Lucy is a hotel concierge. But unlike other concierges, Lucy can help in booking rooms, ordering room service or even providing recommendations from other guests without talking to anyone.

Lucy is a mobile app launched by a leading hotel chain and is one example of how companies are rising to the challenge of offering richer, more interactive and personal experiences to customers.

The accelerated growth of digital technologies is empowering customers to seek more authentic ‘experiences’ when they travel. For travel companies, this means adopting seamless information systems and products embedded with Artificial Intelligence (AI) to stay relevant.

Let’s look at some of the new technologies being leveraged by companies to drive personalization.

Enriching Experiences with Big Data

Hyper-personalization requires the ability to process massive amounts of big data and convert this raw data into actionable insights. In the past, big data analytics was used to correct operational inefficiencies, and now, the travel industry is deploying it for predictive personalization. By analyzing years of customer data, companies are tailoring their services to proactively meet customer needs even before they are voiced.

Here’s how a leading European resort chain successfully deployed big data analytics to offer personalization. Using consumer data from its properties — 34 hotels with 5600 rooms and eight million acres of land — the company built rich, detailed customer profiles. These were leveraged to deliver contextually relevant and highly personalized messaging, increasing revenue by a staggering 839 percent via a single e-mail campaign.

Customer Satisfaction with Virtual Assistants

As conduits between customers and online information, virtual assistants such as Lucy have the potential to change the way consumers plan their trips. Future virtual assistants with advanced AI capabilities could identify events that require travel by scanning the user’s calendar and offering to proactively make the bookings required with a pre-registered credit card. They could even customize travel preferences by consulting the previous booking behavior.

Simplified Journeys with Wearable Technology

Wearable technology is uniquely suited to making travel simple, frictionless and more enjoyable for customers. For instance, smartwatches are equipped with geo-tracking abilities, which travel operators can use to track customers and send timely messages when required. Some airlines have apps that allows customers to store their boarding passes on their smartwatch and receive updates in real time. Companies are also stress testing paperless and document-free travel by employing wearables. The appeal of wearable technology is rising among travelers and travel companies alike as the cost of these devices decline and the capabilities improve.

Painless Payment with Innovative Platforms

The ability to make secure, seamless transactions in real time is an imperative for today’s customers. The modern traveler’s itinerary can be subject to change at any point, as smartphones and contextual travel tips enable them to know more about the different experiences they have access to on-the-go. To support customer demands and increase their share of wallet, companies are testing new payment platforms such as virtual payment cards and one-click payment solutions. Virtual cards work in a similar way to traditional cards, but with added security and controls.

Integrated payment platforms are also used to link airlines, car rental services, parking operators, fuel providers and other stakeholders in the travel ecosystem. This enables the traveler to use one platform that is safe and easy.

The Data Privacy Barrier

There’s no doubt that in their efforts to find new ways to engage digitally savvy customers in a disruptive environment, companies are experimenting with new technologies. However, the backbone of hyper-personalization is data and this brings with it the challenges surrounding privacy laws. Adherence to stringent data protection regulations is not easy and is often a costly proposition. At the same time, businesses have to discard legacy systems and invest in new technologies to attract and retain customers in a highly competitive landscape. Hence, partnering with third-party providers to co-create innovative solutions will give travel companies an edge. It will also enable them to walk the fine line between hyper-personalization and privacy in their goal to stay profitable in the future.

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