Mobile technology has already brought huge change to the travel and hospitality industry, but in the coming years, a range of exciting technological developments will advance and revolutionize the way we do mobile bookings. The latest advances in machine learning, artificial intelligence and contactless payment methods are speeding up and simplifying the way people search, shop and pay for products and services entirely through their mobile device.
Major players in the travel industry are taking heed, integrating the latest technology to help consumers research their next trip and inspire them with tailored recommendations. As mobile becomes truly integrated into everyday life, travel brands will look to stand out by making their mobile offering as easy, intuitive and user-friendly as possible.
With that in mind, here are four of the biggest mobile technology trends happening right now, including our own take on how they could transform the hospitality industry.
1. Artificial Intelligence
In the future, people won’t have to spend hours trawling through websites to find the best hotel room. Artificial intelligence will do the hard work for them. For travel brands, that’s great news. A frustrating or fruitless search for the right room can lead to lost conversions. But when machine learning gets involved, everything changes.
Travel technology company Wayblazer has been working on an AI hotel search for some time now, and they’re just starting to debut their results. By using the cognitive computing power of IBM’s Watson, Wayblazer is able to interpret search requests containing everyday language, which it then uses to scour the net in search of the most relevant, customized travel options.
Wayblazer can also learn about customers by observing contextual online behavior such as search requests, browsing habits and purchases. With access to a wealth of data, it can build complex profiles that reveal what consumers really want from a vacation.
Over time, AI like this might learn that a customer has a preference for boutique hotels with spa facilities, prefers the beach to the city, loves dining out and wants to be ten minutes or less from local nightlife. As a result, it could provide a tailored list of hotels that perfectly match a person’s preferences.
All of this has particular benefits for mobile bookings. On a mobile device, users generally indulge in short bursts of online activity that Google calls “micro-moments” while conducting travel research. However, the majority of people still end up booking on desktop. But platforms like WayBlazer could change that.
By providing highly personalized travel recommendations in a near instant, research time would be reduced and decision-making would be sped up, potentially encouraging customers to browse and book purely through their mobile.
2. Card scanners and mobile payments
Soon enough, the very notion of paying for things by cards and cash will soon seem pretty archaic. Mobile payment services such as Apple Pay are now gaining popularity, enabling customers to make purchases in seconds with just a quick touch or click of their device. In the case of Uber, a card scanner in its app allows customers to swiftly secure their account, which then gets automatically charged once they’ve been dropped off after a journey.
Travelocity already has an iOS hotel booking app that lets customers pay at the checkout with credit card scanning technology. Given the particularly high level of abandonment rates in during the checkout process in booking travel, this sort of technology could greatly help to alleviate one of the biggest pain points of booking hotels.
Mobile payments could also help hotels better manage the check in and check out process. Instead of having to run credit cards at the beginning and end of their stays, travelers could simply swipe or tap with their smartphone to pay for their rooms and any additional services.
One of the “hot” new trends in Silicon Valley right now, chatbots are a form of artificial intelligence that simulate a human conversation with a computer program over text. Through online “chats,” it’s possible to make simple requests such as booking a taxi or ordering room service.
With the launch of a bot store through Facebook Messenger, companies can now build their own bots and make them available to Messenger’s 900 million monthly users. A number of major players within the travel industry have created their own Facebook Messenger bots, including Kayak, Skyscanner, Expedia.com and Cheapflights. These new automated chatbots allow travelers to search and book flights and hotel rooms through rapid, text-based conversations. In the case of Cheapflights, travelers can receive recommendations based on the context of their conversations through an innovative “inspire me” feature.
This all begs the question: might hotels soon create their own chatbots to improve the booking process? It seems the process is already underway. Just recently, Edwardian Hotels London, a Radisson Blu brand, announced the creation of its own chatbot, “Edward.” Chatting over text, “Edward” will allow guests to make requests for hotel amenities or ask to receive details on attractions or sights in the local area.
This means that customers can instantly get the information they need to help make a booking decision, rather than having to wait on an email response or needing to call up the hotel. Hotel managers, however, may find that messaging directly with guests, rather than building out a custom chatbot, is far easier and more convenient.
4. Voice recognition search
If communicating with travel brands via chatbots does end up being ubiquitous, it seems inevitable that communicating with a chabot will eventually involve voice-based conversations.
This kind of technology is already being utilized by Kayak through Amazon Alexa. Consumers with an Alexa-enabled device are able to activate Kayak within the Alexa app and then make voice-based travel requests, from receiving the latest prices on flights and hotels to checking real time flight data. It’s also possible to receive inspiration by asking for recommendations, i.e. “Where can I go for $400?”
Bookings still need to be completed through Kayak’s main site, but plans are afoot to make the whole booking process a voice-activated one through Alexa. The rest of the travel industry will be paying close attention to how consumers react to Kayak’s voice search technology. While OTAs and metasearch sites may be the first to follow suit, hotel booking engines may also find a way to integrate with voice-based software.
It may not be long before customers can visit a hotel website and complete bookings purely through speech using voice-activated commands. If anything, it would be a major development for on-the-go business travelers who are mostly managing travel plans through their mobile device.
Mobile is the linchpin to these future technologies
As developments in technology continue, the way people search and book their travel plans will dramatically alter in the coming years. With the combined power of machine learning and voice-activated technology, travel research could be more streamlined and more efficient. Artificial intelligence could find customers their perfect hotel room, and a chatbot could process their bookings.
The catalyst for this coming change is our increasing reliance on mobile devices. We’re already beginning to see a major shift in user behavior in the way people search and book travel on mobile versus desktop. As more people become comfortable on mobile, these new technologies will only help to push mobile to the mainstream.
Interested in learning more about mobile trends and strategies for hotels? Join our free webinar on July 14, 2016 hosted by Travel Tripper, Checkmate, and StayNTouch.