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Study IDs Early Adopters for Emerging Digital Travel Services

Two thousand U.S. leisure travelers were surveyed for Cognizant’s latest research on digital travel services, which was conducted with Phocuswright.  The findings reveal that early adopters embrace emerg­ing technology and services across the entire travel ribbon – from travel discovery to shopping, booking and throughout the actual travel experience.  The study was intended to help travel companies translate consumer leisure booking behavior and trends into tangible insights they can apply to create more enduring connections with travel’s early adopters before they become mainstream.  Below are some of the study’s most significant findings. 
Implement unified approach for leisure and business travelers:  Frequent business traveler behavior spills over to leisure travel practices, hence segregating business and leisure travelers may be the wrong approach. This is true for both travelers who work for companies with defined travel policies (e.g. corporate travelers) as well as unmanaged business travelers.
Shift travel marketing approach to focus on early adopters. Rather than simply measuring smartphone bookings as a growing new channel, travel companies should target this segment as true early adopters offering new services and products across the travel journey.
Research identified three interrelated early adopter segments in respect to their leisure travel behavior: (1) Frequent Business Travelers, (2) Managed Business Travelers, and (3) Smartphone Bookers. These are not standalone segments, as members of each may also be part of the other segments.
Smartphone Bookers
19% are leisure travelers who do not travel for business
26% are unmanaged business travelers
55% are managed business travelers
Managed Business Travelers – travelers who must adhere to policies when traveling on business
44% are smartphone bookers
Frequent Business Travelers
48% are smartphone bookers
Millenials (18-34) are more likely to embrace new technology.  The following compares the sample of millennials versus the other age groups.
Had a higher incidence of booking travel on their smartphone (68% vs. 26%).
Nearly three quarters own wearable devices (72% vs. 25%).
A majority used a ride-share service (61% vs. 21%).
A bit over half of millennials used alternative lodging (56% vs. 17%).
Smartphone behavior is impacting every stage of the travel ribbon.  A majority of leisure travelers use their smartphones at least occasionally to: 
Book/purchase travel products and services (46%).
Organize and manage their trip details, such as mobile boarding passes and booking reservation records (71%).
Plan and search travel products, services and destinations (56%).
Booking is on the rise, as 36% of leisure travelers have moderately, frequently or very often booked/purchased travel products on their smartphones. This represents an early adopter segment to target for new services.
Frequent Business Travelers are significantly more likely to do all of these activities on their smartphones.
Travelers want more personalization. Leisure travelers want a more personalized experience that better fits their preferences.  As overall e and m-commerce embrace personalization, travel companies will be expected to understand their customer needs and provide content that better matches those needs.  Managed travelers rated a bit higher for suggestive selling and personalized offers, showing this group is influenced by personalization techniques even though they normally travel under specific company guidelines.
Travelers want greater automation in hotels.  The majority of travelers would like to see greater automation of hotel services with over half wanting to use their mobile device to receive bills (58%), check-in (54%), checkout (57%), pay for hotel services (51%), and open their hotel room door (50%).   
Wearable devices are about to take off. 70% of frequent business travelers own a wearable device, and 38% of those who don’t plan to buy one.  Travelers with wearable devices agree (slightly or strongly) they would like to receive a variety of offerings delivered to their device, with alerts and notifications for events occurring during their trip being most preferred messages.
Smartphone bookers are inclined towards OTAs more than 51% of smartphone bookers prefer booking travel with online travel agencies (OTAs).  This could imply lesser impact of brand loyalty on millennials or the fact that OTAs are doing a better job attracting millennials and/or smartphone bookers.
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