What will the next decade bring for online travel?

2010 April 1
by admin

Mobile Commerce

Mobile commerce will change the face of travel shopping in the next decade. Although the recently launched iPad has generated widespread interest about shopping on the move, it will be the next generation of mobile devices that really starts to transform things. The jury remains out on the iPad, with mixed reviews resonating around the internet, but Apple and its competitors will be working hard to improve speed and usability issues. Lightweight mobile devices are sure to become integral to everyday life for quick browsing, price and availability comparison and instant shopping.

Interactive Video

Rich media will increasingly become ‘the’ way for people to find out about new travel destinations and experiences online. As broadband gets faster online travel retail will encompass more interactive video features into every day search features, such as zoom and rotate, which is already widely available. The next phase will be the wholesale roll out of interactive video, whereby a customer can pause by clicking on an item of interest to zoom or rotate to see things from a different viewpoint and create new show-reels of your own favourite clips. YouTube began a journey in monetising its video platform as early as 2008 in the US, with the introduction of unobtrusive “click to buy” buttons at the bottom of videos, allowing cutomers to purchase music, film and gaming content. Partners can work with YouTube by using its content identification and management system to enable links of user generated content. The idea of clicking a product in a video to find out more information and then seamlessly purchase that product is hardly a new one. New developments in technology however are now enabling this to happen via the use of embedded hotspots. Companies like ConciseClick, VideoClix and ClikThrough are reporting tremendous engagement rates and purchase rates with their clickable capabilities. Conversion rates, dwell times and profitability are all set to benefit from this technology over the next few years, as customers increasingly spend more time accessing video content over text and images. The trick will be to seamlessly embed merchandising data and “buy now” functionality into video as both a navigational and transactional tool.

Personalised Itineraries and Dynamic Packaging

A powerful trend of the future will be co-creation, whereby consumers  will be able to interact with brands online to customise their experiences and effectively tell etailers what they want. Brands will have to respond in order to survive, by tailoring their products and services to the personal requirements of their customers. Nike have already started offering their customers the chance to personalise products to their own specification and it is likely that consumer demand and expectations will grow to other industries – of which, the travel and tourism sector would be a prime candidate. In today’s travel market, consumers expect the ability to purchase all aspects of their trip in one place e.g. travel, attraction tickets, dinner reservations with local restaurants and accommodation. They want to be able to book all this online along with additional things like golf tee times, services for pets, parking and massages at spas etc. Dynamic packaging, the ability to pull in relevant content into an open platform, whereby the customer can then build their whole itinerary on the fly, allows this, as technology platforms open up and web services are fully utilised via APIs, XML and RSS.

Cross-channel shopping

Over the next five years cross-channel shopping will be a major trend. Moving beyond the multi-channel approach to ecommerce, whereby every retailer operates its own store, website and ecommerce application. Cross-channel shopping will see the integration of all customer touch-points into one seamless CRM led experience. Brands will have full view of the customer journey, from the point they browse hotels on their iPhones to comparing prices on their PC at work, to finally booking from home on their laptop.

3-D

As business starts to catch up with the speed of technology and bandwidth, a truly 3-D shopping experience will start to become reality, as everything from computers to TVs evolve with the introduction of 3-D screens. The introduction of avatars will transform the way in which consumers browse and shop online, as they will be able to view their virtual selves experiencing the best each of their chosen destinations has to offer. Sears is already using it in the US, allowing customers to pick an outfit and see it modelled in 3-D on a virtual model of their size. In future years, customers will be able to see themselves within full 3-D visualisations, possibly trying out various accommodation, attractions and activities before they buy. They will be able to personalise the experience by uploading their stats and preferences in order to tailor make their perfect break. The immersive nature of cinematic 3-D will bring to life any setting you like in a way that images or standard video can’t quite match; imagine viewing yourself whizzing through the treetops on a zipwire, riding on horseback across a beautiful stretch of coastline or relaxing in a luxury spa. The only challenge to business will be to make sure the actual experience is even better than its 3-D equivalent!

Technology Mashups

The coming decade will see the emergence of countless new combinations of existing technology into new forms of hybrid platforms and tools, forming entirely new business models in its wake. We are already starting to see evidence of this with the maturing of mobile and shopping trends, such as the eBay mobile application, which has been downloaded over seven million times. British shoppers make a purchase via mobile every 12 seconds and approximately 23 million people in the UK have a Facebook account, so it’s no great surprise that any activity that integrates the power of ecommerce and the potential of social networks is likely to be a key trend over the next few years.

Integrated Social Commerce

Large commercial entities are already in the process of opening up their technology platforms so that data can be used in innovative new ways by customers on their social networks of choice. An example of this is the way Tesco and Facebook are giving customers the ability to customise their own content and tools so that they can have everything in one place (without having to open multiple browser windows to do so). People will be able to use the power of social media to connect with friends and co-browse online in order to discuss what they like, and give each other feedback before purchasing, all within the one social networking site. Holiday experiences could then be tailored to each customer’s specific needs based on variables such as GPS location, the persons profile and the size and scope of their friend network. It’s all about customisation and consolidation of existing technologies to improve the online travel shopping experience.

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