There’s no doubt that technology is developing at a rapid rate and one thing marketers have to consider is whether the latest innovations are going to be the game changers they are always looking for. Many businesses are currently utilising virtual and augmented reality to promote their brands, for instance, reaching out to their customers in new and exciting ways.
One recent tech innovation, of course, has been voice search with devices such as the Amazon Echo. With these becoming more common in many homes, the potential it holds for the hotel industry is now being explored. Kayak have become one of the first companies to create an avenue for customers to book rooms by asking Alexa.
For marketers, on the surface creating a booking engine for hotels is exciting but it does come with a number of unique challenges.
When using a website, it’s easy to produce a long list of potential hotel choices the customer can choose from. Voice search options like Echo tend to have a much briefer list of options – in essence it’s easy to scan down a list but you don’t necessarily want to listen to Alexa ticking off a whole bunch of hotel choices when you make a query. In actual fact, Echo will often only give you one choice when you ask it for a hotel in a particular area.
The experience of Kayak, so far, has been sketchy to say the least. Booking via Echo has proved difficult and users still have to go onto the website to complete any booking. You also need to add the software to Echo first before you can use it to search for hotels.
Kayak haven’t yet found a way to include flight bookings, which many users will want, mainly because they are focused on the booking engine for hotels at the moment but also because there are issues with regulations and fee disclosure for flights.
Payment is also a problem. You need to have an account with the metasearch brand to do this and that’s a little too complicated for many users. You can’t use your Amazon account or any digital wallets such as Apple Pay and PayPal.
For the moment, the research shows that the Kayak delivery on Amazon Echo is best suited for those who travel regularly, stay at the same place and often do repeat bookings. It’s not necessarily a good option if you are looking for the best value or want to search a wide number of options before you decide on booking a room. For those who are used to comparison shopping, voice search using Echo will usually provide only one hotel choice which is always going to be problematic.
These are obviously early days when it comes to booking hotels using a voice activated technology such as Echo. While Amazon is the market leader at the moment, many others, including Google and Alibaba, are bringing their own models out and the technology is sure to develop quickly over the next few years.
For the moment these devices are adequate for dealing with low cost buys but still have some way to go when it comes to high price items such as hotel rooms and flights. You may have to wait a little longer before you can book your next holiday with Alexa.