The Future of Travel and New Travel Ecosystems

Last week I attended the APAC Travel Summit organized by facebook APAC. It was an industry-leading event with a variety of stakeholders and brands from the travel industry. Facebook flew in some of their global travel experts to discuss current challenges and opportunities. I thought it’s worth sharing an executive summary about how the Future of Travel can look like.

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Biggest Opportunity: Improving the Consumer Journey

Facebook put the consumer journey into three parts with its levers to improve conversion: discovery (awareness, information gaps, technology improvement), purchase (availability, buying, payment) and post-purchase (fulfillment, support, repurchase). Based on their latest research, 9 out of 10 consumers report frictions in their booking process with brands. Hence, there is a high urgency (and importance) to improve the fragmented user journey for consumers in the digital age.

SEA: Inspiration mainly through mobile

Most consumers use a variety of communication channels in their discovery process. SEA markets are considered “high-growth” and therefore behave differently to established markets such as France, Canada, US, Germany or Australia.

Especially in APAC the mobile usage is a key driver for receiving inspiration in the travel industry. Below is the comparison of travelers who have used mobile applications for travel inspiration for their last personal trip.

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Convenience as key driver that brands should invest in

Based on the latest findings from facebook the current path to purchase is complex, even though +80% of consumers rate convenience as their key driver to purchase. More than half of consumers have previously abandoned an online purchase because of the hassle putting in their payment information. Furthermore, the consideration set for travelers is small: more than 7/10 typically book with 1 to 3 travel brands.  And more than 2/3 of consumers filter for specific brands when booking through OTA (=Online Travel Agencies such as Kayak or Skyscanner). As a result, investing in a smooth and good user and brand experience does pay off eventually…. Talking about investments that are ‘paying off’, there are more;

Loyalty Programs still hold value

More than 76% of Indonesian and more than 79% of Indian travelers say that being part of a loyalty program makes them more loyal to a brand. Similarly, travelers who consider themselves as loyalists are more likely to purchase air tickets directly from Airlines specific sites. As a frequent traveler (min. 2 flights / week) I can support these findings. The key drivers of loyalty programs are quality, reliability and customer service. Lastly and most importantly, loyalist become the best advocates for new potential loyalists.

Travel Ecosystem is Changing

The new Product Marketing lead for travel & eCommerce showcased how the travel ecosystem is changing: nowadays there is a “wild world” of content. From social content (feeds, stories, videos, blogs etc.) to human curations (by bloggers, influencers, review sites) there is an abundance of content available. Similar to some of the insights from above, we are living in a mobile first society in SEA. There is a 62% smartphone penetration and APAC is expected to have 1.8 billion mobile users by 2021. Lastly, the industry is re-defined by the rise of super apps (one stop digital destination such as WeChat, Line, Grab) and the rise of new disruptors catering to digital natives (such as Klook or OYO). Most brands have not adapted to this new ecosystem and if they don’t invest into their digital activities they will have struggles to compete in the future.

Upcoming Solution: Building for Consumer Interest Types

One of my personal highlights was the showcase of the product roadmap with a focus to improve travel intent (enhance travel destination intent signals), core experiences (to create more personalized experiences) and incrementality (to drive value that you can measure).

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One of the new product feature for travel intent is the building for consumer interest types. Essentially facebook will offer consumer to choose travel destinations based on your interest, favorite activities or traveler type. This product feature is amazing as it (a) will help consumers to find the “right place” based on a variety of attributes and interests and (b) for advertisers and brands to get micro-targeted audiences based on these attributes and interests. Travelers value experiences created “for them” so brands can offer more relevant promotions, advertisements or activities based on these upper funnel signals. And for travelers it will help in their inspiration and planning stages.

As a frequent traveler in SEA I am very much looking forward to experiencing an improved consumer journey (which is more convenient) with my favourite brands or new ecosystem players via mobile and collect my miles/points while doing it 🙂

All photo copyrights are with facebook Inc.

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