The one piece of tech that could be a true differentiator for an OTA is “the skilful application of AI (artificial intelligence) that could make all the difference to really understanding your customer”.
NB: This is an article from WiT
Speaking at the WiT Travel Roadshow, John Brown, CEO, Agoda said, “AI is something everybody is doing”, but there’s the missing link – applying it skilfully to truly serving up exactly what that customer wants.
“When he or she comes along, and is looking for a business hotel for a three-day stay midweek, your AI behind the scenes is serving up exactly what that customer wants. Everybody tries to do that.
“But the people who can do that really, really well so that the website really feels like, it’s something where you feel at home every time and you realise, oh, gosh, this is giving me exactly what I’ve always been looking for. I think that really will be a differentiator.”
Another piece of tech that he’s excited about is “enabling customers to check in and check out in the hotel via the mobile app, or to review their folio, or to even use the phone as a room key to get into the room”.
“That’s complicated. nobody’s really cracked that. But I think the person or the company that does that will be a big loyalty builder as well because that will remove one of the big pieces of friction that still remains at least as far as accommodation is concerned.”
Brown said one reason why the problem hasn’t been cracked yet is because “the PMSes are old fashioned, they’re not easy to work with, and there’s a million different ones out there. But when you really do figure out how to make that happen, that really will be a game changer for the customer.”
He was speaking about the different types of consumer tech that would differentiate one OTA from another. Translation tools and chatbots, he felt, were “table stakes”. “Without translation tools, we simply would not exist and all the experiments that we run show the customers saying, I want that too (chat),” he said.
Being able to accept alternative payments is critical as well “but again, I think most people are going to be able to do that so you’ll need to get that done”.
Brown recalled a product Agoda developed in the fintech space that did not work out as intended, but went on to have another life.