CIOs see their key focus this year as driving business innovation and digital transformation. The travel sector in particular, needs to embed digital transformation at the heart of its strategy - with companies such as Airbnb, Uber and Google leveraging data to disrupt this industry.

Research shows 84% of travel businesses have a digital transformation function in place within their company. However, this impressive figure has translated into initiatives with varying degrees of success. With a variety of opportunities available, the travel sector needs to prioritise which innovations are more appropriate to their business, as tick box adoption will fail.

The first step towards a successful digital transformation strategy is to understand what it is and what it can achieve for each individual business. Fundamentally, digital transformation is the process that realigns technology and business models so customers are effectively engaged at every touchpoint in their journey with the business.

What digital transformation isn’t

Given the current diversity in initiatives, it is vital travel businesses understand just delivering the following doesn’t constitute successful digital transformation.

1. A website

Travel businesses are continually improving their online presence. However, even if a company sets up Facebook, Twitter and a mobile app, it’s still not digital transformation. The missing ingredient is the alignment between all these separate initiatives to provide a seamless customer experience (CX). These elements must be aligned with the business model if digital transformation is to achieve growth for the company.

2. Exclusively online

Businesses must focus on transforming their digital presence as well as their bricks and mortar presence. For example, a customer may have a brilliant booking experience on a hotelier’s website, but upon arrival there’s no Wi-Fi and they need to queue to check-in, as the hotel doesn’t offer self-check-in kiosks. Is this really digital transformation?

3. Driving people apart

While many believe technology prevents human interaction, transformation is set to do the opposite as it has the customer at its core. For travel businesses this means personalisation for each customer. Digital transformation allows companies to collect more customer data to personalise the CX, so users feel closer to the business they are engaging with.

 

What digital transformation is

So what is the real meaning of digital transformation and how can it be adopted to help travel businesses thrive?

1. Customer-focused

As mentioned, the starting point is to develop the most personalised experience possible for the customer. The great swathes of data available can be effectively analysed to provide pertinent information, thus creating a solid foundation to develop a robust digital strategy - placing the customer at the start and heart of the process.

This strategy is used very effectively by Global resort Caesars, with the hotelier using apps to empower customers during their stay. The myTR app allows Total Rewards members to manage reward points, check existing reservations and locate a Total Rewards casino anywhere across the country. Caesars’ loyalty program uses analytics to deliver a personalised experience for its customers. Through this, Caesars has created the ultimate CX, benefitting both the business and the customer.

2. Ubiquitous

Digital transformation streamlines technology across all customer touch points, providing a consistent, high-quality interaction with the business. Both physical and digital CX are vital for the travel industry to create competitive advantage. Technologies such as virtual reality (VR) are set to help increase bookings, as they instantly transport the user to their destination making it even more desirable.

3. Integrated

To excel with digital transformation, it must be woven into all business aspects - from strategy to customer service. Enlisting the help of experts, whether in-house or externally, will provide the consultancy and expertise to ensure businesses are utilising the tools available to them.

To ensure successful digital transformation, businesses must invest in technology, as well as other resources to support this strategy. Regardless of how this is achieved, travel businesses need to address how best to implement these strategies to ensure a long-lasting digital transformation is implemented.

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