Reimagining the Online Travel Experience
Will Payman, VP Strategy, Macquarium
Whether we daydream of sandy beaches, or the bustling streets of a far-away city, the desire to travel and experience the world is an all too familiar one. While we all look forward to vacations, few people enjoy the task of endless browsing and comparing dates and prices across multiple websites.
So why is it so difficult to book a vacation? When we look at customer behavior there are multiple steps that customers go through that are not really supported by many digital travel companies. Think with Google (among others) broke the task down into 4 distinct phases: Dreaming, Planning, Booking, and Experiencing.
Travel brands are great at helping you book a trip. But they are falling short in helping customers during both the “I want to get away” dreaming moments and in the planning moments. This got us thinking about how we could re-imagine the travel customer experience to encompass the dreaming and planning stages as well.
How could dreaming be done better?
When you are dreaming, there are many vacation types that people like to take, and in most cases the choices are overwhelming. City or country, beaches or mountains, active or relaxing, individual or family, close to home or the other side of the world? What if an interface could be created that could help your narrow down your choices and make recommendations of the types of vacation that fits your needs? Macquarium created a concept that does just that.
We envision a highly visual interface that allows you to make choices that narrow down the types of vacation you are looking for and then explore the results in a compelling way. We believe that a system like this will be enhanced with voice input and supported by artificial intelligence that will learn your preferences and make smarter suggestions the more you use it.
So, now that you have decided where to go and what to do, the planning begins. Using the traditional booking engines, you are presented with the “when do you want to go” question. Although a date is important, vacation travelers have often a time window and can travel on a range of dates. What if you could work backwards, and select the things you wanted to do in a planning experience and the system helped you optimize around a desired date range?
Macquarium’s designers imagined a world where planning a door to door experience would be flexible and componentized thereby allowing a consumer to plan and book every element of the vacation at their pace and sequence. The componentized approach would also open the door for a service oriented model that vendors could easily plug into (vendors like entertainment and events, parking, restaurants, etc).
Vacations have typical patterns: travel to, experience at, and travel home. By using templates our planning tool will allow users to add multiple objects from parking, to flights, to hotels, and attractions. Book everything together, book just the flights, add hotel or parking at a later date, it would all be possible in our envisioned experience.
But why should travel companies invest in such experiences? From our perspective there are several business benefits including:
Identify customers earlier. No longer are they a session, they’re a customer from the moment they start planning the trip.
Future demand planning. Customers are telling you what and when they want it. Meeting this demand will increase revenue opportunities.
Ability to buy now or later and save trips. Ease the cost to the consumers, by allowing different parts of the vacation to be purchased at different times. This would be a competitive advantage to any provider and capture a greater percentage of customers vacation spend.
Ability to add new services, such as ground transportation, parking and attractions, increases spend on your site.
Improve customer service and overall customer communication. As more of the trip details are contained in one place, the ability for each service to be updated in the event of a delay can be handled by the system. This would reduce customer stress and lead to an increase in customer satisfaction, as well as have the potential to reduce support costs. A true win-win.
We believe travel companies will expand beyond the booking moment and the winners will be the ones that create experiences that help consumers during all phases of their vacation purchase.
Macquarium is a digital customer experience company, that was worked with travel brands like IHG, Delta, and Marriott. If you want to know more about our experiences please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.