Guest Post: How can travel firms maximise the impact of Apple Watch?

By Emma Crowe, chief of client strategy at Somo

As seen with iPhone adoption, Apple’s multi-device platform has strengthened the company’s position in the smartphone market, and we can expect to see similar uptake in the Apple Watch.

The ability for brands to create bespoke experiences for the watch that break down barriers, combined with an ecosystem that allows seamless ease of use for iPhone users will enable the Apple Watch to truly take off.

From fitness to phone calls, to one-touch hands-free payment through Apple Pay, the watch is about to take centre stage in day-to-day life.

Starting at £299, it won’t be within reach for many consumers around the world, but then again neither was the iPhone, Apple has now sold an amazing 700 million smartphones.

It’s only a matter of time until Apple Watches are as ubiquitous as iPhones and with an app store all of it’s own, the Apple Watch is going to impact on a number of sectors as thousands of brands establish a presence.

Perhaps aware that they missed a beat with initial opportunities in mobile, the travel industry has been quick to embrace the Apple Watch.

Companies including American Airlines, Air New Zealand, Expedia, Uber, Trip Advisor and Starwood Hotels have already produced offerings for the smartwatch.

Travel companies are now more aware of the technology their customers use and are developing a strategy to make sure they’re playing an effective role across a number of different channels.

Numerous travel companies featured prominently in the launch, indicating an awareness that the technology will have a big impact on their industry.

For example, the Starwood Hotel demo showed that guests could use the watch to check in to their W Hotel room and even unlock the door. From this, we could see hotel rooms becoming much more customised.

By using wearables to check in to a hotel, a ‘connected room’ can immediately be configured exactly how a guest would like it. Lighting, air temperature, preferred music or TV channel can all be automatically set for regular travellers, turning a hotel room into a home away from home.

If the watch can unlock your room, then it can surely also provide access to guest-only facilities, such as the gym. This allows the hotel to deliver more personal up-sell messages to guests.

For example, the concierge desk could get a notification that a guest has entered the gym and then send them a notification seeing if they’d like to book a massage after their workout. If the guest accepts, the appointment is put in their calendar and added to their final bill, which is of course settled using Apple Pay.

The airline industry is also developing for the Apple Watch, and we expect to see a plethora of airlines present in the Apple Watch app store very soon.

Airlines need to keep in mind the consumer journey on a smartwatch, develop offerings that break down barriers and take advantage of the watch.

Most obviously, many watch-focused apps from airlines are bound to act as boarding cards. However, there are plenty of other possible functions for an airline on a smartwatch.

Air New Zealand’s phone app enables wearers to order coffee to their seat in the airline’s lounges, so take this a step further and instead of ordering on screen, it’s not too much of a leap to allow travellers to order drinks and snacks directly to their in-flight seat without disrupting their entertainment.

InterContinental Hotels Group is another major travel player that has announced it will be launching on the Apple Watch, with its IHG Translator app.

By speaking in to their device, the service will provide travellers with real-time translation in to 13 different languages at launch. It’s a great example of a hotel chain providing additional value to travellers outside of a hotel environment.

Because we are only in the first generation of Apple Watch apps, it’s important to remember that this is just how companies are assuming people will use the gadget.

When consumers and businesses get their hands on the technology, we’ll see use cases emerge from places we’d never expect.

You only need to look at how apps have changed with smartphone usage to see that this is inevitable and by moving quickly to adapt to this, the travel sector can make the most of the opportunities this technology has to offer.

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