ONLINE HOTEL BOOKING TREND 2 – 2017: The massive proliferation of interactive technologies like messenger apps, chat bots, robots, cobots supported by machine learning and artificial intelligence is changing the way bookers interact with a product. Could this mean changes in the way one books a hotel?
There has been massive growth and adoption in messenger apps. They include popular public channels like whatsapp, wechat, snapchat and slack.
In addition, messenger apps and chat bots are being widely adopted by hotels and travel companies to improve guest communication and speed up customer service.
Add to this the appearance of robots and cobots (co-working robots) at the workplace to perform routine functions.
Finally, the data from these interactions is analysed and machine learning helps provide detailed insights into customer needs and continually improve the delivery of services using them ie the evolution and application of artificial intelligence (AI). The AI-driven personal assistants like Siri, Alexa and Google Now are part of that evolution.
The consumer need
As technology has become ubiquitous, its use has become more sophisticated. New generations are being born into the mobile world.
The consumer desire for speed is more than ever.Guests are not used to waiting for a long time before finding someone to answer their basic questions or to wait for something to be delivered.
What is driving change?
The growth in processing speed has resulted in powerful mobile computing and smart phones. It also allows more sophisticated use of data. The way in which consumers use their mobile phone has continued to change.
Emerging customer expectations
In the long term, the smart phone looks set to be the personal remote control for pretty much everything in life. Appearances may change (may be wearable, foldable etc), but its ability to manage every day life will only get better.
Are they delivering on expectations?
Let us look at some of the short-term changes that have happened:
This led to the growth of the chat bots and artificial intelligence powered personal assistants. Pana for iphone organises travel plans in one place and sends personalised notifications to help users travel smarter. HiJiffy connects guests with hotel’s staff through Facebook Messenger.
There seems to be a chat bot race just as there was a race to create new apps.The article quotes Facebook as saying that there are over 11000 chat bots on Messenger.
Add to this mix, collaborative robots (also called co-bots) designed to work alongside human workers, assisting them with a variety of tasks- and Buddy the companion robot is not content with being just a companion – it is also democratising robotics. Relay is an autonomous delivery robot that is being used by hotels to deliver simple items to guest rooms.
The technology is young, and while most of these chatbots have yet to become viable alternatives to existing travel planning options like Trip Advisor and traditional guides, it could be only a matter of time before our smartphone-obsessed culture embraces booking by text.
Hotels and travel companies are building products and services where the customers are.Brands across the industry are experimenting with chatbots.
Why is it so popular? It delivers instant gratification to customers and allows booking hotels and related services within an environment that is part of everyday life.
Businesses applying this trend
Travel site Expedia released a bot for Skype recently.
Dutch airline KLM has become one of the first brands to use Facebook’s new branded messenger bots, powered by Nexmo last year.
Kayak has used natural language processing, to develop flight and hotel search in workplace-chat app Slack.
Edwardian hotels uses ‘Edward’ its new AI driven chatbot for guest self-service.
Aviva has created messaging software for Airbnb hosts who want to automate their messages to guests so that vital, but repetitive/standardised details about the reservation can trickle out over time, at the optimal time.
Lola provides on-demand, personal travel service through a smartphone app connecting users to a team of travel agents who find and book flights, hotels, and cars.
Trend potential and takeaway
Gartner predicts that by 2020, 30% of web browsing sessions will be done without a screen – one of the reasons to suspect that the booking engine as we know it will go away (and take on a back-end role)
Messaging apps and chatbots are a whole new reservation and distribution channel or should be treated as one. It can help generate additional revenues through more personalised marketing messages.
Enhanced automation and messaging apps within the environment of the customers help hotels provide faster responses without losing the element of personalisation.This means more loyal and happy guests. And by saving employee time, also allows for cost savings.
Independent hotels that did not have the resources to build native apps can now use existing platforms to target customers and bookings. All it takes is the willingness to study some of the ready to use technologies that are quickly maturing. This means in increasing level of democratisation in the ability to use technology to enhance bookings through channels hitherto seen as pure marketing mediums.
The end of mobile apps as we know them and intelligent, serverless bot service that scales on demand. Other Bot as a Service (BaaS) platforms include Wit (Facebook), Api, Reply.ai, Smooch.io, and Meya.ai.
GuestUBot is a chat communication service that allows you to interact with your Facebook followers as well as your website visitors 24/7. The Bot answers any question from your customers automatically.
Expect new buzz words like Bot as a Service (BaaS) & Artificial-Intelligence as a Service (AIaaS) to become as common as Software as a Service (Saas)
The creators of Siri have now developed Siri-creator shows off first public demo of Viv, ‘the intelligent interface for everything’