travel sector has frequently been at the vanguard of technological advances in
many areas, especially customer engagement and experience, but how ready are we
for the post-digital era we’ve now entered?
engagement across different generations is ever more challenging. Although millennials
and Gen X have happily adopted digitalization, we’re identifying more core
differences in behavior with Gen Z.
These digital natives consume information vastly differently to their
millennial parents and their expectations of brands are changing accordingly. A number of scientific studies indicate that
Gen Z brains are developing more sophistication when it comes to complex visual
imagery, in turn making visual forms of learning and engagement much more
to Earthweb, “Gen Z
constitutes 26% of the total population across the world. This means two
billion people are in Gen Z.
Generation Z is one of the most racially- and ethnically-diverse generations
across the United States. Nearly 99% of Gen Z’s either owns a smartphone or
have access to one.” Worth noting the
majority of Gen
Z have reached adulthood with an estimated purchasing power of $44 billion per
annum - not all for travel, unfortunately, but our slice of the pie will
grow as they mature!
parents and grandparents, Gen Z consumers are not happy just buying from a
brand to fulfill an immediate want or need. They crave a sense of tribal belonging,
immersive, real-life experiences and above all a brand that offers them a
purpose and shows commitment to them as individuals while caring about people
and the planet.
So how should
we embrace Gen Z while ensuring our millennials and Gen X are never forgotten? Certainly a lot of digital marketing and
virtual reality options are already available to the broad travel sector and
developing all the time. Surely every
brand has now dipped their toes into some form of social media advertising, and
we must have all heard about “gamification marketing,” right?
aspects of direct engagement and rewarding traveler interactions can be a great
way of building a feeling of tribe and belonging to your brand community -
something Gen Z loves but remember millennials are keen gamers too.
So far the travel sector has been slow to explore this avenue with only a
handful of brands adopting this type of strategy (mainly tourism boards). Many aspects of traveler engagement lean well
towards gamification, especially during the discovery phase, on-trip and post
particularly open-world platforms, offer some unique opportunities to engage
with potential travelers, build loyalty and expand human networks. Many already actively offer marketplaces and
brand partnerships as well as providing a virtual arena for live events like
in-game music concerts.
Take a look at the movie Ready Player One, where companies are buying and selling products to gamers in a virtual world. Not
only is there an opportunity to engage and advertise, but why not think along
the lines of your own virtual travel agency embedded in the game or live
immersive product experiences - try before you buy! Certainly the discovery phase for travelers
designing their next journey could be well supported through this channel, and
with your virtual travel agency open, gamers can buy travel too.
Virtual and augmented
reality are gaining more traction. There are 50.2
million VR users in the U.S., which is 15% of the country's
population. There are over 171 million VR users worldwide and new sales of
headsets are expected to top 15 million in 2022.
technology is being adopted across many business sectors, travel included.
Although many headsets will be purchased by individuals (millennials are the
biggest market currently, though probably buying for their kids - that’s their
excuse anyway!), it’s worth noting that Gen Z doesn’t only want to engage
remotely. For them, the human touch element is also fundamental.
With this in
mind the travel retail space has never been more exciting or more
relevant. Immersive digital screens, VR
headsets and even smell generators are getting faster, easier to wear and more
powerful almost daily, providing a fun way to interact with brand products and your
These types of
concept stores have been rolling out across Europe for a couple of rival “titan”
brands, but with costs of this type of hardware decreasing, our “trailblazers”
can also participate in this type of approach more easily.
has long been a goal of most travel brands and with Gen Z’s lifelong digital
footprints there is definitely more potential to understand who they are on
more meaningful levels. Identifying their aspirations through big data analysis
and machine learning is the key.
some great progress has been made in this discipline, too often our industry is
focused on putting travelers into specific boxes and selling specific products
that we hope fit because a couple of their peers booked similar a few weeks
I believe we
need to be more dynamic and react in real time, partnering with the multiple
sources they engage with (other types of business, social networks and virtual
assistants) helping us all deliver a more exciting and smooth brand experience
where every traveler feels valued and understood every time.
virtual assistants and the rise of the Internet of Things, CodeGen CEO Harsha Subasinghe
believes we’re witnessing, “the beginning of the end” for the internet as we
know it and browsers in particular.
is no longer in its infancy, natural language processing (NLP) and artificial
intelligence (AI) has now developed to a degree where we humans can interact
with virtually anything directly. Just
consider what AI can already do; read, write, see, hear, comprehend, speak,
smell, touch, move, understand emotions, play games, debate, create and read
your mind! Here at CodeGen we’ve written
our own travel focused NLP, and AI was adopted by us very early on. It’s simply
fundamental to everything we do.
into a world where our personal suite of assistance bots will proactively
engage with the world around us, negotiating on our behalf and removing the
need for us to concern ourselves with mundane tasks like trying to buy gig
tickets for our favorite band, pressing refresh every other second!
So what could a
new Gen Z engagement look like? Maybe
you’ve identified them as a potential traveler based on some of their gaming
and other data from the metaverse, and they’ve won an in-game VR experience
from you via some soft gamification marketing.
They loved the experience and went off exploring more for themselves,
eventually they’ve popped into our virtual travel agency and booked a unique
journey prepared solely for them.
information is shared by their assistant bots, your brand bots book and confirm
a truly seamless journey and actively monitor, communicating updates pre, on
and post trip. Your real humans keep in
regular touch with your traveler, sharing their knowledge and building ongoing
What does this
all mean for travel? What will a travel booking look like in three, five or 10 years’ time? The answer is I just
don’t know, I don’t think anyone does. Will we even be traveling much in 10
years’ time? None of us can be sure
where all these technological advances will take us or how quickly things will
We do know
however, that change will happen, again and again, and if recent history tells
us anything, it’ll happen much sooner than we think. Every brand must think about embracing the
future, in particular engaging Gen Z now - and don’t forget the first-born
Generation Alphas will soon be teenagers!
Meet CodeGen at its kiosk at The Phocuswright Conference in November.