by Ryan Taylor
Recommended for you. One-click purchases. Watch on any device. Amazon, Netflix and other e-commerce companies have created high expectations for frictionless experiences when buying. Consumer demand for seamless, streamlined and personalized interactions is creeping into travel too.
Millennials and Gen Z consumers, in particular, demand this type of experience throughout the customer journey. As WEX and Mastercard found in the 2019 U.S. Travel Trends report, these two groups (32% and 36%, respectively) feel that digital tools like chatbots and assistants can make booking travel “easier and frictionless.”
Tech Smooths The Way To Frictionless Experiences
A report by Sabre identified what business travelers are looking for in frictionless travel, by region. They found that business travelers in APAC want automated information, itinerary-management apps and mobile payment capabilities. And, in particular, see room for a more frictionless experience in being able to make changes to flight or hotel bookings using their mobile device while traveling.
Latin American business travelers are looking for convenient hotels, and believe communication can improve current travel “pain points.” While, business travelers from EMEA cite efficiency as a top priority. Business travelers from this group, along with those from North America, see dealing with expense paperwork as a challenge and would like to be able to handle it with their mobile device.
In leisure travel, our flights, our accommodation and our rental cars can be booked using mobile, and that’s increasingly how we check-in at the airport or hotel or even how we pick up our rental car. Order and pay for your car through your smartphone, then download an app that you use to identify and unlock your keyless entry car – a frictionless experience.
Known Digital Identity, a joint venture by the governments of Canada and the Netherlands, lets travelers cross borders faster through a digital profile on their mobile devices. Profiles are updated automatically as individuals travel.
Biometrics plays a big role in giving travelers the “streamlined, hands-free journeys” they want. Japan’s busiest International airport, Narita International, is using facial recognition to verify identities and shorten travelers’ wait times in customs. Coupled with a mobile app, it helps with customs declarations and passport info too. In the hotel sector, a survey by Oracle last year found that 72% of operators expect to see facial recognition in the next five years.
Passengers using SJ, a Swedish rail company, can avoid paper and digital tickets with a biometric chip implanted in their hand. Conductors simply scan hands.
Facebook’s head of global travel strategy, Nikhilesh Ponde, sees “tremendous potential” for virtual reality (VR) in travel, particularly with the introduction of Oculus—the first wireless standalone headset. Facebook research found 58% of younger travelers like the idea of using VR or artificial reality (AR) to give travel a test drive.
Frictionless Experiences Provide Bottom Line Benefit
“Industry leaders and corporate brands are getting smarter about equipping travelers with tools they never even knew they needed,” said Euan McNeil, general manager for FCM Travel Solutions. “With personalized value-adds, disruption-predicting AI and real-time customer-centric technology, clients can streamline the overall travel experience for greater productivity.”
Yes, new, cutting-edge technology is moving the travel industry to a place where seamless travel experiences with limited, and even no, pain points are a reality. But, there are many more opportunities for improvement out there. Online hotel bookings still take time and effort for guests to find exactly what they want. Tour and activities is lagging behind other sectors in making travel frictionless because of its continued reliance on paper versus digital transactions.
For more see: How AI Might Transform The Competitive Landscape Of The Travel Industry? (to link to future blog post)
Creating Frictionless Payments Experiences
Frictionless travel needs payments technologies that accommodate both the diverse range of travel players and the equally diverse payment preferences of travelers from across the globe.
Travelers want options when it comes to how to pay, so to stay competitive travel companies need to consider alternative and local payment types, such as Alipay, PayPal, Trustly, Klarna, and others. A true frictionless payment experience would allow travelers to switch back and forth between devices seamlessly.
In a recent press release, Mastercard announced a new partnership with Divido and lastminute.com that lets travelers take advantage of installment payments. The company explains this new offering is part of its “commitment to launching even more innovative and frictionless payment options, helping transform travel dreamers into bookers.”
What is going on behind the scenes when it comes to payments is also important. Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) and other travel companies are faced with the challenge of paying a broad range of suppliers across the globe. Travel companies need to partner with a payments provider who can ensure suppliers are paid in a streamlined and efficient way.
WEX offers travel companies more choice in how to pay suppliers. Our virtual payments technology provides a wide and ever-growing variety of payment options to cater to the needs of each individual supplier payment made to ensure acceptance and optimize payment flows and costs. While seamless integration with existing systems and platforms allows travel companies to create frictionless payments experiences for accounts payable teams.
Virtual cards also allow travel companies to ensure their business and customers are safeguarded against fraud. Single-use virtual card numbers and customizable controls limit usage to protect the business from misuse or fraudulent use while avoiding the need to pass on customer payment details. All of this combines to ensure the traveler has a frictionless experience when traveling without worrying about behind the scenes happenings.
For more on how fraud is affecting travel see: Travel Industry One Of Most Targeted For Fraud
Travel companies understand the power of evolving technology and travelers’ desire to leverage that technology for better access and greater efficiency. Those that are successful in creating frictionless experiences to make the customer journey easier will stand out in the highly competitive travel space.