Hundreds of property partners recently came to Amsterdam for Booking.com’s annual Click. event, with a line-up of travel industry experts and inspirational speakers. We give a brief roundup of some of the key takeaways across the two-day event held at SugarCity.
1. Customers crave instant gratification
Pepijn Rijvers, Chief Marketing Officer at Booking.com, outlined an undeniable reality facing the travel industry: customers are more impatient than ever. He highlighted an example of someone booking a ride on an app with an expected arrival time of two minutes, but it then taking 10 minutes – resulting in frustration and a bad customer experience. Customers want travel and transport at their fingertips, delivered in minutes, he told the audience.
This need for instant gratification creates huge business opportunities. Booking.com has developed a chatbot that answers 60% of English customer service queries. And teams at the Machine Learning centre in Tel Aviv are looking at how they can use Artificial Intelligence to improve the guest experience – for one, by developing voice technology similar to Amazon’s Alexa. But it’s not just about technological developments at Online Travel Agencies: there's an opportunity for accommodations to get on board too. A good place to start? Implementing instant messaging, same-day bookings and a seamless check-in experience.
2. Mobile is the new frontier
Rijvers continued by discussing the role mobile plays in this era of instant gratification. Firstly, 50% of travel is now booked through mobile and the global average for daily smartphone use is 5.5 hours. Despite these mind boggling stats, he argued that there’s a big disconnect in how customers are currently communicating, and how businesses are actually delivering.
People are engaging with mobile content mainly for entertainment – meaning they have low intent when it comes to purchasing. So how do we create personalised content that drives bookings? Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba is already doing it – 50% of their yearly revenue was generated from personalisation. Rijvers predicted that in 10 years, every business in the world will be driving revenue on mobile, delivering faster and more relevant content. It’s the businesses that start focusing on this area right now who’ll end up miles ahead of their peers, he concluded.
3. It pays to be different
New York Times bestselling author and brand expert Sally Hogshead dared the audience to be different. The CEO of How to Fascinate used Jägermeister as an exemplar of product differentiation, which could be useful to properties wanting to stand out from the crowd. Hogshead explained that few people order Jägermeister for the taste. Instead, consumer research shows that people usually take shots of the drink on a Friday night, and typically fist bump to celebrate after forcing the drink down. This insight shows that there’s something fascinating about Jägermeister - the brand essentially transcending the core product. It might not be the best tasting, but there’s a ritual around it. And when Jägermeister recognised this fascinating element of their product, they were able to market it better and reach the right audience. Proof that brands that identify what makes them different do better than brands that try to be the best.
4. Technology is changing the face of our industry
David Vismans, Chief Product Officer at Booking.com, kicked off the morning on day two with a session focusing on the future of hospitality. He discussed the way digital tools are democratising information and disrupting traditional travel sector roles, and laid out Booking.com’s mission to use technology to bring together all parts of the industry. Vismans also introduced Ram Papatla, who heads up Booking.com’s Experiences department, and Lawrence Hester, Co-founder of FareHarbor, recently acquired by Booking Holdings. Both talked about their goal to connect every aspect of the travel industry, from bringing pen-and-paper tour operators online to offering transport, activities and in-stay services as one frictionless guest experience.
5. It’s easy to only think individualistically about the guest journey
But guests think of their trip as a whole – and so should we. Rob Ransom of BookingSuite painted a picture of an industry built on antiquated, incompatible technology which stifles collaboration between each step in the customer journey. He made the case for switching to a native cloud-based Property Management System – something only 1 in 10 hospitality businesses currently use. Ransom argued that a cloud-based core system allows you to freely connect with other tools and get creative, exploring ways for your team to leverage technology to improve guest experience at every possible touchpoint.
6. Transport is one of the last areas to digitise
You spend four years of your life just getting from A to B, or up to six years if you live in an emerging economy, according to Nick Earle, former SVP of Global Field Operations at Virgin Hyperloop One. “Transport is the last area of our lives to digitise,” he told the audience. Earle pointed out that until recently, innovations in travel have been based on improving an existing system that simply wasn’t designed for the modern world. He forecasts an upcoming transportation revolution led by hyperloop technology – a network of low-pressure tubes that will carry passengers and cargo direct to their destination in high-speed pods. Covering 500km in 30 minutes, hyperloop has the potential to regenerate entire regions and “turn cities into metro stops” - presenting a huge opportunity for travel as a whole.
Check out video highlights from the event
Hero image: credit to Wendy van Bree
- Speakers such as Formula One racing driver David Coulthard and branding expert Sally Hogshead offered business insights and inspiration during the two-day event in Amsterdam, as well as Booking.com's own experts
- The annual event provides the opportunity for properties to network with industry leaders and peers