agoda , one of the world’s fastest-growing online travel booking platforms, has predicted that 2018 will see consumers looking for a simpler way to book their travel accommodation. Whilst many major travel industry players continue to deliver complex products and loyalty programs, independent travelers will instead choose companies that deliver streamlined travel experiences through leveraging effective technologies.
Omri Morgenshtern, Chief Product Officer at agoda, comments: “Consumers today expect to get well-digested information quickly. They don’t have the time or patience to do things a service can do for them. They will look to offerings that add value by simplifying the way they travel – from researching destinations to ordering room service. At agoda we are committed to drilling down to the basics so that our customers can experience the properties and services they want without weeding through unnecessary complexity.”
Here are agoda’s predictions for the travel industry in 2018:
Simplification wins over “buzzword” technology
The last few years has seen plenty of hype around developments in AR and VR, with some working to apply these interactive experiences to the travel space. Whilst the benefits of these new opportunities should be explored, there has been little consumer demand for such experiences, and the hardware isn’t advanced enough to provide real value.
In 2018, agoda will focus on leveraging technology that can save consumers time, rather than concentrating efforts on hyped up technology. For example, expect to see travel providers continue to develop solutions that use AI to increase personalisation of travel experiences.
“At agoda we’ve already been leveraging AI to deliver the best customer experience, from using it to deliver personalized accommodation recommendations to AI-enabled chat bots. Expect to see more of this in 2018”, said Morgenshtern.
The emergence of ‘anti-rewards’ programs
Given the amount of choice and competitive pricing in the travel industry, added benefits and rewards are more important than ever. However, according to a CapGemini Study, 90 per cent of social media sentiment around rewards programs is negative. 33 per cent of this sentiment cites the lack of a seamless multi-channel customer experience, whilst 44 per cent is around the lack of reward relevance, flexibility and value. And this is no surprise – most consumers rarely understand what benefits they will be getting with many of today’s rewards programs, or how to get them.
In an effort to replace these nebulous rewards programs with more straight-forward incentives, agoda launched Gift Cards, a simple way for customers to earn immediately usable agoda cash value credit for future bookings. Under this new rewards program customers know how much Gift Cards they will receive before they make any booking. This gets credited to their agoda account after a completed booking. Unlike other loyalty programs – where you need to accumulate a minimum number of points before you redeem – you can use your agoda Gift Cards credit as soon as you receive it, without any minimum spend or other restrictive conditions.
In the first year of launching Gift Cards agoda has awarded millions of dollars (USD) of cashback credit. As the market becomes increasingly saturated, consumers will look to rewards programs more than ever to decide where their loyalty lies.
Travel as an integrated experience
Year-on-year, agoda has seen a 60 per cent overall increase in the use of its mobile app, for both researching and booking travel, suggesting consumers increasingly prefer an easy, on-the-go experience. In 2016, about 40 per cent of agoda’s bookings globally were done through mobile. Fast-forward one year later, and that has increased to 50 per cent.
With the rising success of multi-functional apps such as WeChat in China, in 2018 this trend is set to catch-on throughout the rest of the world to feed the increasing need for a more integrated travel experience.
This year, agoda launched an integrated tool called ‘agoda Reception’ to further support customers after they have made their booking. The new feature will enable agoda customers to access reception and room services, arrange transport to and from the property, as well as to discover nearby attractions – all without leaving the agoda app.
Millennial as a mindset, not an age bracket
With the term ‘millennial’ beginning to take on meaning beyond just one’s age, in 2018 there will be a shift towards millennial as a mindset. agoda’s global Travel & Tech Study showed that regardless of whether a traveler is a millennial or not, what interests them is the same. For example, the top two preferred travel activities are seeking out nature or scenery (67 per cent for millennials vs. 72 per cent for non-Millennials), and food and dining (67 per cent for millennials vs. 70 per cent for non-Millennials).
People of the millennial mindset often live a fast-paced and demanding lifestyle, and as such, expect everything at their fingertips. Mix this with the desire to have unique, shareable experiences and we will see a rise in demand for new types of travel, delivered seamlessly.