When putting together a distribution strategy, the best way to reduce the complexity is to think of sales channels as ‘inspiration’ versus ‘information’ according to Amadeus Traveller Tribes: Building a more rewarding journey.
Inspiration channels have larger screens, are more immersive and used as a discovery tool whereas information sales channels need to be completely personalised, with short-form content, and focused on purchasing rather than discovery.
These new channels fit well with the Millennials and their unique travel expectations - they want to gain experience, recognition, and added value while travelling.
Inspiration and the decline of the PC
If we start with inspiration channels, we immediately think of the smartphone which will be the single most important digital display for the next 10 years. Usage is moving fast from the web to the app. Many travel companies are already seeing usage and engagement dominated by mobile. Mobile applications with the ability to access location and store data offline, such as payment details and travel information, will come to completely dominate travel purchases by 2030.
Constantly connected to social media and their smartphones, new travellers’ love of technology pervades all areas of their travel. While traveling, 97% of them use social media, and 75% post to social networks at least once a day while traveling.
In emerging markets such as Brazil, China and Indonesia, the PC has been skipped. New Internet users will never use a PC. Usage of tablet will be video-orientated, providing holographic experiences to help inspire customers.
Virtual reality transforming the journey
Something that is picking up traction is the Virtual Reality (VR) Headset. VR storefronts or spaces will be as important as a website is today for airlines, giving potential customers a chance to experience trips before they buy. One of the most valuable services in VR will be for travellers to recreate their trips when they return: the ‘re-experience’ market will be one of the largest new travel markets, so make sure you delivered the best customer service.
This also resonates with the millennial generation who wants custom travel experiences that reinforce their individuality.
VR devices could improve the perception of rail travel, they could help potential rail travellers ‘see’ the station connections and navigate their way through before setting out. They would create that “peace of mind” feeling.
Information during the journey
A smartwatch, such as the Apple Watch or Samsung Gear, will become the remote control for the physical world. They will not replace smartphones, but will be used to complete quick, short tasks such as hailing a taxi, or scanning a train ticket. Some railways are already exploring smartwatch-based boarding passes, the display is too small to offer complex services, and very distracting to push too many offers. It could however, speed boarding up through existing rail station gates, which could reduce redevelopment costs. This channel must be used sparingly and only at extremely relevant times, based on location and need.
Augmented Reality (AR) Glasses
Despite the underwhelming sales of Google Glass, augmented reality glasses will be an important sales channel by 2030. Augmented reality offers the ability to layer digital information onto the physical world, providing information and valuable experiences. This would work well as you make your way through a busy station towards platform 15.
Advanced robots, also called service robots, will probably replace some existing check-in processes and kiosks. Edmonton International Airport in Canada is already testing these service robots. Expect to see more service robots in airports by 2030, as their abilities in vision and language improve.
We will see robots staffing and navigating airports as well as recognising and interacting with customers. These robots will have access to real-time customer data, so they can provide a personalised service. Conductors on trains would be freed from just checking your ticket and provide you with pre booked services such as meals, and serve international travellers in their own language providing important information about their journey.
To follow these trends and to adjust to this new generation travellers, new sales channels will have to open up new ways to engage customers with better informed data at the right time, and at the right place. This will be key in getting a sales strategy right in the future.