Make room for more contextual commerce and more retail innovation in the travel sector. That’s the view from one of Google’s latest retail-associated launches, an airfare insight and travel recommendations offering.
According to VentureBeat, Google has “rolled out a series of updates to google.com/travel, its one-stop itinerary planner on the web. It’s introducing price insights for specific itineraries that indicate whether a given flight fare is relatively low, high or typical compared with the historical baseline. For instance, a search for August tickets from New York to Paris might yield a graph showing that the aggregate fare is toward the upper limit of average, while results for a September trip to Paris from New York might show that tickets are less expensive than they usually are that time of year.”
Not only that, the report said, but “some flights google.com/travel will reveal what the price would have been if the flight had been booked months in advance and whether an increase (or decrease) in fare is imminent. In all cases, you’ll see the actual fare for a specific set of tickets that you could have bought online rather than an average or aggregate, according to Google.”
Contextual commerce is one of the growing trends in digital retail, aiming to give consumers more chances to buy when they are in the mood for a specific purchase.
It’s a process that revolves around “discovery,” according to Azita Habibi, business development lead at Braintree. A potential consumer might visit a social media site, or a site devoted to, say, home cooking, with the main goal of reading content, learning something or digitally hanging out with like-minded people. That person may have only a vague intention of buying something – or no intention at all – but could follow an impulse and end up buying an item tied to the content and the original desire for discovery.
According to research from the PYMNTS Contextual Commerce Report, 48 percent of consumers have tried that shopping experience at least once. And those who have tried contextual commerce generally are seeking efficiency, as 59 percent report using the online retail method for a faster buying experience. “Who doesn’t like an expedited experience?” Habibi asked.
Other figures from the report help to detail contextual commerce. The average age of a contextual commerce shopper stands at 39 years old, which came as somewhat of a surprise to Habibi. “I thought it was late 20s, early 30s, more focused on the millennials, who are open to different types of technology and who adopt quickly,” she said. “I’m happily surprised.”
The travel industry also is the site of recent retail-oriented innovation. Artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbots, for instance, could help change the travel experience.
Eddy Travels Co-Founder and CEO Edmundas Balčikonis went on a trip to China and saw how the country’s consumers used WeChat for anything from ordering and paying for a taxi to making online purchases. Many of the features were powered by mini-programs of WeChat, some of which were like chatbots. Balčikonis was already fascinated by the chatbot and assistant movement, but the experience demonstrated their real-life application.
He started to create this kind of solution on his own, and then he met his co-founder. They built their first prototype and tested it with some users. They received some feedback – namely, that people were willing to try it because they recognized the pain point. Currently, the platform provides an AI travel assistant through multiple messaging platforms. Users can access the technology through chat apps ranging from Messenger to Telegram, Slack, Viber and Line.
Google stands as just the latest example of how changes to travel are impacting the retail space.