The latest foray of a travel brand into voice-activated search is called Opal. This time its OTA OneTravel stepping up to the microphone with its own personal voice assistant for its Android app.
App users will be able to open the app and perform searches such as "I need a flight to Miami from Chicago in 2 weeks," and the app will serve results from its 450 airlines according to this input. The app will follow up with any missing information, such as origin, destination and travel dates.
The company also claims that the assistant can read contextual clues to prevent mistaken requests and to fill in the blanks as necessary.
This isn't the first integration of the microphone into travel search. CheapAir.com had
CheapAir.com had voice activation nearly two years ago and we spoke at length about the potential for voice activation to change the travel industry three years ago when Siri was first launched.
More recently, Evature received $2 million investment from the likes of Concur for its voice technology. Yet this feature has not at all gone mainstream or become a commonly discussed means by which travelers are searching and booking travel.
The likely culprit for this is that it's a solution in search of a problem. It's just not that hard to enter an origin/destination and departure date to begin a search.
Personalization is more of a priority so that users don't have to filter through meaningless or irrelevant-t0-them results. The cascade of results for any travel search is a true problem, and voice activated search is simply an alternative means of jumping into that problem.
So will voice search truly change travel forever?
The answer is murky but most certainly requires a segment-by-segment analysis within travel to determine just where voice search fits best. We won't undertake that here but consider the following insight into voice search provided by a Google survey of 1,400 adults.
This recent study from Google looked at how voice search is being used, and by whom. It found some interesting results, namely that teenagers are far more likely to use voice search than adults. This could mean that forward-looking travel brands seeking to engage the next generation could consider using voice search as a way to connect with that generation.
The "what" when it comes to voice search doesn't show much promise for travel; however, directions are a top use case, so that's something to keep in mind for travel apps seeking to address all points in the travel lifecycle.
The when demonstrates that travel brands might actually have a chance to use voice search in the inspiration phase with teenagers as they grow up. If this cohort enjoys using voice search with friends, there could be an interesting application as far as searching and learning about destinations in groups.
Television could also be another area that markers might consider voice integration, especially as these teenagers go off to college and begin making their own travel purchase decisions. An additional call-to-action as far as voice searching could be a companion activation to a television campaign.
NB: Voice image courtesy Shutterstock.