Personalisation: The key to innovation in the travel industry

There are officially more mobile devices in the world than people and consumers are hungry to use their connectivity at every opportunity for convenience, speed and entertainment. It’s therefore unsurprising to see the likes of Virgin taking advantage of technology to offer a fully personalised travel experience

Ahead of the curve

Two new travel apps released by Apple and IBM are perfect examples. The Travel Plan app helps plan business travel and recommend potential hotels using the user’s travel history, while the Travel Track app offers push notifications informing travellers of boarding times and connection details. Gmail’s Inbox also schedules trips within its email calendar automatically based on ticket confirmations, and even creates event reminders for the busy traveller.

However, more businesses within the travel industry – from hotels and resorts to travel agents and airlines – must follow this lead and utilise innovative technology to stay ahead of the curve. Research shows that only 20 per cent of airlines have adopted this personalised approach to date so, if ever there was a time for travel businesses, large and small, to innovate in order to stay ahead of the curve, that time is now. 

For smaller businesses in particular, personalisation offers a new and exciting way to add value. This is key to competing with the “Goliaths” in a complex market and will help improve customer experience, to the benefit of holiday-goers the world over.

Delivering the personalised touch

When it comes to using technology to personalise travel, innovation is key. The days of using off-the-shelf software are long gone and travel businesses which adopt a “good enough” attitude to technology will be left behind by their competitors. Travel businesses which continue to offer innovative USPs to customers will thrive as brand loyalty increases. 

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It’s also vital to strike the right balance between getting the personalised message right, and potentially being intrusive. After all, consumers may become irritated if they are bombarded by push notifications before a flight. It’s a line businesses must toe carefully and working closely with software developers will facilitate this.

It’s vital travel businesses offer engaging apps for consumers. For example, travel agents can take advantage of beacon technology to offer exciting deals to consumers via smartphones as they walk past a store on the high street. This might have seemed the stuff of sci-fi five years ago but it’s now an ideal opportunity to engage customers with tailored messages.

Personalisation shouldn’t stop once a customer leaves the high street. Intelligent apps have the potential to offer a connected passenger journey from the moment a customer begins searching for holiday destinations, right the way through to the journey home. Using available data, travel businesses will be able to create a complete profile of each customer, offering them a smart, personalised travel experience, and anticipating what consumers need before they realise it themselves.

With emerging technology it is now possible for consumers to receive traffic updates whilst travelling to the airport, find pre-ordered goods on their seat upon boarding the flight and have tailored information sent straight to their personal devices throughout the holiday. Hotels can send personalised offers to previous guests and provide current guests with a list of the restaurant’s daily specials. Similarly, using knowledge about travel habits and holiday preferences, airlines will be able to find the perfect time to send flight and hotel deals to smartphones.

An Agile approach

It’s clear that taking a personalised approach to technology, through bespoke software, will set forward-thinking travel businesses apart from their competitors. Innovation and the ability to leave “off-the-shelf” concepts behind is key when it comes to surprising customers with something new, exciting them, and tempting them to buy. In addition, travel businesses that take an Agile approach to software development will find it easier to innovate than their competitors. 

Agile approaches encourage collaboration throughout the development process, ensuring the latest customer needs, trends and ideas are incorporated into the resulting software. If the whole industry becomes more agile in its approach, it will become possible to facilitate collaboration between all elements of the customer journey, from the travel agent to hotels and local attractions. After all, it’s encapsulating consumer needs from start to finish which is central to providing a truly personalised travel experience.

Rowan Welch is account director at Black Pepper Software.

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