What are digital touchpoints and why are they necessary?
Touchpoints are all interactions between the customers and a company at any point along the customer journey (DSM, 2020; Xperience, 2019). Digital touchpoints mean digital/online interactions through all devices and channels, e.g. applications, social media (Xperience, 2019). These touchpoints are necessary, as they influence the customers along their decision journey (McKinsey, 2009). As our world shifts more and more into the digital ages, digital touchpoints are becoming more and more important: The amount of digital touchpoints is rising 20 percent per year as more offline consumers switch to online interactions and more digitally oriented consumers become old enough to convert them to customers (McKinsey, 2015). At the same time, consumers are becoming further used to the digitalization, which makes harder for companies to convert them into customers and brand ambassadors just through their marketing activities. Positive reviews and recommendations on social media have a bigger impact nowadays than brand messages and values (McKinsey, 2015). And this has a big influence on each brand. To quote Jeff Bezos: “If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell 6 friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000 friends.” (Xperience, 2019).
Companies that implement digital touchpoints across various channels are 2.5 times more likely to be chosen by customers than their competitors with fewer touchpoints (Econsultancy, 2015; McKinsey, 2015). These companies are also more likely to be recommended online as they have got a “larger multichannel footprint” (Econsultancy, 2015). In some industries it is more common to be fully digital than in others. Whereas the food and car industry are still rather offline, other industries like banking have shifted more and more into the digital field. When it comes to airline-booking, customers tend to be fully digital (McKinsey, 2015).
Why are digital touchpoints necessary in tourism?
Digital touchpoints and digitalization in general are important as they are predicted to improve the profitability and, therefore, generate up to $305 billion of value for the tourism industry from 2016 to 2025. $100 billion of value is thus expected to shift from traditional to new, more digital, competitors. Furthermore, the digital transformation does not only benefit the industry, but also the customers: it will create $700 billion of value for customers and the society as it will decrease the ecological footprint (through innovations in the tourism industry and efficient resource use), increase security and safety for the customers and will cost less time and money. Travel will become a “seamless, frictionless, higher-quality experience” (World Economic Forum, 2017).
How are airlines making use of the digital technology already?
When airlines started rethinking their roles, they started replacing “service” with the word “experience” and thinking about more inspiring tools (Phocuswire, 2018). For example, Ryanair started to offer car hiring’s and sell hotel rooms as well as tickets for activities through their application during the booking process of flights (Ryanair, 2020), to expand their touchpoints along the customer journey. Singapore Airlines and Air Europa included the trip planning solution Smartvel into their booking process (Phocuswire, 2018). Smartvel is a tool that gives travellers the opportunity to create their own travel itinerary by giving information about the destination as well as static (tourist attractions, restaurants, etc.) and dynamic (events, exhibitions, etc.) content, which they can then share via e-mail or on social media (Phocuswire, 2018). KLM incorporated their website into a WeChat account, allowing users to book flights and check-in as well as receiving reminders when the check-in opens and contacting KLM’s customer service via the application (Travelport, 2020).
What does the future hold?
There are already a lot of good ideas in the airline industry, which need to be implemented more widely and commonly. Digital touchpoints in the future should be easy to use, connect different services within each other, offer personal alerts (e.g. delay or risk alerts) and save the travelers identity and payment information for easy and fast bookings. A “super application” like WeChat is also thinkable worldwide, since customers can handle and manage all necessary steps for travelling alongside the customer journey there (Travelport, 2020).