Web in Travel: Travel could benefit from new shopping experiences, says Facebook

Web in Travel: Travel could benefit from new shopping experiences, says Facebook

Could shopping on Instagram come to travel simplifying what today is a complex process from consideration to booking?

That’s what Instagram parent Facebook hopes although it says travel is not currently on its roadmap for development.

The image sharing and social site is currently developing an ecommerce shopping experience in Instagram for physical goods.

Nikhilesh Ponde, head of global travel strategy at Facebook, told this week’s Web in Travel conference in Singapore, that product discovery is moving to mobile and social.

“Thirty per cent of shoppers in the US say they have found a new product on Facebook or Instagram. The reason that’s remarkable is that, at least in the west, retail is still predominantly offline.

“Product discovery is moving to mobile and social. We see it happening organically on Instagram. People will actually comment in posts asking about products in the image.

“We have created features within Instagram where brands can tag their products in their posts. Today 90 million Instagrammers tap on such shopping posts on a monthly basis.

“That’s why we are working to build out and end-to-end shopping experience to enable the entire shopping journey from discovery to purchase.”

Ponde said although the travel vertical is not in line to have a shopping experience developed for it, he sees why it could be advantageous for the sector.

“One of the things I find most interesting about Instagram shopping is how it’s collapsed the customer journey. People go from discovery to purchase in two or three taps.

“Seeing the purchase journey compressed so much is interesting and exciting and we would live to bring that experience to travel where it’s a more complex process.”

One new shopping experience Facebook is bringing to travel is conversational commerce, Ponde said.

“At Facebook we really believe conversation commerce is a real retail phenomenon on its own. It combined real convenience with the favourite parts of in-store shopping, being able to walk in a talk to a live person.

“Conversational commerce is still new to travel but it’s fairly ingrained in the overall ecommerce space. We saw the first manifestations in Asia mainly with small businesses.

“In Indonesia it’s quite common to WhatsApp the local grocer and place an order. We are trying to solve for that behaviour [in travel].”

In China and the APAC region many travel consumers are using mobile super apps like WeChat, Grab or Go-Jek which started life offering a single service like messaging, ride-hailing or food delivery and have evolved to be multi-use.

Ponde said: “The reason they are really taking off is because of the underlying changes happening in customer behaviour and expectation. The first is the expectation of convenience.

“The second is engagement consolidation. People are just so overwhelmed by the number of apps available to them they do not want to download all of them. Super apps are just trying to become one of a handful of apps people use.”

Data shows that 80% of users’ time on mobile is spent on three types of app: social, messaging and video and Ponde said Facebook’s family of apps are already in all three and so it does not have to become a super app.

“We will build the right experiences for people wherever we feel it’s relevant,” he said. “We always build for people first instead of having this grand plan of battling everything.”

Facebook is looking to make the booking experience more seamless is integrating payments processes so that customers do not have to enter their details every time they buy.

Although plans for its own crypto-currency Libra have hit problems due to partners pulling out, Ponde said this is masking progress made in other areas of payments.

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