38% of UK SMEs believe they will fail if a digital strategy isn’t implemented, yet only 2% are actually doing something about it. In the highly competitive travel industry, it's vital professionals at every level understand the technology available and how it benefits the business. If not, efforts to cut costs and introduce sleeker operations will be wasted. Travel companies have seen small technology changes enhance the travel experience though, such as faster Wi-Fi and interactive airport desks, but to truly capitalise on technology, businesses must think differently.

 

But how can this be achieved?

Listen, listen, listen

Customer expectations are getting louder, and travel businesses must listen to them. After all, it’s travellers who consume the service and technology on offer so the customer journey must meet their expectations. Failing to do so will see them turn to competitors who are investing in disruptive technology, rather than lagging behind in the backseat.

It’s unforgivable for travel companies to ignore public demands, especially at a time when businesses are neck deep in big data which guarantees more consumer information is available than ever before. Long gone are the days when businesses based service decisions on assumptions or relatively small market research groups. Instead the rise of big data has facilitated an environment in which savvy businesses tailor their service to customers using the profiles of thousands upon thousands of users.

Such sharp analytics enable travel businesses to spot trends, and therefore opportunities, which then inform the overriding corporate strategy. For example, if an influx of people begin searching for weekend trips to Spain, a travel agency can launch a promotion to encourage more bookings. Similarly, if those same users are beginning to adopt virtual reality (VR) technology, agents may take advantage by offering personal VR tours of hotels to give customers a 3D experience of the accommodation before a purchasing decision is made. This should eradicate the fear we’ve all felt when pulling up to a dodgy hotel and wondering if you’re staying there.

One business has put its money where its mouth is. Red Roof Inn now utilises weather and flight cancellation data to build an algorithm to help passengers who need accommodation and fast. Factoring in weather severity, time of day and cancellations, Red Roof Inn can now calculate exactly how many stranded passengers it can market to. With these insights they use geo-based marketing to reach those stranded passengers’ smartphones and this initiative saw a 10% boost in profits in the 12 months from 2013 to 2014.

Barriers to adoption

With the number of mobile phones globally forecast to reach 4.77 billion by next year, it’s astonishing to believe nearly 70% of travel companies don’t have a mobile strategy. This isn’t good enough; travel businesses not offering customers a seamless mobile experience will most likely not have many customers for long.

The churning data overload companies face when personalising their service is just another barrier to adopting new initiatives. Large corporations, who are not in a position to adapt quickly to customer demands or cannot be agile enough to implement new initiatives and strategies, can easily fall victim to this. Using external experts to assist in data management ensures businesses aren’t wasting time and money trawling through the company data.

Legacy systems are also a huge issue, as some travel businesses are using IT older than many of their customers. Unsurprisingly, such tech is often incompatible with the latest tech. Not only this, but other barriers such as legacy systems can be incompatible with new IT systems for the latest technology initiatives which also need to be addressed.

System integration is a complex area, but one where external experts can again help with the nitty gritty aspects, so businesses can create a seamless customer journey.

To capitalise on technology though, travel businesses need to conquer all these internal issues to ensure the company remains competitive and are able to adapt to the forever changing marketplace. Ensuring the business is agile enough to adapt to the rapidly evolving industry and have the latest expertise on how and where technology can help, is the essence for travel businesses to excel within the competition.

Don’t just use technology, use resource

Understanding which technology is best for business and being clued up on the latest solutions is crucial to the successful implementation of a digital strategy. Aligning the latest technology with the overall company strategy is the key for travel businesses to safeguard against a poor customer experience and personalise opportunities for its audiences, putting the consumer at the heart of the matter – always.

Using experts in the field to help devise a plan to implement a technology strategy and to learn how to become more agile, will help address the barriers travel businesses face.

Overcoming these problems in the initial stages of the technology adoption phases will help massively to integrate systems, analyse data to understand the customer and spot growth opportunities, improve website, enhance online offerings, personalise services, improve efficiency and introduce customer focused apps and so much more.

All of these combined creates a technology strategy to personalise customer journeys for consumers, capitalising on the future success of the business, and who wouldn’t want that?

For more information visit blackpepper.co.uk

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