In our first Industry Insight of 2023, James Brooke, Founder & CEO of Amplience discusses how leisure and travel firms can capture the power of digital experiences to meet modern customer expectations.

As the pandemic gradually fades into the past, companies working in the leisure and travel sectors have an opportunity to build and boom once again. Demand for holidays and leisure activities has spiked in recent months and in many ways nothing has changed. The reality, however, is that everything has changed. We’ve been through two years of lockdown (on and off) and there has been a natural progression to a more digitally connected world, which means consumers are now looking for more meaningful and personalised experiences whether they are enjoying a spa day or jetting off for a luxury vacation.

With the almost infinite amount of content and information we all have at our fingertips, it is easier than ever for us to do our own research online; find the best dates to suit our calendars and seek out great deals. We don’t need third-party agents when we can find what we need online, but we do expect great service from the events or locations that we book. In short, leisure and travel are booming, but managing customer expectations is becoming more of a challenge.

The retail sector has already had the advantage of reinventing itself through digital first services including e-commerce and mobile apps that help it to connect its physical and online offerings. Travel and leisure tend to rely more on physical footfall. However, companies operating in these sectors can learn from retailers, particularly when it comes to digital content and delivering a memorable customer experience.

Adjusting to change
Consumers interact with brands and make purchase decisions quite differently now than they did three years ago, and if companies are to succeed, they need to change too. They can’t rely on a rebound in customer bookings simply because Covid restrictions have lifted. The start of 2023 provides a unique opportunity to embrace a faster, frictionless and more connected digital experience.

Much of this lies in the content that companies serve to their customers (and potential customers) as they go through each stage of the buying journey. In each of those connected moments more value can be delivered and this will turn into more revenue. The right approach means leisure and travel brands can connect with customers on a deeper level, engaging interest, emotion and memories. The digital experience is not just selling tickets for an air balloon ride, providing gift vouchers for a facial or organising a boat trip, it’s about all the enhancements that can be offered at the right time, in the right moment, with multiple chances to make additional revenue once the customer has started their journey. It’s more complex than retail in many ways – where an online visitor just has to see the right content at the right time – leisure brands are dealing with multiple different elements that make up the overall experience, from research to booking to delivering the service, even providing hotels, insurance, add-ons, ancillaries and more. But if a brand can bring all these elements together and make it all feel quick, easy and seamless for the customer, they are already winning.

Tech makes it possible
Effecting change lies in the underlying infrastructure: the technology that enables digital content and experiences to be offered. Traditional monolithic platforms weren’t built to give companies the ability to evolve and adapt their experiences at the current rate of customer behaviour change. They can’t provide the tools for a ‘composable commerce’ approach which brings the best of different technologies and applications together in one place, all working seamlessly to suit a company’s specific needs.

With the rise of ‘headless architecture’, where the presentation layer, i.e. web pages, apps and so on are detached from the backend functionality, companies can break away from slow, expensive and inflexible infrastructure and create experiences using APIs (application programming interfaces) to control each part of the experience individually without being stuck in the backend where change requires developer time.

This level of technical freedom means travel and leisure companies can be more like retailers – super-responsive and super-fast, providing curated experiences based on actual customer data. As they progress online the company is ready to provide the next best offer or outcome at the best point of engagement. Customers can interact on all devices because everything is connected and works in tandem and customer satisfaction and conversions increase as a result.

Using headless and composable commerce is like conducting an orchestra. The different technologies and applications are the instruments and composable commerce is the conductor, bringing the best musicians in the world together to play in time (and in tune) together.

The outcome
Because the frontend and backend are no longer tied together response times can be faster and scaling to meet demand is much easier. Companies can test and iterate more often with less risk and be agile enough to capitalise on new opportunities to broaden their digital offer. Matching personalisation with expectation is straightforward because composable commerce encourages easy incorporation of contextualised content, products and search results.

With more freedom to innovate, leisure and travel firms can focus on the capabilities that they know work best for their customers, confident in the knowledge that they have the technical infrastructure in place to meet their digital expectations, now and in the future.