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Voice Search and Digital Voice Assistants: The Next Big Thing in Hotel Distribution and Marketing

Amazon Echo

Voice Search and Digital Voice Assistants: The Next Big Thing in Hotel Distribution and Marketing

Background

As one of the most exciting trends in hotel marketing and distribution strategy, voice search has galvanized the hospitality industry, both in preparation for evolving consumer behaviors and technology advancements. Termed ‘the next billion’ by the Wall Street Journal, voice search through digital assistants is here and the possibilities for the technology are endless.

With the forthcoming generation of Internet users worldwide preferring communication with images and, most importantly, voice activation, there is a great opportunity for hotels in this landscape. Speaking to a digital voice assistant that can understand and execute a request comes naturally to humans. Seventy-three percent of users would like to be able to complete tasks by speaking to a virtual assistant, and the world’s tech giants are striving to meet that want.

Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home, Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana dominate the market in digital voice assistants; Amazon alone has sold over 20 million Alexa units so far. By 2021, more than four billion mobile assistants will be used globally, and many of them will have the functionality to execute travel bookings (Juniper Research).

Microsoft claims that travelers in Great Britain are increasingly researching accommodations through their Cortana digital assistant on mobile devices with hotel searches seeing an increase of 343% year-over-year and flight searches increasing by 277%.

So, what is the reason for the surge in digital voice assistants? The advancements in mobile devices has been the main reason for the incline. Remember Apple’s Newton, the much-heralded personal digital assistant (PDA)? This product failed miserably in the early 1990s due to the absence of the mobile channel at the time.

In the future, the adoption rate of voice search and digital voice assistants, and especially their mobile versions, will increase even faster with technology becoming even more sophisticated, and voice assistants will become integrated into consumers’ everyday lives.

There are many iterations of the voice-assisted technology in travel and hospitality, including:

How do digital voice assistants make money in the hospitality industry?

The main players are jumping into voice search with a single objective in mind – to make money. In hospitality, it’s expected that all three business models for digital voice assistants will be used:

Why hoteliers should care

Today’s online travel consumer demands seamless, intuitive travel planning experiences, including the ability to search and book hotels using voice search by using their favorite digital voice assistant.

Voice search and digital voice assistants already enable travel consumers to search accommodations, and in some cases – book hotels. Amazon Alexa, working with Kayak.com, offers voice search-powered hotel bookings to any travel consumer with a Kayak.com account, though there are still some notable limitations to the technology:

In addition to Amazon, all of the major players in the voice-recognition field (Apple, Google, and Microsoft) have already enabled voice search for hotels and are working on applications to for users to complete bookings.

However long it may take for the full effects of voice search to emerge, we can already see some shifts taking place, and observe some common customer behaviors. This is a positive development for hoteliers, as there are some key strategies available in order to get ahead.

What should hoteliers do in order to get ahead?

To begin with, hoteliers must understand that if they do nothing about voice search, the OTAs and metasearch players like TripAdvisor, Kayak.com and Trivago, will do it on their behalf. The question is, at what cost?

There are several major areas of opportunity in the hospitality industry for capitalizing on voice search. By investing in the following strategies, hoteliers can be prepared for upcoming changes in the landscape and position themselves ahead of the competition by enhancing the “visibility” of their properties for the digital voice assistants:

Voice Search Optimization (VSO)

VSO is a combination of traditional SEO, technical SEO, and the science of studying patterns inherent to voice search. VSO is very important for the voice recognition agents of the main search engines like Google Voice and Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana and Apple’s Siri. Here are some practical steps:

Content Strategy

Having a robust content strategy is paramount for all phases of the customer lifecycle. In the dreaming phase, customers may have their voice search device read them travel press about places they’ve been eager to visit or ask Alexa questions about where celebrities have stayed. In the purchasing phase, customers will simply say, “Siri, find me the best hotel rates in downtown Boston.” They’ve already have made up their mind to go on a journey, and voice search will be just another factor in getting there. All of this means that hoteliers must:

CRS Voice Search Enablement

The property Central Reservation System (CRS) and Channel Manager providers can play a crucial role in voice search enablement.

DHISCO Inc., hospitality industry’s original “Hotel Distribution Switch” that enables more than 16 billion transactions a month for more than 514,000 hotels can play a very important role here in enabling their significant portfolio of hotels on the main digital voice assistants.

Conclusion:

Much of voice search is prospective, and so the lasting impacts on the hospitality industry remain to be seen. However, based on past and current trends, we can anticipate that as the voice search landscape evolves, we will continue to see rich areas of customer engagement via voice search and revenue opportunity develop.

ABOUT HEBS DIGITAL:

Founded in 2001, the firm is headquartered in New York City and has global offices in Las Vegas and Asia Pacific. Through its Smart Guest Acquisition Suite, including the smartCMS®, Smart Personalization Engine, Smart Data Marketing, and full-service digital consulting and marketing solutions, HEBS Digital helps hoteliers drastically boost direct bookings, lower distribution costs, and increase the lifetime value of guests.

Part of NextGuest Technologies, HEBS Digital and Serenata CRM, the most comprehensive Hotel CRM Suite today, are the creators of the hospitality industry’s first Fully-Integrated Guest Engagement & Acquisition Platform.

A diverse client portfolio of top-tier luxury and boutique hotel chains, independent hotels, resorts and casinos, franchised properties and hotel management companies, convention centers, spas, restaurants, DMO and tourist offices across the globe are all benefiting from HEBS Digital’s direct online channel strategy and digital marketing expertise.

HEBS Digital’s technology, website design and digital marketing services have won more than 500 prestigious industry awards, including World Travel Awards, HSMAI Adrian Awards, Stevie Awards (American Business Awards), Travel Weekly’s Magellan Awards, and more.

The HEBS Digital team is comprised of thought leaders, a diverse team of experts comprised of over 33 nationalities speaking over 22 languages. Contact HeBS Digital’s consultants at 1 (800) 649-5076 (North America), +64 (0) 9 889 8489 (Asia Pacific) or success@hebsdigital.com.

Posted by on April 12, 2018.

Categories: Technology

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