

When a customer begins their travel journey, it is all too easy for them to feel overwhelmed by the millions of choices at their fingertips. Confronted with a range of routes that aren’t related to what they’re looking for, it’s only natural for a time-poor traveler to look for a more personalized offering from another provider.

To solve this problem, online travel agencies are making use of developments in artificial intelligence to provide their customers with packages that are tailored to individual traveler tastes. Without compromising on the breadth of options available, this allows online travel agencies to filter what is most likely to fit with what a potential customer is looking for.

In the world of travel, the customer connection has the potential to continue past the point of purchase. As consumers increasingly use mobile devices as their travel companions – from storing boarding passes to checking hotel confirmations and even being able to check their luggage size with the latest AR (augmented reality) technology – they expect travel apps to deliver timely and relevant support at every point of their journey. From checking the status of their flight on the way to the airport, to receiving sightseeing tips on arrival, there is a clear opportunity for travel companies to play a more pivotal role in the customer journey from beginning to end.

A glimpse at what’s ahead

It’s impossible to predict where personalized travel services will end up, but technological advances offer clues as to the next destinations in the journey. The development of voice-powered technologies, for example, have a role to play in travel – offering immediate support from initial inspiration, to the booking experience, to the return home. Indeed, findings from Travelport’s 2018 research on the digital traveler show that 36% of UK leisure travelers use voice search to research travel.

Although we’re far from reaching the pinnacle of personalization through technology, it is abundantly clear that businesses must embrace a personalized approach to thrive in today’s travel sector. Those that leverage technology to create tailored experiences will edge ahead in the competition for customer loyalty, while those that delay risk dropping out the race.

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