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Learning From the Early Adopters of Digital Travel Services

Posted June 27, 2016

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When it comes down to investing in new technologies to engage and delight customers, travel companies have a lot to consider. It’s a high-stakes game with solid competition and savvy customers that have very specific needs as they navigate the travel experience. Decision-makers might wonder if resources be put into giving customers access to the most popular, trendy digital capabilities? Should focus be placed in one part of the travel buyer’s journey? Should leisure, business or managed travel customers drive initiatives?

As tempting as it is to pour money into the development of a shiny, attention-grabbing new app, will it increase market share? It’s crucial to take a strategic approach aimed at building sustainable value for the brand. A good first step in charting the right course is to let go of assumptions about what’s “hot” in travel industry technology and turn to what early adopters of digital travel services (who just might be your best customers) are doing.

Insights into Early Adopters

The Cognizant and Phocuswright whitepaper Identifying Early Adopters for Emerging Digital Travel Services explains how travel companies can better connect with their “technology-obsessed” customers by prioritizing engagement strategies. This means going beyond simply embracing new technologies, for example introducing a new app, it’s about enabling customers to have vibrant end-to-end experiences that lead to brand differentiation and business value.

Here are some top learnings from Phocuswright’s study aimed at understanding US leisure booking behavior and experiences:

  • There is a great deal of overlap among the three early adopter segments—smartphone bookers, frequent business travelers and managed travelers—indicating that uptake of new technologies is far from limited to one group
  • Early adopters embrace emerging technology and services across the entire travel lifestyle
  • Examples of emerging tech/services used by early adopters are wearables, ride-share services, and alternative lodging
  • Millennials are more likely to embrace new technology

The writers of the whitepaper note that travel companies often treat frequent business travelers just like any other leisure customer, rather than recognizing their early adopter behavior. Travel companies also tend to view smartphone bookers as “just another” revenue channel, rather than considering them a separate early adopter segment that can help them experiment with new tech offerings before releasing them to the mainstream.

Appealing to the Mainstream User

If early adopters are among the first loyal consumers of new technology and services, what does it take to get the mainstream interested? According to the study, it’s about using technology to reduce friction where it pops up across the travel journey. The study found these sticking points along the journey process are at the airport and on the plane, at the hotel or in the destination, as well as post-trip activities. It’s suggested that because early adopters are more likely to be less-than-satisfied at these points along the journey, mobile technology can be used to help communicate and enhance the experience in these high-friction areas.

Recognizing early adopters and what’s important to them will help companies fine-tune their digital tools and services before introducing them to the wider customer community. Explore the white paper Identifying Early Adopters for Emerging Digital Travel Services for deeper insights into the Phocuswright survey results. And to learn more about emerging technologies and services in the travel industry and which consumer segments are driving the trends, read:

Why Travel Sharing Services Are Here To Stay

Ride-Sharing in Corporate Travel Slowly Accelerates

Mobile and Millennials: 4 Ways Hospitality Brands Must Accommodate

Millennials: Eager Road Warriors?

Travel Apps: Usage, Awareness, and the Generational Divide

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