Category Archives: Tech

I may be a boomer but my life’s not over yet

What happens when you reach your mid 50’s? I’ll tell you. You get emails from Saga Holidays, you get invited to cash in your Pension, you get funeral directors Marketing you, you get marketers sending you emails showing products that I’m simply not ready for. Listen I’m not ready to sign out just yet!

Millennials in marketing need to remember that once we were your age. I lived in a time before mobile phones and pc’s but I also lived through the development of the wonderful devices we have at our disposal today. I have bought every one of them: brick phones, Apple, BBC A and B, Motorola and Nokia. You name it, I’ve used it and I have loved each and every device. I have seen amazing things from the transition from face to face conversation (yeah where’s that gone) , to social networking on Facebook. I’ve probably had more experience than most millenials with devices so please, please stop thinking I am a techniphobic and please stop sending me emails that have large fonts, assuming I’m ready to retire, or worse die.  

I have much more life in me yet, I have learnt the art of conversation, chat up lines, confidence in front of others and a knowledge that spans decades of change. I’m quite interesting really. 

 Remember, I use my phone and iPad instead of paper, I still want to go on exciting holidays and experience amazing things, I have probably done many things you could only dream of. So next time you are marketing my generation please treat me with respect, don’t make assumptions that my generation is technically incompetent and past our sell by date. Who knows while you are sweating it out in the gym I just might be buying whatever it is you are selling: age has nothing to do with it! 

Me and my Mac

Me and my Mac – this is not an advert, but a reality

The best PC ever

My MacBook Pro 13″

So, there I was travelling to Athens, Istanbul then back to Athens.  I had various devices with me: My iPhone 5s, A Moto G running Android, iPad Mini and my trusty Mac Book Pro 13″.  With varying degrees of internet access and high roaming charges, I soon ran down my mobile phone batteries.  The iPad, a brilliant device, just wasn’t up to the heavy music and video-laden PowerPoint I was editing for three presentations, 4 workshops and music downloads over ten days.

Each day I would revert to my Mac book Pro.  Sliding it form my trusty TUMI bag I rarely had to recharge it from the nightly charge (sometimes not even charging nightly), I placed it on the desk, flipped the lid and instant access.  Easily vamping onto the hotel or bars free Wi-Fi I was soon up and running, tweeting, Facebook posts, updating my blog, all whilst my Windows using colleagues struggled to lock into the Wi-Fi signal, let alone get their presentations working.

You see, the MacBook Pro is simply a brilliant device.  Expensive, yes, but the productivity increase you get for using it over a Windows PC is at least 50% more.  Recently I took delivery of a Windows Tablet that our IT team was dishing out to our Australian Sales teams.  I had to test some software.  First off I set up my various accounts: Google, Facebook, Twitter, Hotmail, iCloud etc.  The I needed to download Google Chrome.  Once I managed to maintain a stable wi-fi signal (the Tablet kept dropping it) I downloaded Chrome and fired it up.  To my amazement it started and post my first search popped up many spam windows offering me discounted goods, various tablets and enough gambling sites to drown my finances.  I then went in search of Adaware to remove the hijacking sites form my browser.     During the download, which took an hour, I received more and more adds and enough pop-up windows to bury the one window I needed to see.  Within seconds of getting this tablet onto the net I was plagued by spam and ad sites.

Back to my Mac:  No matter where I am, no matter what I am doing, no spam, no ad-sites, no crap.

With it’s great illuminated keyboard (the eyes aren’t what they used to be),  the retina display, the whisper quiet operation (the Toshiba Tablet has the loudest fan I have ever heard), and flash disk, this is definitely the best laptop around.  A productivity inflating wonder there is nothing to touch it available today.  If you just want to get on and work seamlessly and not be hampered by a trashy interface (Windows 8), connect seamlessly to any wi-fi network and stay there, simply work on your laptop, then the Apple MacBook Pro 13 is the one to get  PERIOD!

Inspired: The brochure is dead, long live the tablet

Inspired: The brochure is dead, long live the tablet

In this article I, imagine a world without brochures

Inspire me

Inspire me

Arguably there are 5 stages to online holiday booking.  Dreaming, Researching, Booking, Experience and finally Sharing.  With the plethora of tablet and fablet devices hitting the high street and a device on most peoples Christmas list does the online experience really support this process?

It was 1998 when I first entered the Travel technology market.  I spent many an hour discussing the demise of the traditional brochure.  An expensive and time consuming production which would end up in Travel Agents or be sent to thousands of potential customers.  We really believed back then that the brochure could be transferred to CD/DVD and using electronic media we could extend the “Magazine” experience to a PC.  Imagine clicking through thumbnail images and reading reams of copy interspersed with the odd panoramic image or video of the potential destination.  How wrong we were.  No one wanted to replace the magazine experience by loading up a CD and basically reading the brochure electronically.  The Dream/inspiration phase was still supported by consumers (dreamers) picking up a brochure and thumbing through it’s contents whilst relaxed at home.

Fast forward to 2013.  It’s taken nearly 15 years for a device to finally become so mainstream that it might actually challenge the traditional brochure: the tablet.  Using apps such as Flipboard (www.flipboard.com) we can quickly see how content can be transformed into an inspiring magazine, beautifully laid out onto flip-able virtual pages with delectable fonts and supportive white space.    This Christmas is the first year that consumers are most likely to the holiday search looking for inspiration using their tablets.  They will be looking for imagery that inspires, turning their dreams into reality?  Or will they?  How many of the OTA’s provide inspiration from their home pages?  What the consumer will most likely find is a tablet unfriendly search box where they are forced to put in dates, destinations and click the search button.  They will then be presented with uninspiring thumbnails and way too much text to consume.  All topped off with an overly large font showing price per pax!

Think about socialising.  In clubs pubs and restaurants people chat about experiences.  They constantly socialise on social sites about their holidays, their desires and post holiday images using Instagram, facebook and twitter.  Soon they will post their images to Pinterest creating a travel board that will be re-pinned time and time again as like-minded consumers find inspiration in those images and experiences.

Inspiration is the key.  Traditional search cost and book seemingly ignores the dreaming and inspirational part of the consumer journey.  The social aspect is dabbled with but not understood and so tour operators only achieve a small percentage of likes finding it difficult to create and generate social conversation by thinking of this phase and posting relevant, inspiring imagery on their social pages.

So what do OTA’s need to do?  They need to embrace the phases of holiday booking.  Ditch the search cost and book process of old and inspire, converse and start the buzz.  Focus on tablet first to provide an online inspirational magazine where the consumer can browse through inspiring images.  Inspiration that is relevant to the viewer where they login using social log in, where they can post their favourite images using any of the social media apps.

Come on Travel, 15 years on lets get inspired!

Article originally published on Travolution.com December 10, 2013.

Mapple

Has Apple become Microsoft

It wasn’t that long ago when you could guarantee that your Mac, iPad and iPhone would never crash, never get a virus and allow you to do what you needed to do and not worry about the tech. On the other hand, Microsoft based PC’s would constantly crash, be forever downloading updates, and you’d spend more time sorting an issue than being productive.

Fast forward to now. It’s very rare that I switch on a Mac device and it doesn’t start downloading updates to the OS, iTunes or one of the many apps I have installed (last count 27 apps updated since 7 Dec). On top of this OS Mavericks seems to have slowed my 2 year old iMac to a crawl and this morning iOS7 on my iPad crashed and rebooted twice. It seems to me that the consumer is fast becoming the BETA tester. At least @Priceline had the decency to badge their latest APP a BETA. I know it’s not Apples fault entirely but they are guilty of releasing updates to apps that clearly have had little end-user testing , to eager end users who accept that updates are a way of life.

Once again I find that my tech is starting to get in the way of productivity. Now my most reliable of devices (my trusty iPad) has started to crash and lock up just when I need it.

We are in a world now where immediacy is key. The pressure on software developers and tech companies to deliver new things and fast, is reducing the user test time that was probably three or four times longer than it is now. It’s refreshing to see that Google has reduced the footprint of it’s latest Android release (KitKat) so that it can run on older android devices. There is now an opportunity and Google are taking it, to steal Apples flame and as it is doing, release affordable, high quality devices and a robust platform on which users can enjoy higher levels of productivity. Now we just need better battery life!

A roundup of this weeks travel technology events

Personalization gone mad

Personalizaton must be relevant

Ever since 2008 I have been banging on about personalization and how it can be used to impact sales and better still “customer engagement”.  Earlier this week I attended the most excellent Travolution Summit in the exclusive and rather nice, GRANGE ST.PAULS HOTEL.  I was on a panel entitled “From a one-night-stand to a steady relationship” along with Vic Darvey, Managing director new business, travelsupermarket.com and Dirk Guenther, Sabre director, Air shopping and decision support.  Chaired by Travolution editor Lee Hayhurst (@leehayhurst) we discussed personalisation and how personalisation would be a key driver for OTA’s moving forward and also the impact of mobile on the travel market (a precis of the discussions key messages can be found here).  We also discussed the barriers to personalisation and how you need to build it into the core of your technology.  I argued that travel companies did not do a great job of getting the customer interaction right.  Vic Darvey said that legacy technology and lack of innovation from travel technology suppliers, made this extremely difficult without building from the ground up to get personal.  Whilst I agreed that there was a lack of innovation with the travel tech companies, its more of an outside in approach where you can harness the big data out there and just enable your inner sanctum to react to it. Vic Darvey’s views are expanded in an article on travolution.com.

Much was discussed at the Travolution Summit but the key take-aways were personalisation, trust, mobile first and customer engagement.  To summarise the summit messages:

  • Disruption: something that comes along to disrupt the norm.  Think mobile apps such as Uber, Hailo and twitter.
  • Personalization: to be a player travel companies are going to have to get better at using customer data and return more relevant search results offers and prices.
  • Mobile first: Travel companies should have a mobile first strategy.  This means think mobile deployment before you worry about the web and call centre strategy;
  • Trust: it’s all very well pushing offers and relevancy to customers but you don’t want to scare the crap out of them.  You need to win their trust and make sure they see your company as a welcoming friend rather than a spammer;
  • Customer engagement: Customers are happy to give travel companies their data BUT they want something in return.  Relevant and well targeted offers, with perfect timing, are the ones that will keep the customer happy and buying.  (Read my previous blog article “This time it’s personal”)
Mobile Strategy

Do we have a mobile strategy?

Later this week we had the Phocuswright Conference which although I didn’t attend (it was in Ft. Lauderdale Hollywood) watched avidly using the online stream from the centre stage.  It was great to see the Innovation Awards going to some companies who are really trying to improve the customer experience.  However, I didn’t really hear about anything this year to disrupt the industry.  Interestingly the UK and USA are in sync as the themes from Travolution Summit were again echoed across the pond.  So, high on the agenda were Disruption, Personalization, Trust, Mobile first and customer engagement.  Two presentations of particular note were TripAdvisor’s CEO Stephen Kaufer (@kaufer) and Sam Lessin (@lessin), Facebook’s Director of Product Management.  Both spoke of the “in-destination” or as Trip Advisor call it “in trip” experience and how mobile and personalization were going to “rock” the travellers experience.

A great week for Travel and Technology and so great to think I was talking about personalisation well before it eventually started being discussed at the two biggest Travel Technology events on the calendar, “now where’s that patent?”

Look out for my next blog on Meta Search: “Will Google be the new holiday meta search?”

This time it’s personal. Why personalisation is important to the travel market.

personalisation

This time it’s personal

“I give you everything, yet you give me nothing.” – this might sound like a song title, or an argument you have had with a partner, yet it’s how I feel every time I get an email marketing communication.

I am a consumer.  I am in charge of my data.  I decide who has my data.  I take time to set up my likes etc on Facebook and I often log into sites using Facebook login instead of creating yet another anonymous email/username login.  I give companies my data so that they can use it to personalise my experience.  So why on earth don’t they use it?  I keep getting emails from travel companies offering me generic holidays and destinations, tagged with “discount”, “free children” and so on.  If they used my data they could see that clearly I have not booked a holiday with them for a long time, that I don’t ever respond to these mailings, and often don’t even click them.  Yet week after week (and I can tell you the days and times I will get each operators marketing emails) the emails come through only to be destined for the trash bin.

Travel companies should take a leaf out of Amazons book.  The Amazon marketing emails are the ones I most click on.  Not only do they get the timing just right, they have the knack of making the whole buying experience so simple that I often forget I have even made a purchase: only to receive the always welcome Amazon packaging through my door when I didn’t even expect it.  Amazon get my business because what they offer me is very relevant to me.  However, even Amazon is starting to lose a grip on the personalisation they started.  Take this example:

I use Amazon frequently, and anyone with a simple bit of data mining would realise that my last 10 purchases have all been music on vinyl (albums or LP’s to you and me).  Yet how many offers do I get daily trying to sell me the “latest electronic goods” or “Try these CD’s” or DVD’s, both of which I no longer buy.  Its as if the marketing algorithms and personalisation engine has gone wrong somewhere.  Perhaps they should add “music media format = vinyl” to their engine.  or maybe they are falling back on their “people who buy X, might also buy Y” algorithm?

In the not to distant, future, data protection will afford consumers more control over their own data.  Companies will need to be far more data-aware or risk being sued if they don’t realise this.  It won’t be a case of an unsubscribe – companies will need to provide full access to the customers data through a dashboard where the customer can pull or edit their data whenever they wish.  The consumer is becoming the “savvy consumer” (well, we are savvy, aren’t we?) and won’t take prisoners.  Companies who get it wrong will most likely lose that customer.  How many times have you purchased something, only to find it has dropped in price the next week?  There’s another personalisation engine rule: “Do not send to a customer who has just purchased”.  Have the marketing team not heard of the marketing pool?  As marketers they should have done but maybe they have become too reliant on the, now outdated, marketing tools they use?

Tesco do a great job of consumer loyalty with their Tesco loyalty card.  Consumers unknowingly give them access to purchases through the loyalty card swipe and Tesco respond with money off vouchers for the things you have in your weekly shopping basket, or clever relevant alternatives.

Travel Companies hold some very powerful data and should start to use it to their advantage.  Unlike retailers such as Tesco and Mothercare, anyone who travels has to provide their full details to the operator prior to departure.  Offline retailers such as Tesco and Mothercare will sell you something without any knowledge of who you are which is why they have to use loyalty cards.  The travel company, on the other hand, has all your information before you even travel with them.  For any holiday we have to provide our name and address and other contact details before we can travel. How powerful is that? Additionally, the travel company can make it easier for the consumer to post reviews, photos, blogs through Trip Advisor, Facebook and Twitter.  The savvy travel company can then get permission to use the consumer data (likes and dislikes) and also what the consumers friends like.  Consider the additional personal data that Facebook and twitter provide and also two new direct methods of engagement.  Couple this with access to the consumer through mobile and the tech savvy travel company can be permanently connected to the consumer using their social accounts – It has been said that with mobile, 23% of users check their accounts five times or more every day (buffer.com).  Whilst you shouldn’t expect instant returns using social media you should start using it to build your brand awareness and to deliver targeted offers.  Don’t be fooled into thinking that social is just for the young the fastest growing demographic on twitter is the 55-64 year age bracket.

So come on travel companies.  Make your customer engagement personal.  Understand your customer likes and turn your offers into bookings, and stop sending those broadcast emails out every Friday at 16:00!  Make it easy for customers to use their social networks for feedback and they will give you everything you want, but only if they feel that giving you that information will be of direct value to them.  If not, sit back and watch your customers disappear.

This article was originally published as a guest post on the Travolution website here.

Why Hotel Technology will be Travels “Next Big Thing”.

tech-savvy hotel image
For some time hotel technology has been limited to online booking.  With so many Hotels out there what will be the differentiator for both the leisure traveller and business traveller?  It’s time for hoteliers to embrace tech and step up the game.

Some tech-savvy hotel chains and hoteliers are now introducing additional mobile information to the customer:

  • Book
  • Loyalty points
  • Promote upgrades and ancillaries – social
  • Hotel info with photos and features
  • Location-based things to do and weather
  • Getting to hotel
  • Customer service notification

However, these functions are becoming the norm and the next-gen hotel needs to become a “smart-hotel”.

In addition to “basic functions” the “smart-hotel” should add power features.  These are features that make the hotel experience better for the consumer, especially the time precious business customer.

The “Always-Connected” hotel

Let’s start with always on, free Wi-Fi web access.  There is no excuse for any hotel to charge for broadband – Even McDonalds restaurants and Costa coffee houses, now provide free Wi-Fi.  I won’t even book a hotel unless I can guarantee free Wi-Fi.  I make sure at check-in that it’s available in my room and throughout the hotel.  If not, you won’t find me booking again.

Bypass check-in and open the door

OK, sometimes it’s nice to be able to chat to the reception crew but most of the time, and on a repeat booking, you arrive at the hotel and just want your room.  Imagine being able to check-in remotely from your mobile and get an update when the room is ready and your electronic NFC or barcode key is ready.  The Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites in Marion, Illinois has enabled guests to “breeze past the front desk and head up to their room as long as they have their mobile to unlock and enable the room”.  This uses a tech from OpenWays (http://www.openways.com).  This provides a Crypto Acoustic Credential (CAC) using text messaging to deliver a unique acoustic key to the guest anywhere in the world.  The good thing about this tech is that a CAC compliant door lock can be retro-fitted to many hotel electronic locks.

In-hotel services

In the last hotel I visited, neither the TV nor the remote worked.  I could not order movies or room service (there was no phone you had to use the TV).  So, why not pop up a mobile page on your phone using NFC or post your remote check-in to order room service?  Consider the upsell opportunity here as the mobile site shows me the delights of the room service menu in glorious Hi-Def and tempts me with side orders and beverages.  Alternatively let me pre-book dinner and my selection?  Why not show reviews of each course and better still show me any peer reviews.

Downloadable movies and (free of course) and TV channels could also be facilitated to my mobile or better still via the room flat screen TV.

A relatively new app on the scene is the iRiS app (http://www.irisapps.com/).  This ingenious app enables the guest and hotelier to communicate in any language and offers the guest many enhanced features such as setting room temperature, opening the door, closing curtains and set the mood lighting.  This is a cloud based facility so that the guest can set the room temperature while they are out and about and also make spa or golf bookings, or order a meal.  The hotelier, on the other hand, can push real-time offers and discounts to the customer and also ask the customer to fill in a questionnaire: all from their mobile.

What else will we see changing our hotel experience?

Bill Payment

With a mobile enabled hotel, we should be able to review our bill each time we buy a drink or book a service with the ability to pay from the mobile.

Calls

Should you wish to call the front desk why not offer Skype or other network calling capability?  Genius, but simple.

Personal service

Hotels need to offer a more personal experience where the customer’s preferences are remembered for each visit making the customers life as easy as possible.  The hotelier can then harness the power of personalisation to send personalised offers.  I recently had a call from a hotel I regularly use in London.  Their room rates have skyrocketed and I was politely asked why my bookings had tailored off.  If they had checked my history they would have seen I only book when the price is reduced.  All they offered me was a direct contact for my next visit.  I may not return unless they do something drastic with their rates!  A great mobile experience could be just the bate I need to return.

Enabling technologies

So, smart-hoteliers need to ensure they have enabling technologies for many of the things I have mentioned above.  Why not also provide QR codes for the guest to scan to read magazines, info about the hotel?

Oh, and let us not forget, all this smart-tech must work on iOS (iPhone, iPad), Android, Windows Phone, and Blackberry.

This article originally published in Travolution magazine Q3 2013 http://www.travolution.co.uk/.