The shift in travel behavior provides an opportunity for a shift in travel architecture. A simple concept, but a complicated journey to get there.
Ten years ago, we had ‘Generation Calculation’. Travel brands broadcast messages to these consumers, offered them flights, hotels, and cars with the simple goal of transacting. This model aligned to the behavioral needs at the time whereby the customer researched online for months in advance before booking their holiday. They’d book a flight, hotel, or car; receive an email; print out the itinerary and get a boarding pass. That online retail experience was eCommerce, desktop-led, with a focus on the transaction and it produced an extremely limited digital engagement strategy beyond the booking stage.
Today we’ve got ‘Generation Now’. Consumers want an experience which is about immediacy and round the clock connectivity. With the constant flow of new technologies behaviors have changed and consumers now expect to be able to interact with travel brands when they want, how they want, on the right channel, and at exactly the right moment.
‘Generation Now’ are looking to book days in advance, and not just by searching via your site on their mobile device. They’ll expect to use mobile voice, social chat, and even imagery (yes—visual search is now a thing) to book their flight. They want clarity around flight bundles, seating choices, detailed inflight meal descriptions, inflight entertainment, and, of course, wi-fi. When it comes to hotels, they check out amenities, parking, available entertainment, restaurants, and menus and they value online peer reviews—in fact, 70% of travelers say good online reviews are an important factor in choosing accommodation. They want this experience to be personalized and will use you and multiple other sources for destination tips.
In preparation for their trip they’ll want to doublecheck that they won’t get stung for extra baggage fees, using in-app augmented reality to make sure their bag is the right size. As they depart and are intrip, they’ll expect contextual push notifications and a travel companion that informs and guides them on their way (offering you additional upsell/cross-sell opportunities along the way). And if anything goes wrong on the trip, they’ll want your brand on-hand so they can self-serve.
When you’ve collected all that customer journey data and you’ve built a truly personalized offer they’re more likely to book with you again.
So how do you cater for this new customer that’s shifted to an always on, multi-device, multi-channel, multi-experience journey? To paraphrase a well known political slogan…“It’s the (API) Economy, Stupid.”
It’s the (API) Economy, Stupid.
Developers have also had to shift how they integrate with other platforms based on these behavioral and technological changes. Increasingly they’re integrating with APIs and changing how they approach development through the use of microservices.
We’re seeing a revolution here via agile software development techniques, moving applications to the cloud to increase availability and responsiveness, DevOps culture, continuous integration, continuous deployment (CI/CD), and the use of containers. In the travel ecosystem, this will mean that developers can quickly and easily build reliable solutions not only for searching and booking but also for managing the full range of rich supplier content across the customer journey. Solutions that lend themselves to flexibility and scalability to grow with a growing business. To add new features and capabilities when needed without rebuilding everything from scratch.
If you’re selling air, hotel, or car that means the delivery of APIs to support the full workflows you’d expect across search, price, book, ticket, pay, rules, cancel, and modify. All of this allows your agency to remain closer to ‘Generation Now’ across the entire journey and offer additional value beyond the booking. And if plans change, an automated trip change eligibility check can provide an instant answer without the need to call an agent.
Designing for mobile and eCommerce
With the shift from desktop to mobile for booking, pre-trip, in-trip, and post-trip activities, travelers won’t be hanging around when there’s sub-optimal page or screen load time. New APIs and microservices speed up your services, due to light-weight protocol significantly reducing payload and improving responsiveness. More and more we’re seeing a shift to RESTful and JSON based services. This leads to an improved processing time and faster transmission, all resulting in better response times. For example, tests across GDS technology show that by using JSON format, you can see a 70% reduction in payload compared to using a more rigid monolithic architecture that served the desktop perfectly well.
Offering NDC and rich content
Want to aggregate content from different sources? GDS, LCC, NDC? It is about more than just bringing in diverse content, it is about making sure to present it consistently. The delivery of branded fares, ancillaries, and NDC is improved via APIs and microservices and harmonizing the content helps with the presentation. And the right API will make it easy by using the same request and response structure, no matter from where you are getting the content. They deliver fast and reliable access to rich GDS and NDC content, enabling seamless integration of GDS, NDC and LCC content, accessible through API platforms for air, hotel, and car. They also provide configurable multi-brand shopping opportunities and informed fare comparison, split ticketing, search and booking support, analytics, and metrics reporting.
Speed to market. Now.
For travel tech developers there’s an increasing shift to tech providers offering a rapid onboarding and a superior RESTful and JSON based architecture. These APIs are fast and easy to implement, which supports accelerated development and release. By breaking up applications into smaller, manageable services, this allows development to happen on multiple parts in parallel. It also speeds up testing and QA by starting with completed sections, while developers can already move on to the next piece. Maintenance is also improved because it can focus on individual parts, rather than impacting the entire service when a new update needs to be deployed.
2020 will start to see a shift to light-weight APIs microservices from monolithic architecture and it feels like a tipping point in travel. The microservices architecture market is expected to grow to approximately $33 billion by 2023, at 17% of CAGR between 2017 and 2023. This is good news for travel brands looking to build towards a longer-term strategy and deploy apps quickly in a competitive travel industry with new entrants arriving on a seemingly monthly basis.
As the providers of multiple content sources, travel businesses will look to GDSs to help this shift to APIs. By doing so, brands can deliver the widest range of travel offers across air, hotel, and car and keep up with travelers’ ever-evolving demands.