TravelTech Executive Workshop

15 April 2019

On 8 April 2019, the Netcomm Suisse Observatory organised its second Executive workshop of 2019. The theme for this workshop was “Digital Innovation in the Travel Sector”. Tourism has been an early adopter when it comes to e-Commerce and digitalisation and many players in the sector already have achieved high digital maturity levels. But, with the increasing popularity of smartphones and the emergence of the ‘sharing economy’, travel companies have to re-invent once more their business models.

The Afternoon featured case studies from Lastminute Group, AntOptima, easyJet (presented by our sponsor Valtech) and SBB, stimulating a rich discussion among the 18 participants who were representing Swiss-based and international players in the industry.

The first case study was from our member Lastminute Group. From its foundation, its mission was to disrupt the sector with innovative solutions such as the group’s first platform, Vola Gratis, which was launched in 2004. Today, having achieved revenue of €286.9m in 2018, the group is engaged in innovative projects in many different areas and has set up its own venture unit, LM Ventures, to invest and partner with innovative start-ups. Key for all innovation activities is to figure out how to increase the value for the customer and how to make their lives more convenient. For example, LMG is now able to offer a fully personalised travel package experience, where customers can have the choice of the single elements within the package. The company also introduced its own flight fares which offer greater flexibility and extra services to travellers that go beyond the standard offers from airlines. Within all of its innovation activities, LMG has a strong focus on A/B testing and follows the credo of ‘failing fast’. This means that the group carries out more than 50 A/B tests per month. This speed helps them to quickly optimise and to not lose too much time on projects that customers do not want. Lastminute Group is also embracing open innovation and collaborates with startups. For example, together with the Israeli Fintech startup Setoo, Lastminute developed an insurance offering that pays out to the traveller in case of a delayed flight. This insurance recognises the pain that travellers face when having a flight delayed. Once the confirmation has been received that your flight is delayed, payment is made. This service is fully automated and no further questions are asked.

Find out more about LM Ventures here.

AntOptima, a spin-off from the Dalle Molle Institute for artificial intelligence in Lugano,  is looking at the travel through an automation-focused lens. With a market of 3 billion overnight stays a year in the EU, the company is reimagining the whole hotel management business, with the vision to offer a digital platform to fully automate hotel management via a smartphone app. The solution also offers a dynamic pricing engine and smart room yield optimization. This model is ultimately delivering more flexibility and convenience to travellers as they can check-in and enter the hotel 24/7. Hotels will need staff only for the cleaning service. To implement the solution, AntOptima delivers both the hardware (smart room locks and check-in terminal) and the software needed. As of today, five hotels on Ticino have successfully implemented this innovative hotel automation solution.

Find out more about AntOptima here.

Find out more about cybhotel here.

Our sponsor Valtech shared a personalisation project they did deliver for the easyJet portal. Since easyJet launched their e-Commerce portal, personalised users experiences have become a business focus and which is clearly reflected in their platform  With the redesigned experience across web, mobile and tablet, based on personal preferences and past interactions, the content and offers during the search and booking process are personalised. For example, a selection of 2 seats for adults and 2 seats for children will lead to the indication of a family picture during the booking process. To gain a complete 360 view on customer needs, the company is also interacting with travellers via interviews and focus groups. As a next step, they are developing prototypes that are running through A/B testing. A further example of easyJet’s digital innovation is the ‘inspire me’ platform which was introduced in 2013 and recently redesigned. With as much as  40% of visitors coming to the website without having a clear destination in mind, easyJet is recognizing their need for recommendations. Today, easyJet decided to redesign the platform with a conversational interface leading to a highly intuitive use and to increase customer engagement and boost conversion rates by 25%. The platform also allows travellers to share their holiday experiences with the easyJet community.

Discover the easyJet case study here.

Finally, our member SBB shared their views on user experience optimisation for their location-based advertising solution. SBB is a true giant in the Swiss travel sector, having more than 3 million unique visitors per month on its website and being the leader in app stores in Switzerland with 6 million downloads. The advertising solution is showing travellers relevant complementary offers of third parties based on user data such as current location (e.g. if a customer is close to the German border, they might see an ad for a mobile phone subscription including a roaming deal for the EU) or selected destination. For their innovation processes, the SBB digital team is looking at trends outside the industry to discover what other players are doing and what consumers are looking for.

Find more about the SBB advertising solution here.

During the discussion, all participants agreed that travellers today are looking beyond just booking a flight, a hotel, or a tour. They demand an entire travel experience that combines different elements of the journey in a convenient and time-saving way which are, at the same time, well-tailored to the customers’ needs. Travellers are also seeking inspiration and recommendations, increasingly sharing experiences with fellow travellers. This user-generated content, curated by a credible brand, becomes a critical differentiating factor as seen in the easyJet case.

As for how to best approach digital innovation, all case studies highlighted the importance of trialling new products and services and applying A/B testing at scale on any new initiative. To develop further and figuring out what travellers really need, companies must lose the fear of tests failing. Lastmintue’s fast failing approach allows them to quickly optimise their services based on hard evidence - not opinions - and move to new projects.

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