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How AI & ML are Shaping the Future of Travel.
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning has taken the world by storm and is having catalytic effects in the travel industry where brands have always been forerunners of the most innovative technologies.
From a marketing perspective, AI and ML services help brands better market and personalise their offers. For example, if a travel company has data about holidaymakers, where they usually travel and what time of year; this is the most valuable data they could ever have. Brands need to be using this data to tailor their offerings to the right audience at the right time with AI and ML giving them the ability to do this at scale. When it comes to booking a holiday AI can only play a small part in the user experience for those who already know what they want. But for those who don’t, AI enables them to describe what they are looking for and enables brands to serve them with relevant offerings that match up with these descriptions.
Where are we currently seeing AI and ML in travel?
Early adopters such as Uber, Booking.com and Airbnb are already using AI and ML to enhance the customer experience and transform their online presence.
In the last 12 months we’ve seen an increase in travel brands using technology to simplify the user experience. Virtual assistants is a trend more and more brands are getting involved in, some such as Kayak, have introduced Amazon’s Alexa technology to give users access to real-time flight information as well as the ability to explore and book their trips using their everyday in-house device. Whilst others like Sagittarius client, Red Carnation Hotels are developing their own virtual concierge using Microsoft's cognitive technology to give online users the ability to access pages of content, offers and view hotel information via chatbot technology straight from their browsers.
Then there’s more subtle instances such as Trainline’s price prediction software which allows users to find the cheapest ticket for their journey and has saved travellers more than £9m. Trainline’s BusyBot is also a great example of how brands can use crowdsourcing machine learning to predict how busy trains will be and help travellers find a seat.
We’re also seeing brands such as Uber using facial recognition to authenticate the identity of their drivers; providing security to their drivers and safety for users. This technology is paving the way for brands to provide authentication for payments, check ins and more giving everyone security and helping prevent against fraud.
How is AI and ML changing the customer experience in travel?
As AI matures it simplifies the travel experience for users from search and booking, through to during their travels and evidently the feedback after the travel.
An AI assistant has the capability to detect when a specific guest checks-in using PII data or facial recognition, enabling that brand to personalise their experience based on what we already know about them i.e. recommend an excursion or restaurant.
ML is then enhanced using feedback. Once a guest has left feedback about a specific trip or restaurant their digital profile (data) can be updated to enhance the rest of their experience and the future experiences of other people that have similar interests.
Speaking to the experts
I asked our in-house experts to provide their opinion on how they think AI and ML services are shaping the future of travel marketing… here’s some of their responses:
"Speed and Quality are the most important differentiators in the Travel Sector now that price has been democratised. Best of breed brands are using AI and Machine Learning to leverage data at scale and ultimately design better services." Ian MacArthur, Global Experience Optimisation Director
“AI and ML services have been shaping the world of travel for many years and I suspect that the future will see this continue to enhance the customer experience pre, during and post travel. I also suspect that AR and VR will play a big role with travel brands already using this technology to offer a ‘try before you buy’ experience for online users.” Nick Towers, Managing Director
“Technology is moving faster than we can culturally keep up with and for most it’s become boring and uninteresting so that’s why AI and customer-centricity is so important. In today’s market, a good customer experience is expected, so to stand out your travel needs to be remarkable. Being remarkable doesn’t necessarily mean you need to reinvent your brand, it might simply mean you need to take something that you’re good at, your ‘moment of magic’ and create this at scale digitally, using AI.
“Brands need to be embracing AI technology such as virtual assistants if they want to keep up with the competition because as it stands, voice is the most efficient way for a customer to get their information and it’s down to the brand to ensure they can use voice to deliver this to their customers.” Paul Stephen, CEO
Getting started on your AI ML journey
ML and AI is only as good as the data you give it and data only works if you have all your systems joined up. Therefore the first step is to get your data in order, if you don’t give your data any intelligence, it won’t have any.
Once your data is setup the next step is to figure out who is going to own this process. Often brands find that you can’t fit an innovative project such as this into the day-to-day project cycle which means you need a team that can own it. The growing skills gap that currently exists in digital especially when it comes to AI and ML makes this process all the more difficult; travel brands need to embrace this by introducing an external skill set that can help them own this.
The team at Sagittarius are expertly positioned to help travel, transport and tourism brands harness the power of this developing technology and are already developing solutions for brands to improve customer experience using AI and ML.