When we observe the digital revolution and all of its facets, it is sometimes easy to become bogged down in the detail and forget the fundamental purpose behind it. The physical manifestations of this technology are all around us, as people utilise smartphones and tablet computers, and we hear on an almost daily basis governments talking about how important high-speed broadband is. Wi-Fi, 4G, Big Data...these are all just everyday, household terms in contemporary society.
Connecting people digitally
What is perhaps overlooked at times is that all of this fantastic technology which has been developed and implemented has one fundamental purpose - to connect people. It is easy to forget what an interconnected world we live in nowadays. It is almost unthinkable to a young person that there was a time when you could leave the house to meet someone, and have no way of contacting them once you'd left! This is just one example of interconnectivity with our fellow human beings that will take for granted today.
However, although there has already been a massive digital revolution, the most important transformative processes may be still to come. Although this interconnectedness is now a central part of our culture, many experts in the field believe that businesses have yet to truly tap into its potential. Many companies are reacting to this rapid evolution of technology, as opposed to attempting to create truly engaging customer experiences throughout the lifecycle of technological development.
This is a notable trend, as technological development is not likely to slow down any time soon. Indeed, the complete opposite is the case. As smartphones, laptops and tablets become more affordable for developing economic nations, and the likes of smartwatches, other wearables, augmented reality and virtual reality technology begin to become mass market, technology and innovation within the digital space will accelerate even more quickly. The potential for people to connect via these new forms of technology is massive.
It is important to understand the value of technology for all travel-related businesses. We live in a world in which mobile technology has become increasingly popular. And the biggest corporation in the history of the world in terms of market capitalisation, Apple, has made its reputation off the back of mobile technology.
Reaching customers through mobile
Yet previous reports from the Digital Tourism Think Tank have indicated that not all travel-related businesses and destinations are doing all they can to reach consumers through mobile platforms. This is despite the fact that report after report has been produced which indicates that consumers are utilising mobile far more regularly in the purchase and planning stages of travel and related commerce.
The importance of embracing this cannot be underestimated, as the public has enthusiastically embraced pretty much all forms of technology. It was interesting to note in recent weeks that Google has removed Google Glass from the marketplace, indicating that not all forms of consumer electronics necessarily become instantly successful. But Google still has big plans for this device, and it is more a case of providing functionality that will actually benefit the public at an affordable price, rather than the impracticality of the concept.
Embracing all forms of technological development should be considered particularly important for travel-related companies, as studies have shown that the demographics most likely to travel often are also those most likely to utilise mobile devices and new technology on a regular basis.
Non-linear customer journey
With this in mind, it should be noted that the society we’re living in, which could be described as ‘connected’, produces a customer journey which is not as simple or linear as that which has been prevalent previously. Today's customer journey is instead incredibly dynamic and fluctuating, and this necessitates an integrated approach to engaging consumers and delivering customer experiences.
Businesses that fail to satisfactorily define consumer experiences and then successfully communicate and integrate such experiences across their entire organisation will find themselves increasingly left behind in this new interconnected digital world. Defining the experiences that you want customers to have, and studying what the experience is actually based on, will be critical for travel-related businesses going forward.
This is particularly true when one thinks of the potential of augmented reality and virtual reality technology. The Digital Tourism Think Tank has previously reported on the potential of this technology, with such future developments as Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus possibly being able to offer virtual reality travel. When such technology becomes available, it is obvious that carefully crafting the customer experience will be an absolutely vital part of attracting consumers.
Increasingly the future of business will lie in shared experiences. This is reflected in the emphasis which travel companies should put on creating a community feel in their advertising and marketing campaigns. There have been many savvy examples of this reported by the Digital Tourism Think Tank, but one involved the tiny Swiss town of Obermutten.
Ensuring that customer journeys are consistent with the ethos of an organisation or destination will be extremely important in the future, and tourism-related businesses and destinations should already be putting considerable thought into communicating their brand and travel experience in as unified a manner as possible.
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