How AI & ML are Shaping the Future of Travel.

AI-ML-Services

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.

Whatever your business, be it a regional or global brand, the content you produce plays a vital role in your success. You know that… hence you’re reading this.

A well formulated and executed content strategy not only drives more traffic, at the core, it defines what your business is and helps build a strong connection between you and your audiences.

So let's quickly look at why developing a coherent content strategy is important and how setting clear goals and understanding your audience will elevate your online performance. 

What is a Content Strategy?

It's basic right? Content is at the core of how you define the way your business presents itself and an effective strategy should look to ensure that tone of voice, messaging and the core values are surfaced across all channels, from service or product pages on your website, to blog posts, through social media updates blah blah blah.

But let's keep it simple - your content strategy should be a clear roadmap that connects your marketing activities to your business goals. Align to your customer’s wants and needs and engage them at every interaction point and boom, you're in business. 

Who are my Audience?

You likely start all your projects with this chalked on the wall because your business knows “exactly” who its customers are right? Sounds obvious but we often find its not been done forensically enough (not based on data), is too old (more than 12 months ago - forget it) or its a spin off from some brand work that was legitimately aspirational but doesn’t face the reality of who you your business is actually engaging today.

So start (or circle back) with audience research, building out those personas to understand their ambitions, their lifestyle, their pain points or concerns, and crucially their wants and needs - in your context. 

Do I need to tailor content?

As part of your research find out where your audiences spend their time online and how they interact with content: Some may spend time thoroughly researching a product or service, whereas other audiences may want their content to be quick, snappy or easily digestible in the form of a video, infographic or short blog posts.

 

Ultimately, the key is to produce a strategy that creates the type of content your customers want to see:

  • What are the problems that your product or service will help them solve?

  • Who are they most influenced by?

  • What voices influence their behaviour?

  • What type of content do they consume?

  • Where do they consume content and engage with brands?

Different Content, Different Objectives

 All content is not born equal: When producing your strategy, it is important that the objectives for each individual piece are defined, that these fulfil your marketing objectives and tie to the overarching goals for your business.

There are various content frameworks that exist to aid content development in this way, but one that is popular and effective is Google’s hero, hub and hygiene method: It provides a framework on developing content to achieve different goals and gives guidance on the effort needed to create each type of content.

Hero Content

Hero content is essentially campaign content, it is big splash ideas designed to appeal to a large audience with the aim of telling your brand’s story at scale. 

Ways of measuring hero include the amount of PR mentions or links from authoritative domains plus social interactions and mentions of your brand across all channels. 

Considering the scale of hero campaigns, this content is not regularly produced and is reserved for peak promotional times where it’s important for a business to stand out from their competitors.

Hub Content

Hub content is the stuff that keeps your audience engaged, it expands on the themes of product or service level content, educates users and helps create a connection between themselves and your brand.

Hygiene Content

Hygiene content is the bread and butter of any website, it is the BAU content for products and services, it is SEO focused and targets important keywords at a product, service or guide level.

How do I manage all this?

Content development is only one part of the ongoing work needed when working with an effective content strategy. We call it “feeding the beast” because it really is the fuel in your brand vehicle and once you start you really can’t stop (if it’s delivering results) but that’s where performance measurement comes in.

Your greatest gift in managing the outputs from your hero/hub/hygiene style efforts is to understand If your content is working. To truly deliver results your business must first understand the objectives and goals of each piece of content to effectively measure its success. That as a guiding light from day 1 will let you slow down, speed up, stop or start new content briefs and projects.

Remember - content strategies are not set in stone. They are living breathing things and should adapt and pivot as insights become available and your brand naturally evolves.

If ever you want to chat content and explore new initiatives we’re always here to help.

want to speak to one of our experts?

 
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Naomi Harper
Head of Marketing & Communications
Naomi is the agency's Head of Marketing & Communications with a strong background in Public Relations, events, Marketing and Brand campaigns.

Naomi joined Sagittarius in January 2021 to deliver exceptional external brand experiences, engaging internal communications and to assist with the driving of sales and the developing of relationships with key strategic suppliers.
 

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Naomi Harper

18 Feb 2019 - 6 minute read
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