The technology space has never been more electrifying. Humanity is now in the heat of a revolution that’s set to shape the way we lead our lives.
Businesses across transportation, commerce, work, media and advertising are shaking in their boots. They see the changes coming, but the real question is, will they decide to embrace or deny the inevitable?
Those who choose to ride the new waves will dominate in the next five years. Companies who persist with the status quo will falter.
The travel industry is about to see a dramatic shift in the way people search and book rooms. This is the voice revolution.
NB This is a viewpoint by Evan Davies, founder of The Booking Factory.
Voice is calling
If you believe Alexa and Google voice bots are a fad, a security risk, or not worthwhile – wake up!
Think back to 1992 and the launch of Netscape Navigator and the world wide web, where kids were paying $5 an hour to browse the internet. Some people said it was a short-lived craze – how wrong they were.
Voice is here to stay. It’s going to rock the world and not just across travel, but in everything we do.
Amazon’s Alexa is the current leader in voice technology. Sales are blowing up and they’ll certainly be number one again next Christmas.
But can voice search dominate travel without images and visuals?
Voice and visual media
We all know Alexa is famous for playing music, but the technology does have its limitations. Most users will have felt the frustration when Alexa plays the wrong version of their favourite song. But remember folks, it’s early doors. It’s like Netscape in 1992.
But soon the Alexa app and Amazon TV will sync perfectly and complete tasks we only see on Star Trek. Fans will remember the almighty voice controlled computer. It would understand commands, answer questions and carry out tasks like a personal assistant.
If the crew needed visuals, they’d say “on-screen”, and the information would pop up on a big display.
Coming back to the real world, this level of functionality – synching voice with visuals – could be supported on your mobile (Alexa App) or on your tv with the Amazon TV box. The act of searching and booking a hotel will be completely transformed.
How voice search can be different
Search on mobile is huge, but is basically the same as desktop albeit on a smaller screen without a mouse or touchpad.
To be successful in the travel industry, browsers will need the visualisation of pictures and locations. Voice, to an extent, changes this. For someone who simply needs to rebook a hotel, or for someone who is loyal to a particular chain such as a Hilton or Marriot, a pure voice search is enough.
But filtering will be the key to voice search, and synching with a screen will be important for more complex queries.
Let’s take this hypothetical customer hotel search:
User: Alexa, how many hotels are available in Central London for the 29th May 2018
Alexa: In Central London, there are around 1,500 hotels
User: How many are available between £100-150 per night
Alexa: One second… There are 300 hotels available between that price range
User: How many are within five minutes walk of Tower Bridge
Alexa: There are five hotels within five minutes of Tower Bridge
User: Show me on screen
Alexa: (Silent) Shows five hotel pictures on screen with their name, price and a map
User: Ok, book me the CitizenM Hotel
Alexa: There are two rates available for this hotel. A non-refundable at £120 per night, or a flexible rate at £140 per night
User: Non-Refundable please
Alexa: Certainly, there is 10% off if you join their membership system. Would you like to join the membership system?
Alexa: You have booked the CitizenM Hotel for the 29th May for 1 night, total price is £108… If this is incorrect you have 5 minutes to cancel the booking
User: Thanks Alexa, set reminder 24 hours before check-in date
Alexa: Reminder Set.
So who will dominate voice?
You’ll notice from the example above, there’s no mention of who’s powering the booking process. But will this be important?
As search is reformed we’ll see voice putting guests in control. There’ll be a significant change from the urgency tactics and call to actions we already see from the OTAs.
In my personal opinion, the winner will be whoever has a combination of three things
- Payment automation
Currently the companies poised to dominate are the OTAs, as they already have the pieces needed. But there is a chance the hotel industry could come together and create a new system of their own.
Soon voice technology will become a standard for searching the web. Even a hotel management system will be tightly integrated with voice in the near future.
Of course, there could be limitations to its uses. Noise pollution for one could prove troublesome which may restrict its usage to people working alone or in private offices.
The voice revolution is already upon us. The current Amazon Alexa, Google Home and Apple HomePod are just the beginning.
Think how far technology has come in the last 20 years, or even 10 years. It’s mindboggling.
Voice technology will only become smarter and more intuitive to give us greater ease of use and control of our increasingly technologically integrated lives.
To survive this new wave of voice, businesses must recognise changing consumer behaviours and adapt. The travel industry is enduring major changes in how guests search. Are you voice ready?
NB1: This is a viewpoint by Evan Davies, founder of The Booking Factory.
NB2: Image by BigStock
Related reading from Tnooz:
Voice search and its impact on the travel industry (Jun15)