Historically, most of the value we’ve derived from our devices has been the result of direct physical interaction: turning a key in a door lock, paging through an in-flight magazine, tracing our finger along the lines of a map. Today, though, our interaction with devices is profoundly different — we’re transitioning from manually operated products to interconnected services via the estimated 6.4 billion connected devices in use worldwide.
Businesses already recognize how mobile technologies and the Internet of Things are transforming the concept of brand value. In fact, more than 70 per cent of respondents to the SoDA Report believe that being perceived as an early adopter of technology is “key” or “important” to their brand positioning.
Early adopters seize first-mover advantage to retrofit existing services so they’re faster, easier, and more valuable. Consider an airport that tracks luggage through an attached RFID chip, for example. But for those who can re-imagine their brand beyond the original product or service, getting in early on technology can help deliver a new brand experience entirely.
Maximizing 5 Major Tech Innovations
It’s clear a majority of marketers feel poised to successfully forecast and adapt to technological innovations, but how quickly do consumers adopt these digital advances? According to Pew Research, about 28 per cent of Americans hold “strong” preferences for being early adopters, while 26 per cent firmly avoid early adoption.
These numbers may not be everything marketers are hoping for, but consider this: It took the telephone 45 years to penetrate half the homes in America; radio, less than 20; colour TV, 15; computers, 10; cellphones, eight; and the internet, a mere six years.
The speed of change is accelerating, and consumers are committed to the ride. In the travel sector, we’re all about keeping up with innovations. These coming trends have benefited my industry, and they can benefit yours, too:
1. The Device Mesh
The device mesh is a growing set of end points — including mobile, wearable, home electronics, automotive, and environmental devices (like sensors in the IoT) — that people and businesses use to reach applications and information or interact with others.
This growing device mesh leads Gartner’s list of strategic technology trends of 2016. Furthermore, a study by Tata Consultancy Services reported 71.9 per cent of travel, transportation, and hospitality executives said their companies were utilizing the IoT within mobile apps, a sign that this technology is likely to grow more pervasive in the future.
In the travel industry, the IoT is being used in concert with branded mobile apps — typically paired with beacons that track and gather information from customers using mobile devices in airports, hotels, transit centers, etc. If companies can enhance the ability to integrate location and multichannel insights, they’ll uncover new potential for marketing messages that reach people in the right moment with the right message via the right channel.
2. Information of Everything
The Information of Everything is the IoT’s partner. Our devices are producing, using, and communicating with vast amounts of data, and the IoE is what makes sense of it. Organizations must learn to identify the information providing strategic value, access data from different sources, and explore how algorithms leverage the IoE to fuel new marketing strategies.
Progression in semantic technologies like graph databases and other emerging data classification and information analysis techniques will bring meaning to this often chaotic deluge of information. With a bit more order and understanding, apps can better predict airfare pricing and trends, while hotels can store and analyze frequent guests’ preferences — via website or app — and implement them for future stays.
3. Advanced Machine Learning
With advanced machine learning, a smart machine appears “intelligent” because it’s able to not only understand concepts in the environment, but to also learn from them to change its future behavior.
Hoteliers have begun taking advantage of advanced machine learning to keep up with consumer demands and sift through and derive meaning from data. Advanced machines can help hotels track market demand across various touchpoints, allowing hotel revenue managers to react to market changes quicker. This benefits hotels in knowing what to look for, but it also benefits their customers as people are more quickly and efficiently served.
4. Autonomous Agents
Machine learning’s rapid evolution makes way for a variety of smart machines — autonomous vehicles, robots, smart advisors, virtual personal assistants, etc. Rather than interact with buttons, menus, and forms on a smartphone, the user speaks to an app, which is really an intelligent agent.
Over the past couple of years, autonomous agents have been introduced as the main user interface in airports such as Dubai International Airport, Dulles International Airport, and Logan International Airport. These newfangled airport employees are polite, knowledgeable, and actually helpful — perhaps because they’re really holograms. These holograms are projected in HD, speak various languages, and reply to customers’ questions about security, flight and gate information, and airport navigation.
5. Digital Self-Service
Web and mobile self-service interactions have overtaken all other channels because they offer the least amount of interaction friction for customers. Other self-service channels such as forums and speech self-service are on the rise, too.
Today, it’s possible to travel across the globe without ever speaking to a brand representative. From airport and hotel check-ins to rebooking a missed connection or replacing a lost room key via phone, travelers have control over their trips — no human hand-holding necessary.
Tech innovation extends beyond these trends and beyond just one industry. Brands looking to take advantage of new tools — both for their businesses’ and their customers’ sakes — should start looking past mobile apps and well-designed websites and toward machine learning, device connectedness, and intelligent devices. It’s the only way to stay ahead.
How do you keep up with evolving technology in your industry?
Tony Tie is a numbers-obsessed marketer, life hacker, and public speaker who has helped various Fortune 500 companies grow their online presence. Located in Toronto, he is currently the senior search marketer at Expedia Canada, the leading travel booking platform for flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises, and local activities. Connect with Tony on Twitter @tonytie.