By Branchspace & InteRES | 27 August 2020
Travel is evolving rapidly in 2020. After both leisure and business travel ground to a halt earlier this year, travel corridors, phased re-openings and general customer uncertainty saw an understandable shift in travel arrangements.
While some vacationers flocked to the usual holiday hotspots, flight search and bookings data revealed a growing demand for slightly more alternative trips. Interest in domestic travel climbed as cottages and other short-term rentals tripled for the first time in years. Short-haul budget flights rose in popularity. Diggintravel’s analysis of Skyscanner flight search data noted that while the average length of stay for trips rose, the average number of days between booking and flight date decreased: on the whole, trips appear to have become more spontaneous.
In order to better understand what appears to be a shift in customer behaviour, we should examine traveller pain points within their context as customers. Take, for example, the family unit. Parents with school-age children tend to time vacations with summer holidays and may take extra consideration whilst planning group activities. If they choose to travel this year, their journeys may take them to familiar lakes and beaches just a few hours away. Those who do choose to fly in spite of COVID-19 anxiety may take extra precaution and seek remote adventures, self-catered accommodation and trip insurance.
Furthermore, the unevenness of country openings presents families with limited destination options. Navigating a new country and managing rapidly changing arrival travel advice whilst juggling a family vacation is complicated enough without adding transport to the mix. As long as the risk of reinstating quarantine measures remains, the computed effort into trip planning presents a barrier to completing a booking.
What if airlines enhanced their portfolio outside of flights and ancillaries to be more relevant, inspiring and convenient for their customers? What if airlines served compelling, contextualised offers for non-airline products, accommodation and services?
By transforming the airline into a one-stop-shop for travel, we can create a frictionless, contextualised buyer journey without disrupting the booking flow and without creating extra steps. The airline is then able to inspire and enable the entirety of the trip experience beyond the flight.
For example, consider the aforementioned family persona. In this scenario, the airline could utilise collected data – e.g. interest in remote houses and sporting activities – to extend and contextualise the offer to include a lakefront vacation home, bike rental, family-oriented flight bundle with meals and travel cancellation insurance.
The contextualised offer on the front end is enabled by a platform for managing dynamic presentation. On the backend, the airline enables the offering of external partner products by accessing in-built inventory solutions for vouchering, or by utilising the emerging ONE Order communication with rental agencies for full-blown order management and fulfilment.
This ideal state is readily viable through leveraging technology capable of both implementing contextualised booking flows and leveraging a substantial product inventory. Furthermore, the order and offer engine would need to allow the airline to control and configure state-of-the-art customer experiences, including the shopping, order and exchange process delivered through intelligent business logic, and in line with the NDC vision of “everything is a service”.
This pandemic has shown that travel providers need to take a more agile and imaginative approach to digital retail. From recent flight search data, we can discern that customers require both inspiration and flexibility to book their trips: these can be addressed through leveraging strong technology partners such as InteRES and Branchspace to enable visionary airline retail.
Learn more about how we enable travel providers to transform their digital experiences below, or get in touch.
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