The appliance of science in travel

Online travel agencies have databases full of hotel content, ordered so that they can serve their customers with the best offering that has the highest likelihood of a conversion.

The state of technology at this moment is on the verge of converting what a customer sees and feels into useful data.

NB: This is an analysis by Marcel Ruijken, founder and CEO of CliqOrange.

Yet, in some respects, the ideal situation would be that a website can communicate with a customer like a human being.

The website would see, feel, hear and perhaps (or rather not…) smell like the visitor.

It would also know what kind of trip a customer is looking for and how his/her desires are evolving within their actual life cycle – a change of job, relationship, new sporting interest, and numerous other bits of data that influence travel behaviour.

The state of artificial intelligence right now is called “Artificial Narrow Intelligence” (ANI) or “Weak AI”.

ANI refers to simple single tasks such as voice recognition, classifying visual objects or text, sentiment analysis and self-driving cars.

The future will change ANI into Artificial General Intelligence (AGI). This involves human capability and will exceed these existing forms.

But what can AI offer the travel seeker right now, in 2017?

Last year we featured in a story on Tnooz about why and what content within images can contribute to conversion.

As a result, we started working with the Data Science Faculty of the University of Amsterdam (UvA) and the Swiss EPFL.

Together, we’ve tried to establish if it is possible to automate the transformation of images into data that can be ordered, categorised and modified.

After more than a year of developing and testing, UvA successfully tested algorithms that can tag images with “travel experiences”.

Experiences can immediately remind a traveller of their vacation. But this technology goes beyond that – it also establishes sentiment and emotion from the images.

We established an algorithm that looks at the previous conversion strength of an image. Furthermore, it is able to predict the best crop of the image and then automatically modifies it.

So, how does this technology help those looking for travel products?

As the old saying goes:

“An image is worth a thousand words.”

That is true, of course, when the right image is offered.

But when a user is confronted with an image that has a bad composition, is over exposed or communicates the wrong message, a user may get confused or, even worse, annoyed and will leave the site.

In short: a consumer wants to get inspired and motivated to go somewhere. Inspiration enters our brain the easiest way by images (“emotion is the fast lane to the brain“).

This shows the importance of photos or, going another step forward, videos.

What really happens in the brain is that curious travel shoppers are visually forming their next “trip story”.

Images that remind them of a trip will immediately trigger an emotional “state” of excitement, reward and happiness, according to Harvard’s Shawn Achor, one of the world’s leading experts on the concept of happiness and well-known for his advocacy of positive psychology.

Anyone selling travel should understand that getting your customer in this state is vital for sales.

Remember: Attention, Interest, Desire, Action (AIDA)?

This model shows the simplified process of how humans make a decision. And since human behaviour does not change very much, this still applies in the digital world.

The answer to delivering the correct content to the user at the exact right time is Artificial Intelligence, you can count on that.

A thousand words about your brand to bring the customer to that last “A” in AIDA.

NB: This is an analysis by Marcel Ruijken, founder and CEO of CliqOrange.

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