“Disruptive” can be an overused word in tech startup circles, but sometimes the adjective fits. When you consider how much technology has transformed the way we travel, both from the perspective of the traveler and for travel industry professionals, it truly can be described as disruptive. Until just a few years ago, airline travel was much the same as it was in the “Mad Men” era, even though technology developments were changing the world in countless other ways at the time.
But thanks to the rise of mobile technology, stunning breakthroughs in how we approach and handle logistics, and an array of truly transformative travel-related apps, there has been a shift in the way people get from point A to destination B. Here’s a look at the top five ways technology has reshaped travel — and changes that are on the horizon to make life even easier for travelers in the future:
- Mobile devices as the gamechanger: Mobile devices have already changed the way we travel by putting serious computing power in our pockets wherever we go, including the airport, tradeshows and family vacations. Travel apps have transformed the way we book flights and arrange accommodations, check in at the airport and make itinerary changes. Mobile devices will continue to drive innovation as developers take advantage of increasingly powerful platforms and wider WiFi access to offer new capabilities and conveniences to travelers — wherever they roam.
- Real-time information distribution: As anyone who has ever navigated a complex itinerary involving one or more connecting flights knows, travel is a time-sensitive activity. Weather delays, mechanical difficulties and missed connections can cause scheduling havoc. That’s why the impact of real-time information distribution cannot be overstated. Current real-time information distribution capabilities allow travelers to handle routine travel hiccups and make contingency plans on the fly in a way that was unthinkable even just a few years ago. As the Internet of Things ramps up, expect even more precise real-time information flowing in from multiple sensors.
- Ecommerce everywhere: The SkyMall in-flight magazine is sadly a thing of the past, but consumers are still left cooling their heels in terminals between flights, idle while planes await their turn for takeoff and bored during long flights. That makes passengers the perfect target for marketers with products to sell. Virtually every airport contains a giftshop, and some seem to function as shopping malls that also handle airplane traffic. But as mobile technology and logistics get more sophisticated, expect airports and even flights to increasingly cater to individual consumer shopping habits with features like onsite delivery.
- Productivity everywhere: When travelers are done making itinerary changes and browsing for products using a virtual version of SkyMall, they may want to get some work done. Device charging stations and WiFi access are increasingly available at airports and on flights, allowing users to stay productive on the road, keep in touch with loved ones and even binge-watch their favorite TV series. In the future, better inflight internet experiences will most likely be free, and the opportunity to be productive and entertained on the road will become a true value-add for travelers.
- Logistics help for individual travelers: Technology has enabled a sea change in logistics for companies — think “just in time” inventory strategies, etc. Now platforms have emerged to assist frequent travelers, enabling individuals to virtually pack a suitcase using an app and send clothing, sports equipment, tradeshow gear, etc., from a secure storage site to a travel destination, allowing users to travel unencumbered. These types of services can be a boon for airline companies as well since moving passengers’ belongings around is an unprofitable hassle for carriers.
Technology has already changed the way we travel in so many ways. From the consumer perspective, it’s much easier now to make and change travel arrangements. It’s simpler to stay in touch with the office and the family while on the road. And it’s even possible now to travel to business hubs in the U.S., Europe and Asia luggage-free, using an app to ensure clothing and personal items are at the hotel upon arrival.
From the perspective of a travel industry leader, the digital revolution has been utterly transformative too. Forward-thinking companies that can see the potential to add value and ensure an excellent customer experience are taking advantage of new tech-enabled capabilities to make life better for travelers. Expect that to continue well into the future as new technologies evolve. Some of the coming changes will be profound — and truly worthy of the term “disruptive.”
Andrea Graziani, Chief Marketing Officer & Co-Founder of DUFL
A marketing visionary with extensive tech sector experience, DUFL CMO Andrea Graziani manages the brand and leads all aspects of corporate and customer marketing to systematically drive customer growth and retention. Before joining the DUFL team, Andrea served as VP of marketing, communications and media at Brightcove and as VP of marketing and then CMO at Unicorn Media, positioning the company for acquisition by Brightcove for $49M. Earlier in her career, Andrea led marketing, communications and creative services operations at a number of companies, including Limelight Networks, Honeywell, Critical Path and Frontier Global Center.