11 May The Technology That Will Drive the Next Generation of Travel Marketing
Researching and booking trips hasn’t changed much over the last decade, but don’t be fooled – new tech is coming. Here are a few intriguing possibilities.
The process to book a trip online looks much the same in 2018 as it did in 2008: you go to the property’s website (or an OTA), see some pictures and read about the amenities, click in a calendar what dates you’d like, add a few details about your stay, and the system feeds back the availability and rates. Sure, hotel website design has evolved with the times, and you see much more engaging imagery, but booking is basically the same.
So yes, things haven’t changed too dramatically recently, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t. As a hotel marketing agency, we’re focused on the solutions that will help you drive business today – but that doesn’t mean we’re ignoring tomorrow. With that in mind, we took a look at some of the more promising pieces of travel tech in the pipeline and consider how they could be used by travel marketers in the future.
Chatbots are simple artificial intelligence programs that live within our messaging apps. For example, Domino’s offers the ability to order a pizza (or anything off the menu) by sending them a message on Facebook Messenger. No, you’re not texting with a human at your local Dominos – you’re messaging with a bot who will ask you the necessary prompts to take your order, all from the comfort of your Messenger app. For quick – perhaps repeat – getaways, chatbots will offer a no-hassle way to easily book a stay at your favorite resort.
Going hand in hand with chatbot technology, voice is one of the next frontiers of human-computer interaction. Google, long the king of search, knows this, and is preparing accordingly. As Amit Singhal, a senior vice president at the company said, “Someday, pulling your mobile out to search will feel as archaic as a dial-up modem.” As chatbots evolve and voice technology continues to get smarter, you may one day do vacation search via a virtual voice assistant, who will ask you about your preferences like a travel agent would, and produce an itinerary tailored to your taste. Plus, machine learning will ensure that the system gets smarter as time goes on – both in a global sense, through its interactions with many travelers, and locally, as it better understands your preferences.
Social Stories & Maps
As social apps get more immersive and continue to blend the real world with the digital, our friends’ social media sharing – primarily on the Stories products in Snapchat and Instagram – will increasingly be a springboard for us to start our own travel experiences. Snap Map, Snapchat’s map feature that lets you see where your friends (the ones who opt-in, anyway) are on a map, lets you quickly explore any area in the world to see what people are snapping there. Considering the company’s increasing focus on direct-response marketing, this may be a channel for travel marketers to watch closely.
While some may worry that the living room magic promised by augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) will hurt the travel industry, the reality is that AR/VR will be a travel marketer’s dream. In fact, look no further than Airbnb, a company with quite a lot riding on the future of travel, as one of the biggest believers in the technology. They foresee a future where Airbnb guests are able to experience a property in VR before booking, giving people an immersive sense of the space prior to pulling the trigger. Forward-thinking hotel marketers see the same opportunity with VR – giving prospective guests an interactive tour of the property, the rooms, the pool bar right from the comfort of their living room before they book. AR will also be a useful tool for travelers to help them understand new, unfamiliar settings – imagine a camera on your phone overlaying tips, information, and suggestions to help you enjoy your trip.
Websites like Visit Humboldt work by blending interactive content with the trip planning process. What feels like a game – or at least a Buzzfeed quiz – results in a useful, actionable itinerary full of all the spots you indicated interest in. Of course, marketers would be wise to entice the user to submit an email address to retain the itinerary (and allow the marketer to target them via future email campaigns). Websites like this will need to be mobile-friendly (and probably designed mobile-first) to have relevancy, but their low-friction, fun-to-use interface offers up the rich data marketers will be able to acquire and act on.
Companies like Pack Up + Go, which brands itself as a “surprise travel agency,” are offering travelers the ability to enjoy a surprise vacation, simply by sharing their budget and preferences. The travelers receive an envelope with tickets and an itinerary inside, and aren’t supposed to open it until they’re at the airport on a certain day and at a specific time. While not a new technology per se, it unlocks a new behavior. If this trend endures, perhaps hotels that work with these companies to create and package fun, novel experiences will have a leg up on the competition when vying for their business.