Automation is one of the current technological trends in the business world. It reduces a company’s resource expenditure and improves productivity. The travel sector has always been one of the early adopters of the latest technologies.
In order to be successful in this competitive world, businesses have to observe how customers behave in the market and what are the factors which influence their decision-making. All businesses need to understand the consumer buying process and according to that, businesses need to craft their customer acquisition strategy.
Role of Digitalization on Consumer buying
Digitalization has impacted the consumer buying process a lot. In the early days, people used to plan their Holidays with local travel agents. With local travel agents, there are fewer choices/options. Their own reach must be limited. It was the time when Travel companies were enjoying bargaining power. But the internet and new-age technology have turned the table.
With the help of the internet and new-age technology, consumers now have more opportunities to research their needs. This reflects the consumer’s decision-making process as well. When you observe a consumer Decision-Making journey the very initial stages are Need recognition (The Awareness stage) and information search respectively. Technology made the consumers way smarter. Today’s customers have ample sources to research and become aware of their needs and options to satisfy the need. In addition, many online product comparison platforms have made life easier for the consumer.
Moreover, the emergence of giant players like trivago, Make my trip, etc are providing multiple options in terms of selecting preferred accommodation or booking air tickets, trending packages. In literal terms, consumers can plan holidays on their own.
However, Those gigantic start-ups have impacted a lot in the travel industry and those who have most suffered are the small to mid-range travel agencies or local travel agents who haven’t adopted new trends. However, even after the great resources those startups have, many travel agencies are fighting and winning the battle on so many fronts because they have envisioned the role of the latest technology in consumer decision-making and adopted it early.
Study shows local travel agencies still have great chances to succeed because the large player lacks the personal connection with the customers. Small travel agents have to grab the opportunity and focus more on increasing their presence online. Over 59% of people are still influenced by the reviews of friends and relatives when it comes to planning a trip. And when it comes to cruise travel still the majority of bookings are done with the help of a local travel company. Trust and Relationship is still relevant in the travel industry.
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How a chatbot will impact the travel Industry
Before discussing the impact of a chatbot on a Travel Agency, let’s first discuss what it is and why it is such a massive opportunity.
Chatbot in simple terms is an artificial intelligence (AI) program that can simulate a conversation (or a chat) with a user in natural language through messaging applications, websites, mobile applications, or by phone.
Chatbots are gaining a tremendous response from various industries. Chatbots are helping companies to interact with their customers in a pretty good conversational manner. It also helps to carry out various tasks such as lead generation, customer support, appointment booking, etc. Chatbot enables companies to provide personalised service to their customers which ultimately helps to improve the customer experience.
Chatbots have become a common form of customer service these days and they’re now used by travel companies to help their customers during in-person bookings. AI chatbot helps owners answer FAQs professionally, which helps enhance the customer experience as they no longer need to be in a queue to get answers to basic queries. Users can get answers from anywhere.
One of the best uses of chatbots in the travel industry is lead generation.
Earlier, online lead generation was done through email marketing. In this day and age where it is well established that automation is the future, Conversation through email is not a great choice. Not only does it require more human resources, but engaging consumers with delayed email is a challenging task. A Chatbot can be a savior in this kind of situation. Many people are adopting lead generation automation where a chatbot can converse with prospects and ask some basic questions regarding the preferred travel destination, tentative date of the trip, contact information like name, phone number, etc. This will be a great help for the salespeople (for the follow-up call to the prospect). And the study shows one with prior details of prospect’s choices will definitely help salespeople to communicate effectively.
Impact of social media on customer’s decision making
Social Media has a tremendous influence on the Travel industry. People are more likely to get influenced by travel photos shared on social media by their friends or by their favorite Travel blogger/vlogger.
According to the skift research, around 53% of people have responded that it is important for them to share their travel photos on social media and around 49% of people have responded that Facebook is the platform where they are more likely to share their traveling photos. With this much potential for social media like Facebook, it becomes imperative/essential for a firm to be present on social media. Also, merely being present on social media is not enough, firms must use social media with full potential, generate leads, and convert the lead into a business. Imagine a Travel agency is running a social media campaign on Facebook (which is more effective now a day to intrigued the customer) for their trending travel packages and if a potential customer wants to enquire about packages, the first thing they would likely to do is check out the Facebook page and wouldn’t it be incredible if a there is a Facebook messenger chatbot available and answer the basic questions and collect the lead’s information? The presence of a chatbot on the Facebook page helps the customers to get the answers quickly and they also do not require to navigate through confusing-looking websites. This makes the chatbot a must-have technology for every travel agency.
Getting leads and converting them into a business in this competitive environment is getting tougher and tougher. Also, potential customers may be scattered across different platforms or chat channels. So businesses have to be present on different platforms. Businesses have to focus more on the Integrated approach which involves increasing traffic on the website, running a Facebook ad campaign, or cold calling with a Text Messaging campaign. Making the customer experience seamless across chat channels can be a challenging task. A Chatbot can be the go-to tool for the marketer/business owner for lead generation.
Let’s take an example of PK-Travels chatbot, built by Pragankalp Techlabs, which helps the business owners to make the customer experience seamless by having the ability to be integrated with different chat channels such as Website, Telegram, Google Assistant so that a customer who comes to check out the Facebook page can get the same experience (in terms of getting the information about Travel Packages, Contact details, so on and so forth) as they would get on a website chatbot or talking to customer service executives.
You can access the website demo here: https://pragnakalpdev16.pythonanywhere.com/
In essence, when you closely follow the evolution of chatbots and the journey of a chatbot, chatbots can play many roles in different aspects of the business. A chatbot can be a “true companion for every marketer”, as it helps to increase customer awareness concerning product information, and helps in “Prospecting” by automating the whole process. For a Business owner, a chatbot can be a favorite employee “Who is always on duty” which ultimately helps in reducing the cost. For a customer, a chatbot acts like a “personal assistant”, always eager to answer your query. So, Chatbot would offer a win-win situation for both business owners and customers making it a desirable solution for each business owner.
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How Travel Industry is going to impact from Conversational AI Chatbot was originally published in Chatbots Life on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.