28 JAN, 2014 What I found when I search on Google for the cheapest 3-star hotel in Dubai on 18 Feb
The evergreen Search module is not going to die ever! Really? Well, eventually the large devices(laptops/desktops) would become a thing of the past!
Would the search with the destination/check-in/check-out dates and other details which is there since the online bookings had started, not going to gel well with the new smart tech-savvy breed of travelers? The answer lies in our very hands. Yes, in that mobile device that has become a part and parcel of our lives and we probably spend a way lot more time with it than any thing else. My 4 year old nephew is able to unlock the phone, click photographs and use a few apps. He still speaks some Martian language! This is a clear sign of the next-generation in tech-savvyness and mobile users who in a few years would forget laptops/desktops. Sounds silly? Not really. It would be a matter of time when mobiles/tablets could be connected with large screen work stations effortlessly which would be just a screen (with keyboard). The mobile/tablet would be the OS/storage/computing device. The regular large devices probably would be found in just data sensitive/financial organizations.
“The number of bookings done over smaller devices is bound to increase every passing day, and this expected shift has already started revolutionizing different verticals in travel industry- hotel & air being majorly affected”.
But why is it not a wild fire yet? What is still holding back many users from booking over their phones? A major reason could be that the shift has just begun and the habituated large device users still find it easier to book on them rather than their mobile/smaller devices. We can see a lot of motivation from different travel companies trying to lure their customers to book through their phone app. It may be due to a couple of reasons – their investment in mobile app development is not paying off yet, they have yet to hit the nail on the kind of experience needed for mobile devices, or, they want to make sure that when these channels of bookings pick up pace, the users already know which ones to look for!
I had read an article in Tnooz ‘Getting hotel search on the web past the dreaded Meh’ and looked into some information around how the hotel search is evolving and would be majorly impacted in days to come. There was something interesting mentioned in the article – ‘Yes, Google has a hotel initiative, and yes that should give would-be entrants pause. But once you look at how underwhelming the Google hotel search displays are, at least a few brave souls should be willing to step forward and try to do better.’ This sentence caught my attention (I guess that was a major motive behind the article as well!) and I was mulling over this for quite some time.
The biggest motivation in any change of approach that I could figure out is something very obvious – humans are lazy and technology leverages on this fact and enables us to reach our goals faster – in better terms we call it enablement! In next few years the tech-savvy travelers are going to be even more demanding (read lazier) while using their (smart) devices to book online.
‘One line text search’ is great but the question is – has a company like Google nailed it? – No, not yet! If you go back to the image attached where I did a search on Google, you could see that the results are very generic (in the Google sponsored section) where as the query I made was very specific. I had asked for a 3-star hotel but I could see a mix. I usually dig in for best rates and have not booked till now using Google’s own sponsored results. But yes they are working on it and would be hitting the market with a bang with their meta search experience.
How Travel Itinerary Will be Searched in Future
The market penetration of the mobile/smaller devices is phenomenal and the way we keep connected to it is insane! Data usage is getting cheaper and better. The future experience in travel bookings has the biggest motivation in smaller devices and has to aim at faster yet convenient booking experience.
What could this upcoming mindset lead us into
# Mobile devices would rule the travel market in days to come. Larger devices for personal use would be a rarity in another 2-3 years!
# A search box in smaller devices which would be proactive in suggesting the user ‘how to search’ so that it never becomes cumbersome and always the right text is taken as input to guarantee results. The motive here is to guarantee relevant results which would be possible if the user has entered his search-text correctly!
> Quick bookings in just one flow – search > look > book. I would rather go a step ahead to say that an integration with voice recognition for taking the search input and choosing an itinerary would make life even more easier for people on the go.
> An auto suggest for every word and a combination of auto-suggest on every key-press/voice-input resulting in a suggestive sentence around the search. An interactive experience where the app actually aids the user to quickly create the search criteria with auto correct – taking a cue from Google’s search bar.
> An algorithm which could closely predict what the user is trying to type and give suggestions. A database which is so efficient in storing all past searches and pulling out suggestions real quick.
# Exploring the option of saving payment card information in the phone and retrieving it in payment which is not possible with larger(shared) devices and as we cannot save that data at our end due to PCI-DSS norms.
# Pulling passenger info from the saved profile information in the mobile/tablet device (or saving the data once filled to reuse next time to reduce the booking time even more).
So, what do I see in this search? – a change, beginning of a paradigm shift in how travel itineraries are going to be booked in days to come. Are we gearing up for this change?
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