If your job is developing the UI for airline websites and booking systems, your focus groups probably include business people aged 50 plus and hipsters in their 30s. But you’d likely be in for a shock if you took your UI along to the local middle school for feedback.
For anybody over 30, the mindset is that websites are a form of brochureware. People of that age group grew up in a paper-first environment, and that colors the way they think about websites. Basically, a website is approached from the perspective of being a smart brochure which lets you do magical things like make a booking immediately.
But for tomorrow’s consumers – today’s kids – a brochure, even a newspaper, is something of which they will have little or no experience. For that reason, the website as a form of brochureware is an equally alien concept. They’d find the notion of going to an airline’s own website – and taking the trouble to familiarize themselves with the airline’s own UI – as being quite puzzling and time wasting.
So how are tomorrow’s travelers interfacing with their smartphone and finding the information they want?
Voice and chat. A sign of the times.
Forget PCs and televisions. Forget tablets. For tomorrow’s consumer the only thing that matters is their smartphone. Parents and grandparents around the world bemoan the fact that their kids don’t talk to them anymore. For the average teenager, their smartphone simply meets all their needs for knowledge, entertainment and discourse.
And the small physical size of a smartphone means that the human voice is a much more efficient way of interfacing with that device. Tiny smartphone keyboards are OK for short chat messages, but more and more consumers are turning to Apple Siri or the Google equivalent so they can ask a question, instead of type it.
Voice assistant software is improving all the time. And companies like NXP Software of The Netherlands (link below) are creating incredible audio algorithms that get built into smartphone sound chips. These algorithms can do things like tell if the speaker is happy or stressed from the way they talk, and determine whether they are in an office, at the theatre or on a bus.
Picking up on these acoustic clues enables the phone to change its behavior depending on the user’s mood and environment. NXP Software also sees a big future for voice I/O in the Internet Of Things. So for today’s kids, talking to a smartphone, lightbulb, television or car is going to seem perfectly normal.
And once you’ve spoken to your house to turn up the heating, or asked your car to change the radio channel, the idea of going to a website and typing in your flight requirements suddenly seems laughably outdated.
SkyScanner provides voice flight search with Amazon Echo.
Amazon’s Echo is a low-cost voice assistant that will introduce millions of families to the concept of voice assistants.
Like SIRI, but housed in a small electronic device which is left on a tabletop in the home, Echo can answer millions of questions, set timers or send messages.
And thanks to a development by Skyscanner using the Echo API (see the link to the Tnooz article below), Echo can also be used to search for flights.
As David Low of Skyscanner says: “Voice integration is an important feature for the travel industry, and the digital world in general. Conversational integration is appearing in everything from wearables to cars to mobile apps, reinforcing that conversation and messaging are fast becoming mainstream.”
So when today’s kids grow up text chatting with their friends and using something like Amazon Echo to change TV channels, you have to ask yourself: “why would tomorrow’s travelers want to visit my website, learn my UI, then spend time finding out about only my timetable?” It’s a sobering thought for the airlines whose website and apps are ‘bet your business’ investments.
KLM harnessing chatbot technology.
The Complete Beginner’s Guide To Chatbots (link below) defines a chatbot as: “A chatbot is a service, powered by rules and sometimes artificial intelligence, that you interact with via a chat interface. The service could be any number of things, ranging from functional to fun, and it could live in any major chat product (Facebook Messenger, Slack, Telegram, Text Messages, etc.).”
The same article highlights that messenger apps are already getting more traffic than social sites.
Yes, you read that right. Messenger apps are already getting more traffic than social sites. The top 4 messaging apps get 3 billion instances per month, and the top 4 social networks get 2.5 billion instances a month.
Facebook Messenger – which is a popular chatbot platform – has 1 billion users. And Microsoft is hard at work to make Skype a chatbot host for the 560 million people who have download the app.
In another article by Tnooz titled ‘Chat is where it’s at for KLM as it finds customers on new platforms’, TNooz (link below) reported that KLM is trialing a chatbot service based on Facebook Messenger. It’s part of KLM’s transition from mobile-first to mobile-only. The airline’s CEO, Pieter Elbers, is quoted in the TNooz article: “We need to do it differently. It means we need to go where customers are, rather than spending a lot on getting customers to our website. We want to offer more functionality on external apps, such as WeChat and Whatsapp, because we believe this is where they are.”
Airline databases drive chatbot and voice assistant apps.
The emergence of chatbots and voice assistants doesn’t invalidate the investment airlines have made in databases which are capable of driving online booking engines. Quite the opposite, in fact.
The end goal of a simplified chat or voice interaction is still going to be that the consumer gets a deliverable, in the form of a ticket and reservation. It’s just that the route to consumer will change and evolve:
– Airlines need to be able to drive their own chat/voice front ends.
– Airlines also need to participate in 3rd party chat/voice solutions.
The ConztanzONE smart data platform, supported by Conztanz airline technology experts, ensures that your data can be presented to the next generation of user interfaces. With ConztanzONE you’ll be able to marshal data in realtime from around the organization, and from partners, in order to power the most sophisticated chat and voice systems.
In fact ConztanzONE is already interacting with a wide variety of airline systems, including PSS, communication platforms and apps, as well as driving solutions based on event-driven actions to manage, for example, disruption.
ConztanzONE is all about getting the right data to the right place, at the right time. That’s fundamental to every successful IT innovation for airlines.
Please find out more about how ConztanzONE can help drive the future of your airline.
Reference. Airline disruption news links.
NXP Software. Voice algorithms.
Skyscanner to provide voice flight search for Amazon Echo.
Six of the best chatbot building platforms for developers.
1 billion people are on Facebook Messenger.
Chat is where it’s at for KLM as it finds customers on new platforms.
The Complete Beginner’s Guide To Chatbots.