By Noam Inbar of ZooZ
Consumers worldwide are still reluctant to give credit card details online due to security concerns with e-commerce. Yet, the same consumers have been more than willing to book flights and hotels online since the previous decade. The travel industry was one of the first industries to introduce e-commerce to its consumers and it keeps being innovative till this very day.
E-commerce is All About Timing
For the e-commerce consumer, doubts about future sales or the ability to pay less on another site delay one’s decision to purchase. In the travel industry, timing issues are critical, while hotel and flight prices change so often that they seem unpredictable. Consumers fear the unknown price fluctuations, driving them to complete booking before losing out. When great travel deals arise, one thing is for sure: you snooze you lose!
Last February I attended the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The event hosts thousands of attendees every year, and generates impressive revenues for the local tourism economy. In the course of booking my hotel, I lost three different hotels reservations because of timing. By the time our corporate travel agent got back to me the rooms had been booked and the prices went up. I ended up sleeping in a creepy hotel that cost twice as much as the original hotel I had wanted to book.
New Technologies in the Travel Industry
Online booking is old news, with industry veterans like Expedia, Orbitz, Priceline and others around since the 90s. But consumers’ higher comfort level with travel e-commerce has also paved the way for more innovative e-commerce travel solutions. New technologies are constantly emerging and smartphone penetration is growing exponentially. Today’s consumers expect things to be much faster and easier, so they can avoid wasting valuable time on logistics and enjoy a hassle-free trip. It’s not just about the price anymore; it’s about the experience.
Power to the Travelers
Innovation in the travel space plays a key role in the travel economy, leading to a more enjoyable user experience beginning at the point of purchase. The key theme that links many of these new technologies is shifting control to the consumer and putting him back in the driver’s seat. In the past, consumers often faced trade-offs between price and schedule, for example. But today’s technology focuses on the consumer’s experience, and the travel e-commerce industry needs to keep up with the times. Here are a few examples of solutions that use technology to let the consumer control his experience.
Roomer uses the power of the crowd to fight outrageous travel cancellation fees. We all know that “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Just imagine that you planned a honeymoon and caught your fiancée with your bridesmaid days before the wedding? OK, so maybe this example sounds like a Hollywood screenplay. But you might be surprised to know that situations like that, or maybe a bit less extreme, happen all too often. In these unfortunate events the traveler faces not only the disappointment of the personal situation, but also a hotel cancellation fee of up to 100%. In the past, the consumer had no control over these fees, since the travel sites or agencies could legally charge them.
Roomer’s online marketplace for hotel bookings pairs together advance planners who suddenly face cancellation fees with last minute planners looking for great deals. The sellers offer their reservations for steals, according to the logic that losing 50% is better than losing 100%. At the same time, the buyers benefit from low prices. I had the opportunity to book a room through Roomer and ended up staying at a great hotel in Manhattan for only $70. With Roomer consumers can control not only their bookings, but also their cancellations.
Location. Location. Location.
Last minute hotel booking is one of the hottest categories on the Google and Apple App stores these days. Blink Booking incorporates the device’s geo-location capability so that consumers can book their room in the right time AND in the right place. This chic European app provides a seamless user experience that takes just a few clicks. Just when you are feeling out of sorts, needing to reserve last-minute accommodations, Blink Bookings recognizes where you are and offers you tailored solutions. Within a minute, a last-minute planner can go from feeling panic to feeling in control.
Name Your Price without Staying in the Dark
Consumers that like feeling in control of their travel budgets would also enjoy Stayful, a great booking website (still in beta) that enables consumers to bid on a hotel room and basically perform a virtual negotiation with the hotel. Unlike Hotwire and Priceline, Stayful lets you bid on a specific hotel of your choice so all the cards are on the table and you know what to expect. One does not have to be a coupon-clipping super saver in order to enjoy reasonable rates. Stayful’s niche focuses on a variety of nice independent and boutique hotels that upscale travelers can enjoy without making big sacrifices.
The possibilities for e-commerce and m-commerce technologies are endless, and great deals are not enough of a differentiator to bring the consumer to the checkout page. But we can’t talk about control without mentioning the payment process. A great app or website has to create a great checkout, one that would give the consumer a sense of control. Offering the consumer to choose from a variety of options, providing clear information about the site’s security measures and creating a quick process are just some examples of doing that. It’s important to keep in mind that the payment is an ingredient that can’t be separated from the app or website.
Noam Inbar is vice president of business development at ZooZ, a global payment platform for e-commerce and mobile, enabling e-tailers to optimize their checkout and boost conversion rates.