TTX London event looked at digital transformation of other industries to inspire travel
What can travel learn from industries like music, news and banking? That was the question at our recent TTX London event – hosted as part of London Tech Week.
There’s no doubt that the way we shop, book and manage travel is changing. This is partly due to new technologies, as well as the changing nature of distribution. In our industry, discussions are rife about how we can keep improving the traveller experience. We face challenges such as growing traveller expectations, the proliferation of consumer tech and changing distribution models. Sometimes it can be difficult to keep up. But other industries have also been in our shoes. They’ve also had to disrupt themselves to succeed in an ever more competitive and rapidly-changing environment.
The music, news and banking industries – for example – have transformed phenomenally since the start of the “digital revolution”, which starting happening around 2007 when Apple’s first iPhone was released. No longer are we simply buying CDs from record store chains. Or keeping on top of current affairs by reading the local newspaper. Or managing our finances with one major high street bank. These industries are offering us more choice than ever – constantly evolving to bring us new and exciting ways to consume their products.
To find out how travel could learn from these industries, we invited a trio of experts from music, news and banking to share their experiences at our recent event, TTX London. Channel 5 ‘Gadget Show’ TV presenter Georgie Barrat, banking expert Dave Birch and music entrepreneur Martijn Tjho took centre stage to provide valuable insights, which we then discussed with a panel of travel experts.
Our three speakers all agreed on three things – that cost, choice and convenience to the consumer must stay front of mind for companies throughout periods of change. Businesses that can use technology to improve these factors for their customers will be the ones that succeed.
So, what advice can these industries offer travel?
Break the status quo to keep up with demands
For Martijn, succeeding in a time where music was changing meant keeping up with the rapidly-evolving demands of consumers. Music fans wanted more convenience and choice when purchasing music. “People were ready for digital before the industry was ready,” said Martijn. Many music companies failed to keep up with that demand, so lost out on a new generation of music buyers. Music businesses and artists subsequently lost out to pirate downloading – as once consumers had the ability to download music, they weren’t prepared to wait for legit companies to offer them this option. If they couldn’t download it legally, they’d download it illegally. “Those that succeeded in music were those that were willing to break the status quo – you’ve got to be willing to bite off the hands that feed you,” Martijn said on adapting the distribution model.
Reign in choice through personalisation
However, choice in the music industry became so vast thanks to digital that people were overwhelmed. Running through a database of some 100,000 tunes isn’t something anyone has time to do, Martin explained. Rather than be opened up to too much choice, there was a demand for companies that could narrow down that choice, offering unique suggestions based on a person’s own personal tastes. The same can be said for travel; we are browsing an average of 38 websites before we book travel. This reaffirms the value of the expertise of the traditional travel agent. And in technology that can capture customer data and use it to offer intelligent products and services to travellers based on aspects such as individual history, preferences, attributes and location.
Quality content rises above churn
For Georgie, speed was also important in news; people now expect constant new content. However, success in news has meant balancing speed with quality. “The news arena was completely blown over when anyone could start creating news,” she said. “There’s now so much churn that quality journalism has really decreased.” She also explained how the news industry is a victim of fake news and click bait – stories designed solely for the purpose of getting users to click through to websites. Georgie explained that, to really succeed in the news industry you have to create content that is contextual, personalised and engaging, otherwise it will get lost. “You also need to be able to produce at speed, as people now expect new stories in their news feeds every time they look at their phones.”
Look back at what hasn’t worked
Dave argued that, although the banking industry has transformed thanks to mobile applications, technology hasn’t actually changed that much. It is simply being used in new and clever ways by disruptive start-ups that understand what the digital generation wants. “All the technologies that are going to disrupt you in the near future already exist,” he said. “In order to succeed in periods of digital change, you actually need to first go back in time and look at what people used to think about the future. You need to understand why they were wrong – this will help you to improve going forward, and will help you quickly adopt the right technology in the right way.”
The cleverest use of technology, according to Dave, stems in using vast amounts of data. Those financial companies that can use customer data effectively are those that have thrived in his industry. A final word of advice for travel? Worry not about emerging technologies – “worry about companies that can make data work.”