As part of our lead up to TAP Conference, the premier mobile commerce conference on October 4, we are interviewing leaders from the mobile world about their views on the future of commerce. Most recently, we sat down with the VP of Global Strategy at Booking Holdings, Susanne Greenfield, ahead of her session at TAP.
Booking Holdings oversees well-known travel brands like Booking.com, Priceline, KAYAK, and Opentable. In 2017, consumers booked 673.1 million room nights of accommodation, 73 million rental car days, and 6.9 million airplane tickets using websites owned by Booking Holdings.
Read through our Q&A below to learn how Booking Holdings navigates the mobile landscape and, if you haven't yet, register to see Susanne at TAP 2018!
Question: What role does mobile play in Booking Holdings's broader strategy?
Susanne: Mobile is an important part of our business and certainly will continue to play an integral role in our long-term strategy. As such, we find that it is critical to think as a "mobile first" company.
In 2018, as a result of mobile, we are seeing more and more people booking components of their trips more spontaneously. In fact, it is not uncommon to see our customers book transportation, restaurant reservations, activities, or even accomodations on the same day they intend to use these services.
In many emerging markets in which do business, mobile is often the only way that many people access the internet. For example, according to the China Internet Network Information Center, by the end of 2017, 97.5% of all internet users in China accessed the web on their mobile devices. Rates of all other access methods were far lower. For instance, only about half (53.0%) of all Chinese internet users went online via desktop in 2017. This continuing trend highlights how critical our mobile strategy is to our company's success in these markets.
Question: The user journey to complete a travel booking is constantly changing, especially when you consider mobile. What are some of the best ways you've seen companies innovate and adapt to these changing consumer needs?
Susanne: A number of new startups we meet are completely app-based, having determined that a desktop site is not a priority. With customers using their mobile phones to access the internet more frequently, this can be a viable strategy for certain startups.
When customers rely on mobile, e-commerce businesses have limited screen space and often limited time to help customers find what they need. Companies must optimize the mobile UX/UI to take these constraints into account and, where possible, use data to personalize the customer experience. Companies that successfully do this are capable of not just meeting customer needs, but also giving customers what they want before they even know what they want.
Question: What travel trends do you predict willgain the most momentum as we approach 2019?
Susanne: In 2019, the travel experience will continue to get increasingly more personalized through the use of machine learning. The better we get to know the consumer, the smarter we can become about their preferences and the easier it will be to offer curated suggestions in the booking process.
That personalization will allow us to remove friction not only from the booking process, but also from the actual travel experience. For example, if my flight were delayed, it would be great if Booking.com automatically knew of that change (because it had my flight information) and seamlessly (without my requesting it) informed both the car company picking me up and my hotel that I would be late.
Question: What's your advice for travel businesses crafting a strategy for the upcoming holiday season?
Susanne: To begin with, the company's strategy for the holiday season cannot start during the holiday season; rather, it must target when its customers will be booking travel for the holidays, which of course, is often many months prior. It is therefore paramount that a company fully understand its customers' path to purchase, making sure to market to that customer at the right time— while they are dreaming up and planning their trip— and to provide the right travel solutions for their holiday travel needs.
And of course the work cannot end once the customer makes a booking. Equally as critical as obtaining the booking is being there for the customer should they have any problem leading up to or during their travel. Holiday season is one of the busiest travel seasons. The travel company must have the appropriate customer tools, policies, and people in place to manage incoming customer requests to ensure it is able to solve problems and to provide the customer with a good experience.
Question: You'll be speaking at Button's TAP 2018 conference on October 4th. What are you most excited for?
Susanne: An important part of my job is staying abreast of emerging trends, including in technology, with mobile obviously being an important one. So it will be interesting to hear how companies are using mobile to deliver for the customer.
The conference will include companies that focus on various different industries and I am always eager to learn how other companies solve for issues that Booking Holdings might also face. I find that hearing how issues are dealt with from other perspectives can help teach us to be more creative in our own problem solving.
Many people at the conference work for companies that are focused in one geography, but may be looking to grow or expand into other geographies. Working at a company as global as Booking Holdings, which does business in 200+ countries and territories, has afforded me a global perspective that I think can be enlightening for companies looking to expand into new regions.
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