We all know that the prospect of booking travel can be a harried and disjointed experience. A condition best exemplified by the array of choices now available at every stage of the process.
NB: This is a report by Kyle Riordan, API platform analyst at Mashery, an Intel Company.
From last-minute online bookings to smartphone apps that cater to unique needs for flights, hotels and rental services – you can now book and plan your trip through a myriad devices and platforms.
More options always sound great but research shows that despite all of the options available, the entire process, from scheduling to booking and planning, makes for a frustrating customer experience.
In fact, a 2013 Expedia Media Solutions study found that consumers made 38 visits to travel sites before booking a single trip.
What do more options mean for the suppliers?
For suppliers (hotels, airlines, etc.) meeting the customer on so many devices/platforms presents numerous challenges respective to their place in the value chain.
For hotels, all these platforms, increase commoditization (viewing a hotel stay as a prepackaged otherwise undifferentiated good) which leads to a negative impact on booking margins forcing chains to compete on price.
Like with hotels, travelers tend to select their airline by the best available price.
Facing similar price war challenges fueled by booking through OTAs (online travel industries), airlines need a way to differentiate and are therefore forced to compete at the mobile app level.
Because of this, building unique and user-friendly experiences to boost customer satisfaction and increase revenue is critical.
A ForSee survey in 2013 found "customers using mobile apps are more satisfied with their mobile travel" and mobile apps from Southwest, American Airlines and Delta have propelled these airlines to the top of the customer satisfaction list.
Overcoming the fragmented consumer experience
But whether talking about hotels or airlines the underlying challenge is that all the pieces of data needed to create the optimal customer experience isare still hard to come by.
This can make things confusing for the consumer. Although travelers now have more options for booking at their disposal, all these options do not always make for a better experience.
The advent of all these online & mobile booking experiences drove greater commoditization of flights, hotel rooms and other travel products.
Travel suppliers can’t afford to differentiate on price alone – consumers are looking for location information, amenities, reviews, and more.
This information is out there, but it’s scattered around the web on different sites forcing consumers to go and look for it themselves.
How do APIs address these fragmentation challenges?
To combat this fragmentation challenge, travel suppliers must be able to effectively share their data with all forms of consumers; intermediaries (like OTAs), “last minute” booking applications (like Hotel Tonight), metasearches (like Kayak), social couponers (like Livingsocial Escapes), internal teams and development partners.
To effectively share data with all these parties, suppliers need APIs.
With the right APIs, innovators can create the best offerings while suppliers can unlock data that has been hidden away and focus on their core business of providing a great travel experience.
Why is API management important?
With API management in place, suppliers can grant access to data and services without relinquishing control.
Suppliers can decide who has access to their data and what they can do with it, allowing the innovators to create great experiences while still keeping supplier data secure.
With better data accessibility through APIs, booking experiences will improve and travelers will be left happier.
And the suppliers who establish these well-managed API programs will gain a competitive advantage in their market.
Companies can no longer afford to keep their data locked away, just as they can not relinquish control of it.
A well-developed and executed API strategy, one that enables both customization and control, is the best (and often only) way to boost brand loyalty, attract new business, enhance customer satisfaction, and grow the bottom line.
APIs and API management don’t represent a single technology, but they have the ability to transform the way business is done in every part of travel.
Where is this transformation heading?
The underlying theme in all of this is customer satisfaction; how to keep customers happy and brand loyal, to reduce commoditization.
A leading way to accomplish this is through personalization and context. Giving customers precisely what they want when and where they want it.
In the booking experience, this will mean reaching customers on all of their devices at the moment they want to book; giving them the power to book any hotel or flight right at their fingertips.
But beyond booking, the travel experience itself will be more personalized and context aware.
For hotels unique user profiles containing visitors’ preferences will help build more tailored experiences, room preferences, automated check-ins and additional services.
For the airlines the same principle will apply taking what was a homogenized experience to one complete with individual touches in terms of entertainment and comforts.
To enable this will require the more open flow of companies’ data best accomplished through APIs.
With the right APIs to expose and management layer to secure their data, suppliers will be able to transform once homogenized consumer experiences into personalized engagements; giving the customers what they want and enticing them to return for more.
NB: This is a report by Kyle Riordan, API platform analyst at Mashery, an Intel Company. It appears here as part of Tnooz's sponsored content initiative.
NB2:API robot image via Shutterstock.