Travo@10: Daniele Beccari, head of travel products at Criteo
Q. What or who has been the biggest disruptive influence in travel over the past decade?
A. Mobile. It aggregates almost everything today’s traveller needs: an internet browser, maps, camera, boarding pass, email, social networks, travel guides, music, video and more.
The recent Criteo Travel Flash Report, which analyses a billion bookings generated by hundreds of agents worldwide, revealed this trend applies to bookings too. In 2015, travel bookings on mobile rocketed, doubling in the year to June 2015. Today nearly a quarter of us explore, locate and book everything from flights to accommodation to car hire on our mobiles and tablets.
Q. What or who do you think will be the biggest disruptive influence in travel in the coming decade?
A. Always-on connectivity and the emergence of connected devices are generating a data maelstrom. The combination of analytics and artificial intelligence will enable relevant services to be tailored to individual needs where and when they are needed.
This will have a huge impact on the online/offline customer experience. As technology and the smart application of data become more sophisticated, the in-store experience will become increasingly defined by online behaviour.
Q. What about the travel industry today surprises you most given the predictions made 10 years ago?
A. Ten years ago we had no idea how important mobile would become. The biggest surprise is how technology has completely changed the industry. On top of the mobile apps and services I mentioned earlier, we saw mobile travel bookings go mainstream last year, representing another major industry-wide shift. Our data shows that mobile transactions now account for 22% of travel bookings in the UK alone. In parts of Europe and elsewhere, this figure is even bigger.
Q. Do you think the pace of change will quicken in the coming decade?
A. The pace of change doesn’t show any signs of slowing. Mobile isn’t the end game and consumer expectation will ensure that marketers know this. With people increasingly shopping and accessing content on multiple platforms – mobile, laptops and tablets – their brand interactions are changing as well. Consumers are demanding a consistent experience when they move from device to device. Some will stop interacting with a brand if the experience varies too much across devices. And it’s not just online. This attitude applies to a brand’s websites, apps, retail store and ads too. Brands not taking a holistic look at consumer experience risk being left behind.
Q. How do you think travel rates against other areas of business and commerce in how it has met the challenges of the digital era?
A. The goals of online travel brands and e-tailers are similar, but often we see travel pure-players setting the pace when it comes to launching and testing new ideas. Internet-first businesses have a striking strategic advantage as they naturally deal with digital assets, which can evolve faster. More traditional organisations such as real-estate or aircraft suppliers deal in hard assets. These businesses cannot be transformed overnight, but digital transformation should still be on their radar.
Q. Do you think travel is well placed to meet the challenges of the coming decade?
A. The proliferation of mobile is a huge opportunity for the travel industry and an enticing prospect for consumers. For the first time, a business can deliver highly personalised, direct services at remarkable scale. But the days of researching and booking a holiday on a single device are a thing of a past, and there’s work to be done in understanding consumer behaviour and joining up the cross-device customer experience.
Apps (which account for 54% of travel mobile bookings) are only one piece of the puzzle. It’s crucial that consumers are recognised across their devices – users don’t care that a business is organised by channels, they expect a consistent story for them across all touch-points.
Q. What has been the most disappointing aspect of the travel industry for you over the past 10 years?
A. The focus on distribution over the actual travel experience. Most airlines, hotel chains and service providers seem to forget that they’re talking to clients every day. Every conversation is an opportunity to impress and market the brand. Instead of worrying about TripAdvisor reviews, the industry should focus on wowing customers at every opportunity – from booking through to the holiday itself.
Q. What has excited you most about the industry over the past 10 years?
A. The ability to highlight great experiences and accommodation options worldwide. It was virtually impossible even 10 years ago to find local information and uncover hidden gems. Travel guides and hotel brands were a one-size-fits-all solution. Today there’s information about absolutely every aspect of travel available in real-time from anywhere in the world. People can now make the best-informed decision each time they travel.
Q. Has the internet proved a broadly positive force for travel intermediaries or are the forces of disintermediation still at work?
A. I think both are true. The internet has brought transparency, standardisation and the ability to connect suppliers and customers directly. But as travel is inherently global, we still need intermediaries to connect a Japanese traveller with a tour guide in Grenada, or tour operators to package up all-inclusive, relaxing summer holidays for clients in northern Europe. As long as an intermediary is adding value, they will always have a role to play.
Q. If you were given £1 million to invest in a travel start-up today, what would you look for?
A. One capable of delivering an exceptional, consistent consumer journey. They would need to demonstrate a joined-up consumer experience that delivers personal, relevant information to its customers no matter what device or how many devices they’re connecting on.
Brands are struggling to effectively navigate customer-matching methodologies and integrate omnichannel touch-points in real time. I would invest in any company capable of demonstrating a people-centric approach to marketing as they would be putting themselves in a strong position to keep their current customers happy and attract new business.