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Travel Marketplaces Help Brands Own the Trip Experience
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The travel industry has entered a new frontier where travelers are seeking more connection between different parts of their trips, like lodging and activities, as safety and real-time destination information are increasingly important.

As the travel and hospitality industry adapts to COVID-19, it’s clear that hospitality brands will need to identify and provide additional sources of customer value to diversify their offerings and expand their product portfolios. Rather than thinking of themselves as only a hotel or casino, for example, brands can become marketplaces that expand their core product offerings. This enables them to also sell such products and services as tours and activities, car rentals or food delivery from attraction, transportation and restaurant partners. Such a selection will help travelers understand different ways they can engage with brands and use them to create a one-stop-shopping experience.

Marketplaces require managing and personalizing multiple traveler interactions across shopping, booking, payment, fulfillment and loyalty while connecting data from different systems that power each capability. The marketplace should feel conversational and use modern digital capabilities such as search engine indexing, machine learning ranking algorithms and AI chat features to create convenient shopping behaviors.

  • Publicis Sapient’s Digital Life Index, which surveyed 3,000 people in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Singapore, found that most respondents favor using digital tools when planning, booking and participating in vacation activities – including things to do in destinations, restaurants and transportation options – rather than have a person help them.
  • Nearly 40 percent of U.S. travelers research activities before booking flights or hotels, according to Phocuswright’s U.S. Consumer Travel 2018 report.
  • A 2019 Booking.com survey found travelers who book activities ahead of their trip spend 47 percent more on lodging and 81 percent more on transportation than those who wait to book in-destination.

Bringing a brand’s entire product portfolio onto a single platform that helps travelers understand the breadth of products available will bring in new customers and help brands get a fuller picture of customers and their preferences.

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Accelerate with marketplaces

Many brands have become adept at selling their marquee products like rooms, event spaces for meetings or weddings, food and beverage and even spas across digital platforms. Although, several brands don’t have a robust e-commerce platform and struggle to integrate other products into their sales platforms or still use antiquated technology stacks. Some brands have been able to adapt during 2020, such as selling rooms as workspaces for travelers weary of home offices. However, that approach only scratches the surface of the available opportunities. What if a guest with a workspace rental could add on a long weekend family getaway with passes to a local museum or a treatment at the hotel’s spa after work, and pay for everything in one place?

Marketplaces are generally not a new concept for the travel industry, although few brands have been able to realize their full potential. Disney, for one, sets the standard as it lets travelers book lodging, park tickets and other activities, personalize and manage the trip and share plans with family and friends on one platform. Airbnb is another leader, treating its customers and hosts equally.

With many destinations affected by the pandemic, travelers will increasingly wait to book certain parts of a trip until they arrive to verify availability and that a business is open. Instead of travelers turning to other platforms like Google, TripAdvisor or OpenTable to book while in a destination, this is an opportunity to engage with travelers for booking every aspect of their trips that also gives them a new way to grow loyalty and use points.

 

Creating a marketplace

Hospitality brands will need to constantly adapt in the coming months and years, and marketplace platforms will enable individual hotels to make changes efficiently depending on demand in their regions. That’s why Publicis Sapient created Rapid Commerce in Travel, a marketplace accelerator that gives hotels, casinos, retailers and other travel businesses a new level of agility and responsiveness. Rapid Commerce, essentially commerce on the cloud, is the first fully cloud-native, digital commerce accelerator that helps hospitality brands, partners and travelers to maximize the travel booking experience. The accelerator helps brands get insights from more first-party spend data but doesn’t include a customer data platform (CDP) or mine second or third-party data. Its decoupled architecture pattern allows it integrate with existing technology stacks easily without purchasing new products or licenses. In one basic scenario, guests access the marketplace by logging into their loyalty account where they can add a variety of available products to their cart, select their preferred payment method, including loyalty points.

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Rapid Commerce in Travel

Publicis Sapient’s cloud-native accelerator allows travel & hospitality brands to consolidate products and services into a comprehensive one-stop-shop digital platform.

The microservices combine related services and products onto a single experience so businesses can tweak proportions of various offerings without disrupting the entire platform. Rapid Commerce can integrate with a brand’s existing booking platform and evolve over a period and is completely customizable. The accelerator connects data and services across channels and does this through four categories:

1. Partner enablement:  Brands don’t want to spend a lot of time onboarding every partner. Partners can control the content and language they want to use in the marketplace and enable how payments will transfer from the hospitality brand that takes the payment on behalf of the partner.

2. Foundational platform services: Build foundational digital capabilities that enable these platform services.

3. Traveler experience enablement: Enhanced customer experience like chat, responsive website and social commerce plug-ins.

4. Order Management enablement: The platform has an order fulfillment component that allows employees to track and fulfill each component of a guest’s order – both owned and partner products.

 

Choosing the best fit

Marketplaces can deepen the relationship between travelers and brands so the latter can offer more personalized products as they learn more about what and how much customers spend on a trip. This helps hotel revenue management, for instance, look at total revenue rather than only revenue per available room. Hotels may price rooms lower as they expect guests to spend in the restaurant or bar, which is common at casinos. While there’s no one-size-fits-all, marketplace platforms are most helpful when:

  • You have a diverse product portfolio.
  • You are interested in expanding your business and revenue streams.
  • Your brand’s e-commerce experience is disconnected from the customer experience.
  • Your brand doesn’t offer bundling of products.
  • Are you sending your customers to external activities/excursions and only getting a small percentage of revenue stream?

 

Streamlining travel booking

Brands must consider what the e-commerce experience will look like during the next decade. With some industry associations projecting travel spending in markets like the United States won’t return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024, the ways and reasons people book travel will look different than before. Travelers will be looking for the best deals, bundles, real-time information and personalization in a booking experience that rapidly responds to what’s happening in a destination and the brand’s top visitor markets.

A Rapid Commerce marketplace experience is well-suited to serve leisure and business travelers looking for flexibility and the ability to manage their trips on one platform. By making these e-commerce and marketplace investments now, your brand can build and expand on new revenue streams that helps business thrive no matter what challenges arise.

Vishal Parekh
Vishal Parekh
Senior Director, Agile Program Management

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