There And Back Again: How High-Tech Wizardry Is Revolutionizing The Travel Landscape

Chetan Sharma, Growth Hacker - Head Online Marketing, CleartripA passionate data-driven digital marketing expert based in Bangalore, Chetan has wide experience in the online space with proficiency in search, display marketing and analytics for both web & mobile

The images of automation in literature are facilitated ­ if not exactly explained away ­ through magic. While we are still far away from witnessing knitting needles weaving a scarf without human intervention outside the Harry Potter universe, technological advancements have indeed enabled some magic to exist in real life. Modern-day individuals can simultaneously get a plane ticket booked on scheduled dates, a room reserved in a decent hotel, and have a tentative itinerary planned for themselves without having to wave a wand. How? By just asking their artificially intelligent virtual assistants.

The advent of advanced technologies such as AI, machine learning, big data analytics, IoT, etc., has transformed the entire business ecosystems across the world and the travel industry is no exception. It has enabled travel and OTA brands to not only reach out to their customers with the most relevant message using an Omni-channel approach at the most appropriate time but do so at an unthinkable speed and scale. The following, then, are some of the ways cutting-edge brands are proactively leveraging advanced tech integration to facilitate a seamless and hyper-personalized experience to new-age users across geographies and demographics.

Driving Consumer Micro-moments with a tech-led, Multichannel Approach
The modern consumer behaviour is characterized not as much by meticulousness or prudence as with spontaneity ­ hence the term impulsive buying. Small moments can indeed trigger major purchase decisions or influence the engagement between a brand and its target audience. Such a method of stimulating consumers into participating in a transaction has been a popular tactic in the mainstream business landscape. Leading players in the travel and tourism domain, however, are taking this a step further by leveraging technologies to capture the micro-moments and fan the intent to travel among their customers. Top OTAs, for instance, use data analytics, AI, and machine learning to develop in-depth consumer profiles and group them according to their preferences, region, price sensitivity, etc. Brands then leverage digital tools to target and remarket their products and services across social media channels to create engaging and attractive conversations around the idea of travel and leisure.
Delivering Hyper-Personalization
Personalization is one of the central tenets in the modern business landscape. Travel brands are increasingly deploying AI and Natural Language Processing (NLP) driven systems to enhance the quality and personalization factor of their communication focused on customer services. Chatbots have emerged as one of the most popular interfaces between brands and consumers. Eliminating the need for human intervention ­ exceptional cases notwithstanding ­ NLP-powered Chatbots can conduct complete conversations with a user and resolve routine queries. This technology is capable of understanding simple requests such as queries related to ascertaining the lowest price for a particular destination or booking a plane ticket. Combined with AI, the same technology can assist consumers with cancellations, refunds, and rebooking. In this way, OTA brands have been able to drive revenues as well as customer retention by facilitating their consumers with superior user experience and satisfaction.

Travel brands are increasingly deploying AI and Natural Language Processing (NLP) driven systems to enhance the quality and personalization factor of their communication focused on customer services

Optimizing Business Processes using Business Intelligence and Data Analytics
The increasingly digital-first travel industry generates huge volumes of data. Naturally, it becomes impossible to keep track and collate this big data manually. It is here that analytics steps into the picture. Brands today are leveraging data analytics to power real-time alerting and monitoring systems, identify anomalies, capture rare and minute observations, and derive quantifiable insights into the continuously evolving customer behaviour and preferences.

Employing AI systems to derive business intelligence from data points such as travellers' purchase history, OTAs are able to segment them into different value groups. Brands can then maximize the effectiveness of campaigns and marketing initiatives by targeting specific consumers using the most efficient marketing channel. Created by leveraging data-mined insights, such micro-targeted marketing campaigns are more likely to resonate with potential customers, resulting in increased conversions and, subsequently, enhanced ROI.

Analyzing Social Media Reviews
Reviews comprise a major influencing factor that clinches a decision for or against a product or service for the modern-day individual. For new-age travellers, it holds truer than ever before. The social media has thus emerged as a critical source of data that OTA brands can, and indeed do, use to map consumer behaviour and sentiments by leveraging AI-powered `social listening' tools. The insights acquired can then be used to streamline and enhance the service offering in sync with the tastes, preferences, and expectations of the community of new-age travellers.

Virtual Assistants facilitating a Smart Planning and Travel Experience
According to a recent Price water house Coopers study of traveller attitudes to AI, more than 56 per cent of surveyed travellers are open to the idea of accepting an AI-powered travel agent within the next five years. Considering the steadily rising tide of digitization and increasingly digital penetration in India, the deployment of travel technology will continue to grow more widespread as time progresses. While still in its nascent stage, AI-based applications are already facilitating a seamless and hassle-free experience of booking and executing trips for modern consumers.

Automation tools are also being used by leading OTAs to deliver suggestions to customers for flights, hotels, value-added services, and experiences that they are more inclined to opt for and enjoy. In fact, top market players create entire digital itineraries based on user preferences to facilitate a convenient booking and planning process. In the coming years, the next stage of technological evolution is expected to bring even more interesting and effective use cases to the table.