There is a convincing argument that the travel industry invented e-commerce. In the 1960s, American Airlines and IBM developed the first-ever computerised customer reservation system. Fast forward to the first internet age of the late 1990s and travel is one of the early adopters of this new technology. Today, travel is one of the most compelling digital commerce success stories, with four clearly identifiable trends at the heart.
Digitisation of the whole travel timeline
Technology has had a major impact on leisure and business travellers over the past two decades, and the biggest global players in the sector are all digital businesses. Travellers are familiar with researching, booking and paying for trips digitally, using a combination of desktop, mobile web and apps.
Digitisation for leisure travellers goes beyond buying the trip. Most travellers, even those who book offline, will have a smartphone with them on the trip. Travel firms can now engage with their customers in-destination, which has led to interest and investment in getting tours and activities providers to join the digital transformation of travel.
Business travellers are also seeing a holistic impact of technology on their work-related trips. Beyond booking, they are benefiting from smoother airport experiences thanks to biometrics. Receipts can be scanned in using optical character recognition (OCR) and integrated into travel and expense software. Corporate or personal connected devices can help ensure wellbeing on the road.
A customer-focus driving personalisation
Travellers’ expectations are being shaped by what Amazon, Netflix and eBay offer. These non-travel businesses concentrate on personalisation, choice of product, user experience, service, payment security and data protection. Amazon puts the customer at the heart of everything it does, and travel firms are starting to think the same way.
Personalisation is a key component of customer-focus. Travellers generally allow their travel supplier access to personal data, so long as they get something in return. The value-for-data exchange is now business-critical for the travel industry. Without permissions, travel firms can only offer a generic service.