Chatbots and Travel

November 26, 2018  |  Rachel Whitt

Consumer & Retail  |  Thinking Big

Why the Impatient Consumer Has Never Been Happier

You’re lying in bed one night, imagining your next vacation or trip. Maybe you’ve already started planning it, maybe you’re just fantasizing. Suddenly, you have a question that you feel compelled to answer about this real or imagined trip. Immediately. Your first response is to reach to your bedside table, grab your phone and fumble through a series of search terms.

Been there?

Up until recently, your half-conscious Googling was probably the best way to answer your pressing 2 a.m. question about room rates in Portland, Maine for the upcoming weekend. Certainly, you weren’t going to call someone or even expect a timely email response.

But just like how people must always upgrade to the newest version of the iPhone – (didn’t the X just come out?), technology is evolving faster than most of us can keep up with. Cue the Chatbot.

A chatbot is an artificially intelligent software program that uses natural language processing to simulate intelligent conversation with end users via auditory or textual methods.

Say what?

Chances are you’ve used one and you didn’t even know it. Chatbots are becoming an increasingly popular tool for connecting and answering questions from potential consumers. They leverage popular platforms like Facebook Messenger to anticipate and answer common questions with artificial intelligence.

Chatbots have the human-like ability to actually interpret your messages, responding in a natural and contextually relevant way. They can help with suggestions, encourage purchases, offer support and entertain – all within one continuous conversation. Bots can access boarding passes, make reservations, order flowers or add appointments to your calendar.

How popular are they? Check out the stats:

Unlike apps or websites, there is no need for users to sign up to provide relevant data or information. Because bots can leverage a consumer’s social graph, they can instantly personalize and customize messaging.

So how are Chatbots relevant to the travel industry? Not only are they a convenient solution to always-on customer service, they are an increasingly popular way to provide content. Through a simple Q&A format, they can narrow down consumer interest categories, and serve up targeted information based on dynamically identified needs.

Here’s an example. You’re a DMO and a consumer comes to your Facebook page. Immediately, your chatbot pops up and greets them in your brand voice, welcoming them and asking what they are interested in. It provides a number of options to choose from, supplemented with inspirational imagery. Once the user selects a category (e.g. family travel), it can ask about timeframe for travel, desired experiences, accommodations needs and budget. It can even delve into what the consumer is looking to get out of their experience (e.g. family bonding, adventure, romance). The bot can then serve up anything from video and editorial content to discounts, partner information and booking widgets based on intelligence from the conversation.

Essentially, bots are an unmanned personal concierge for your destination that can be crafted to drive conversion. And they are not just useful for DMOs. In fact, it’s easy to see their application for OTAs and other vacation providers, where conversions are even more straight-forward and measurable. Bots are only gaining in popularity. They range from low-cost, out of the box solutions to highly customizable and sophisticated software applications. Agency partners should be primed and ready to help their travel clients design and implement this powerful new CRM tool.

See an existing travel-based chatbots in action:
kayak.com/messenger
facebook.com/expedia
facebook.com/TripAdvisor

Sources: Manychat.com, TechCrunch, Statista

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is a Creative Strategist at BVK

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