OK Google, book me a hotel! Or Hey Siri, book me a hotel!
In every blog I write, I try to bring forth new trends that I believe will change your hotel’s marketing landscape. After so many years in the hospitality and digital marketing industry, I know which innovations will click, and which will not.
One such trend is the use of voice search for hotels. It is the core of Artificial Intelligence (AI), and its platforms like Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana, Apple’s Siri and Google Now. They are getting smarter by the day, and learning conversational context. By 2018, 50% of consumers will interact with cognitive computing.
I believe bots will soon eliminate the need for apps. What is the use of app world, when everything is going to be voice activated?
What’s the present scenario?
Voice activated search is already being used by some hotels and OTAs, although the technology is still in its initial stage. KAYAK, a fare aggregator and Meta search engine, last year integrated with Alexa and came up with its own voice activated service. And it’s pretty smart, too. You can look up flights and hotels based on price, availability and dates. You can even ask questions like — “Alexa, can you ask KAYAK where I can stay for under $300?”
Like I said, there’s still a long way to go in the evolution of this technology. For example bookings still need to be completed through taps and clicks. But that’s why it is such a ripe time to invest in this technology.
Let me take you through some of its advantages.
A quicker way to engage
A study by Google found that 20% of queries on its mobile platform are voice searches, and the use of voice assistants has increased by 40%. As I have said repeatedly, mobile is soon going to be the mainstay of hotel searches — and voice based search will become even more popular because of it.
The obvious advantage of it is that clicking will be replaced by talking; allowing a better booking experience for all types of guests, especially last minute bookers. Imagine booking a hotel while you’re packing your bags!
Replacing mass search with curated search
At present, the hotel search experience revolves around offering a huge choice. A simple search turns up hundreds of results. But that’s not very helpful for you, is it?
What I like about voice search is that it offers the opportunity for a more curated approach. It’s better even for the guests, since they can filter and refine the process. Your guest can just ask Alexa or Cortana or whichever platform is integrated, to find a hotel in New Delhi within 5 km of India Gate and which has a swimming pool.
In this case the number of results will be limited, but they will all be relevant to the guest. It is a win-win for hoteliers, OTAs and consumers.
A brilliant thing about Voice Search and the AI behind it is their learning process. Based on past needs, they can make informed suggestions and predictions. For example, Google Now can send an alert on your phone in case you have a flight and there are traffic delays on the route.
The more interactions there are, the more the system learns. This will lead to more helpful, accurate and most importantly, personalized suggestions to the user.
Check out this video of a software demonstration by Viv, an AI platform, of the travel related opportunities of voice search — https://goo.gl/fuKs5Z
What does the future hold?
In the not so distant future, speaking to your phones will be normal. It will become easier for guests to both browse and book hotels. And like I said, instead of choosing from hundreds of generic options, guests will be able to pick from a curated selection.
You will need to adapt to this scenario in order to survive — you will need to be a part of the curated selections of users. Ultimately, you have to be more visible on voice search as well.
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