Digital Innovation

Why Travel Brands Are Particularly Ripe for Digital Innovation - Adweek

Excerpt from Adweek

Marriott, TripAdvisor compete for travelers' attention

In November, Marriott International installed an internet-connected mirror within a shower in the Irvine Marriott hotel located in Orange County, Calif., putting a new spin on “shower thoughts”—the idea that people’s best creative ideas and brainstorming take place in the shower. Steam from the shower first fogs up the mirror to create a digital whiteboard on a section of the door that allows consumers to draw all over the glass with their fingers and email the creations to themselves. While only currently in one guest room, the test is almost akin to a small research and development lab, and Marriott plans to crunch guest satisfaction scores in March to decide if the technology should be built into other properties.

At first glance, Marriott’s move into the Internet of Things seems like a stunt and a way for the brand to stay “innovative” in the eyes of management, but Matt Carroll, vp of global brand management at Marriott, said that the technology is part of a broader move to keep up with consumers’ changing travel habits and new competition from digital upstarts like Airbnb, HomeAway and online travel agents. In addition to the connected mirrors, Marriott has also invested in mobile-powered room keys and check-ins and created a Facebook Messenger chatbot that lets guests set up wake-up calls and order room service.

“It’s an ongoing process of testing, learning and trying new things,” Carroll said. “As we hone in on those things that resonate, we’re moving as quickly as possible and scale them across the brand.”

Whether it’s using artificial intelligence to give consumers better recommendations or trying IoT and voice to personalize the experience, travel brands are pouring millions of dollars into technology to keep up with consumers, as customers are using smartphones and tablets to make bookings and manage their reservations.

“The travel sector is already disrupting itself and disrupting itself again because it has all the makings of things that are going on in the consumer markets right now, which is in the direct-to-consumer, service-based moment,” said Brent Vartan, managing partner at Bullish. “Most of what is coming now in the marketplace is people trying to disintermediate as much as possible.”

According to data from Accenture and the World Economic Forum, digital changes to the aviation, travel and tourism industries will be worth more than $1 trillion in revenue and efficiency savings (defined as value) by 2027.

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