A study by Virtuoso states that Gen Xers came of age just as online travel agencies appeared on the scene. Perhaps that’s why they’re much more likely to book a trip online than with a travel advisor. According to MMGY, 82% of Gen X book travel online and 71% research their travel through OTAs. And almost all baby boomers surveyed responded that they used an online resource to help them make decisions and used both direct websites as well as OTAs to book their reservations, according to research completed by AARP. The study by Virtuoso also states that among Boomers, 84% have purchased travel online and 72% have researched travel through OTAs.
In this article, Reservations.com examines some of the new technologies available to consumers – regardless of age – and how they're using these technologies to arrange their travel plans.
Major brands are enabling data persistence across all their booking channels and devices with the goal of making the booking process natural, smooth and seamless. Travelers can start a personalized booking process on a third-party widget, continue it on the desktop website and finalize on a mobile device all while maintaining their preferences and information to complete the booking process effortlessly.
One example of this is how Reservations.com is working to tightly couple online and offline assisted channels so travelers who have started their booking process or have booked in the past can choose to call a customer service representative who can help them complete the process with minimal effort. Another is Expedia's Guest Scratchpad. It saves hotels and flights a traveler has viewed to the traveler's personal Scratchpad, and they can pick up the search where they left off anytime, anywhere. A third is Hipmunk. It’s beta-testing a new feature, called Hello Hipmunk, that automatically finds and gives you a list of options for your trip, via email.
There is a tremendous shift to blend the purchase transactions with contextual interactions within or outside the typical booking path. The booking process can no longer be limited to the traditional websites and extends to the research tools, map applications or other contextual channels. Combining the past bookings, profile preferences, and predictive analysis to suggest promotions and make the booking process available within that context could increase the conversions while maintaining value and relevancy for the traveler. Through preferred partnerships review website TripAdvisor provides functionality to book during the consumer's research stage. Also, Google Trips will provide trip and planning guidance to help organize travel.
The modern consumer is increasingly impatient, therefore the focus should be to develop tools that provide instant gratification. One-click checkout, always available assistance and interactive social tools are being developed to satisfy the impulsive booking decisions. For example, Stayful allows consumers to book travel with a Twitter hashtag.
Back to the Future with Human Travel Agents
Although there has been an enormous advancement in automation, the industry is seeing a trend to bring back the human element for more curated bespoke experiences and provide on-demand personal travel services. Lola, a trip concierge startup, provides instant access through its mobile app to real human travel experts who will care for their client's every travel need. Also, Reservations.com has made significant investments to provide immediate phone assistance by a trained team of customer support agents who can help suggest and find hotel deals based on specific preferences.
Immersive Virtual Reality
With the advancement in virtual reality and simulation, travelers can remotely experience their intended destinations. Emerging tools and services give travelers front-row seats to explore their destination before they are there reinforcing and motivating their purchase decisions. Google Daydream & Google Expedition is a great example of this.
Extreme Personalization & EGOnomics
Frequently referred to as marketing to a customer segment of one, companies are implementing extreme personalization to make their customers feel special and sometimes surprised. Based on multiple data points, marketers are trying to understand why the consumer wants to buy, what drives them, why it matters, and then create relevant content and context accordingly. Customers appreciate being noticed, and brands can make a good impression by acknowledging their individual customers through personalization and encourage past customers to become advocates.
Social & Local
Travelers are turning to Facebook friends, LinkedIn connections and other social networks for travel recommendations and ideas. Everyone in one's social network is a potential travel critic and guide. Examples of this include Tripl, which provides personalized suggestions by considering other travelers with similar interests and wishes, Gogobot, which is growing as a Facebook of travel and Trippy, a place to get answers to one's travel questions.
Meta-Reviews and Sentiments
Services like TrustYou provide summarized review content that is easy to read and accessible everywhere travelers are searching. TrustYou's advanced semantic technology processes data points within guest reviews, transforming them into summaries that allow travelers to evaluate a hotel's key attributes quickly.