A woman uses her smartphone. Facebook
Travelers are using digital connectivity to plan, pay, and post about their adventures more than ever before. This connectivity gave travelers new levels of convenience, simplicity and knowledge. The smartphone, in particular, ushered in borderless internet, giving these consumers access to anything while they are on the go.
Connectivity is the new normal, with this digital access underpinning the very existence of “Connected Consumers,” one of eight trends Euromonitor International identified to watch through 2030. In particular, the advent of mobile internet has been one of the greatest innovations, putting the world at the connected consumers’ fingertips no matter their locale.
This widespread connectivity ushered in generational shifts in how these individuals live, work, shop, play and travel. For example, more connected consumers globally are researching and booking travel on mobile than before, according to Euromonitor International’s Global Consumer Trends Survey. Mobile-based bookings have grown five times faster than overall online bookings based on Euromonitor estimates.
With almost half of the global population using the internet as of 2017 and three-fourths expected to do so by 2030, according to Euromonitor International, connected travelers are here to stay. As such, it is imperative that travel players rethink their long-standing strategies in order to appeal to this new consumer type, which is more impatient, connected, demanding and informed than others.
Below are three key things for travel players to consider before rewriting their commerce playbook:
Handing Power to the Traveler
Widespread connectivity has had a fundamental and profound shift with regard to the consumer’s position in traditional power structures. In particular, there has been a significant dispersal of authority to social groups now connected by the internet. Connected consumers are more likely to trust someone similar to themselves. For example, they are more influenced by personal recommendations and independent consumer reviews as compared with mass marketing, according to Euromonitor International’s 2017 Global Consumer Trends Survey.
TripAdvisor is an example of a company that gained its footing by relying on those consumer reviews to build its brand as a travel review site before adding in hotel, restaurant and activity bookings in 2012. Companies and brands are now at the mercy of reviews like these from connected consumers. As a result, brands are no longer solely in control of information about their products and services, though they may tap into the power of influencers or social media channels to help shape their image. Instead, informed consumers now walk into commerce transactions armed with information about what they want and should expect to pay.
Creating Consumer-centric Experiences
Connected consumers have access to products and services when, where, and at the price they want to pay, thanks in part to digital connectivity, which has created new expectations in the brand-consumer relationship. Aspiring next-generation companies and brands will likely struggle to be consumer centric without technologies like artificial intelligence. In particular, travel continues to be one of the industries most impacted by the emergence of the connected consumer as a greater percentage of consumers use digital channels to plan, pay and post their travel experiences.
Online travel agencies (OTAs) widely use technologies to provide data-driven recommendations based on a user’s previous searchers or what others have booked. Hotels leverage data, such as pricing, user booking pattern and occupancy, to change hotel room pricing through the day. Travel brands, such as Booking.com, Kayak, and Expedia, have begun experimenting with chatbots to learn what consumers like and how to deliver appropriate suggestions. These virtual assistants have the potential to optimize travel management for self-sufficient travelers, thus reducing the time taken for routine tasks.
Relying on Tech to Convey Authenticity
As conspicuous consumption, or the notion of consumers acquiring goods and services to display wealth and status, falls out of favor, authenticity has emerged as a unique differentiator in consumption. From the desire for unique travel experiences to engaging the services of local guides, consumers are craving more authentic experiences regardless of connectivity. Although the desire for authenticity is not unique to the connected consumer, technology has played a key role in conveying and enhancing authenticity. Delivering such experiences in today’s connected era calls on brands to become storytellers before, during or after an experience.
Travel brands leverage a variety of technologies to create experiences that are more genuine and unique. Expedia and Thomas Cook are two brands that take would-be travelers on a virtual journey of popular destinations before booking thanks to virtual reality. With augmented reality, museums are superimposing their virtual world right over what is in front of the visitor. Tourism boards leverage the augmented reality functionality as well to superimpose nearby points of interest over a user’s camera view on a smartphone as well as offer a one-of-a-kind tour based on the traveler’s interests. Great travel experiences are truly memorable, and if brands deliver in this connected world, it means consumers will turn to social media sites to share their unique experiences with friends and family members.
A New Playbook Is Required for Connected Consumers
This widespread connectivity has brought with it a plethora of opportunities. It lowered the entry barriers, thus creating openings for the most focused, fast-moving companies. It altered the structure of competition, the conduct of business and ultimately industry performance metrics. It enabled brands to more easily forge one-on-one relationships with end-consumers by offering tailored experiences and recommendations thanks to an explosion of consumer data.
At the same time, this connectivity gave connected consumers access to anything at any time. This trained connected consumers to expect what they want, whenever and however they want it. Connectivity, along with the technologies and platforms enabled by this access, continue to reshape consumerism. In order to win over connected consumers, travel brands must rethink their strategies to target these more impatient and informed connected consumers.
Euromonitor International is a leading provider of global strategic intelligence on consumer markets, with offices in London, Chicago, Singapore, Shanghai, Vilnius, Santiago, Dubai, Cape Town, Sao Paulo, Tokyo, Sydney and Bangalore and a network of 800 in-country analysts worldwide. Euromonitor International’s analysis of the global travel industry covers a wide range of categories, including tourist flows and expenditure, lodging, transportation, car rental, cruise, tourist activities, travel intermediaries, online and mobile travel.