“Alexa, organise my next holiday for me”.
Just how far away are we from this being a natural request? Well, maybe not too far. Like many markets, the travel industry is on the verge of a potentially critical transformation due to the rise of artificial intelligence and smart speakers.
We are edging ever closer to voice devices – like the Amazon Echo, Google Home and Apple Homepod – becoming commonplace within the home. In fact, Gartner estimate that by 2020 75% of US households will have a smart speaker.
Consequently, it is gradually becoming essential for brands to have a presence on voice devices. For the travel industry, the likes of EasyJet, Expedia, Ryanair and SkyScanner have already begun building out their Alexa portfolio. Through their skills, their customers are able to get up-to-date information on their bookings and, in some cases, inspiration for their next journey.
If you’re looking to adopt voice into your marketing strategy, it is essential to think about what customer problems you can solve with technology and what you’re actually looking to achieve.
Creating a Frictionless Experience
In January of this year, Amazon launched a new voice initiative for hoteliers.
The Alexa for Hospitality service is designed to help hotels provide guests with a more engaging and easy stay by deploying Echo devices in rooms. Devices can be tailored to specific hotels, with basic requests including calling the front desk, requesting supplies, ordering room service and (when set-up with other smart devices) controlling the lights and temperature in the room.
Marriotts have been one of the earliest adopters of this new service, introducing personalisation, efficiencies and differentiation into their hotels – helping combat competitive pressures from Airbnb.
In fact, whilst Airbnb focuses on a ‘do-it-yourself’ culture, Marriotts is specifically targeting individuals and groups looking for pressure-free holidays/stays. By embedding Alexa into hotel rooms, they have streamlined potentially time-consuming tasks – enabling guests to focus on the things that really matter to them. This could be vital to maintaining a hold on both the family and business traveller market – who AirBnB have begun targeting after capturing Millennials.
With cultivating a relaxing atmosphere being a key aim for most hoteliers, Alexa for Hospitality enables these establishments to build additional layers of stress-free living in their hotels.
However, this is merely the first step.
By analysing search activity on their platform, Pinterest has identified an increase in users looking for small-town destinations. This is driven by an emerging travelling trend for off-the-beaten-track adventures and visiting hidden destinations. Rather than wanting an all-inclusive holiday, people now want to ‘live like a local’ when they travel.
Consequently, we are now going through a form of diversification within the travel industry. People are creating their own unique experiences – sharing and celebrating it through social media. This is driving a greater expectation for personalisation from travel services – in fact 57% of travellers feeling that brands should tailor their information based on personal preferences or past behaviours.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning is central to Bezos' vision for Alexa. As this technology evolves, travel brands will have more opportunities to tailor experiences to the precise individual – providing responses and suggestions based on users’ diet, lifestyle choices and interests.