Predictions in travel, mobile and e-commerce from Icreon Tech Founder Himanshu Sareen
Trends in user experience from influencers of 2014 to emulate: building better software and maximizing impact across platforms
Icreon, a travel and hospitality industry veteran since early 2000, builds technology to help companies realize their business goals across a multitude of verticals. Some of their biggest projects include the Statue of Liberty Ellis Island Foundation, Kenya Airways and New York Road Runners – whose yearly New York City Marathon hosted 50,000 runners from 125 different countries. Today, Icreon’s clients include the aforementioned, UX Specialized Logistics, TOTO, and MLBPA. We spoke to CEO Himanshu Sareen regarding trends in travel and e-commerce that he predicts will influence the future of the industry.
What major challenges do you see affecting tourism companies at present?
The digital world is evolving at an extremely fast clip, with tourism constantly having to keep up with the bleeding edge of new technological developments. The internet of things, the sharing economy, mobile commerce—all of these have tremendous implications on travel and tourism, and many companies are scrambling to find ways to adapt. In the wake of sites like Tripadvisor and Yelp, for instance, travel is quickly becoming a review-driven economy. Many tourism businesses—many of which are still technologically underdeveloped—are struggling to retain and attract new customers. If they want to secure a spot in vacation itineraries, they have to specifically cater to users of these services. It’s a prime example of the exciting, intimidating ways that technology can affect the tourism industry.
Within mobile, what innovative features have you created that led to increased consumer satisfaction?
The mobile revolution started seven years ago, so today’s innovations don’t usually come in the form of massive paradigm shifts, but as small, effective changes. As a result, I find that customer satisfaction is largely based on an app’s ability to provide a more seamless user experience. One way to do this—which Icreon has tended to favor—is by using the cloud to pre-emptively gather, process and contextualize user information. With the cloud, tourism companies can allow users to log into multiple apps at the same time without having to enter their password multiple times. It seems like a small win, sure, but by using the cloud, companies can implement a wide range of efficient shortcuts throughout their software. And in the travel industry, where conversions often hinge on convenience, these UX improvements really add up.
What is the significance of an excellent user-experience in mobile over desktop? What features in particular have you noticed from both platforms that add value for the consumer?
When it comes to the mobile experience, customers have an expectation of convenience. Smartphones and tablets allow people to book a cab ride with a button press or make appointments with the sound of their voice; they come into new software with the expectation that it should work seamlessly, quickly and efficiently. We’ve seen the travel industry giants offer their own streamlined mobile apps, but new forms of booking are starting to crop up. HotelTonight, for instance, helped popularize same-day booking apps because they’re convenient and easy-to-use. As these new, ultra-light forms of travel apps continue to emerge, it’s crucial for both desktop and mobile travel software to maximize clarity and minimize friction. The fewer steps you put between users and a ticket purchase, the easier it’ll be for them to actually use and recommend your software. Virgin America is a prime example of cross-platform convenience with minimal friction. Their responsive site uses your current location and plugs in the most popular destinations to fill out your booking information the moment you open up their site. This is a standard that more businesses will have to strive toward as we move into 2015.
What future trends do you envision for travel and mobile in 2015?
2015 is going to be a milestone year for wearable technology. With the release of the Apple Watch and constantly-improving iterations of Android Wear products, we’re going to see a major rise in interactions that are both discreet and essential. Say your plane’s gate has been changed or your flight has been delayed – you can look down at your watch, absorb that information, and move on without any further effort. The internet of things will also continue its meteoric rise next year, further blurring the lines between our physical and digital worlds. We’ll start to see more travel hubs taking cues from places like the London City Airport – which has already implemented luggage-tracking, as well as facial recognition to make the travel experience flow more smoothly and seamlessly.
Are there any particular companies that we should look out for in 2015 who are maximizing their impact on mobile?
The sharing economy was 2014’s big travel industry disruptor, with services like Airbnb, Uber and FlightCar snowballing in popularity and scope. We should continue to keep a careful eye out for these players as we move into 2015 and the sharing economy continues to evolve. With Airbnb facing legal obstacles and Uber being questioned for ethical lapses, we’ll have to decide which aspects of these companies are worth emulating, and which we should learn from as early mistakes.