How will the release of the Apple Watch impact on the travel sector? Emma Crowe, chief of client strategy at Somo shares her thoughts.
The Apple Watch will take off unlike smartwatches before it for several reasons, but perhaps most important is strong multi-device platform Apple has built, allowing for seamless ease of use for iPhone users. From fitness to phone calls to one-touch, hands-free payment through Apple Pay, the watch is about to become a day-to-day ‘personal assistant’ for many consumers.
Perhaps learning a lesson from its slow velocity in mobile adoption, the travel industry has been quick to embrace the Apple Watch. Companies including American Airlines, Air New Zealand, Expedia, Uber, TripAdvisor and Starwood Hotels have already produced offerings for the smartwatch. Travel companies are now more aware of the technology their customers use and are developing a strategy to make sure they’re playing an effective role across a number of different channels.
As several travel companies were featured prominently in the launch, it’s clear that the industry is aware that this technology will have a big impact. The Starwood Hotel demo showed that guests could be prompted based on location to check in to their W Hotel room and seamlessly check-in and even unlock the door straight from their wrists.
Following on from this, hotel rooms are likely to become much more customised. By using a wearable device to check in to a hotel, a ‘connected room’ can immediately be configured exactly how a guest would like it based on user data. Lighting, air temperature, preferred music or TV channel can all be automatically set for regular travellers, turning a hotel room into a home away from home.
We also expect to see a plethora of airlines present in the Apple Watch app store very soon. Airlines need to keep in mind the consumer journey on a smartwatch, develop offerings that break down barriers and take advantage of the watch. Based on airline smartphone app functionality and usage, many watch-focused apps from airlines are bound to act as boarding cards.
However, there are plenty of other possible functions for an airline on a smartwatch. Air New Zealand’s phone app enables wearers to order coffee to their seat in the airline’s lounges, so take this a step further and instead of ordering on screen, it’s not too much of a leap to allow travellers to order drinks and snacks directly to their in-flight seat without disrupting their entertainment.
When consumers and businesses get their hands on the technology, we’ll see use cases emerge from places we’d never expect. Looking back at how apps have changed over time as smartphone usage increased and changed, it is inevitable that the same will happen with smartwatches. By continuously adapting to consumer use patterns, the travel sector is well positioned to make the most of the opportunities this technology has to offer.