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INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY | Contributed Content, Singapore
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Phil Pomford

Smart travel in Singapore: Bring on the bots?

BY PHIL POMFORD

The future of travel is social and mobile, and nowhere is this truer than in Singapore, where mobile travel sales have witnessed double-digit growth, outpacing traditional online sales and giving travel businesses a major push to invest in new mobile strategies.

In this context, chatbots are becoming increasingly important within the online travel customer journey. Based in smart AI technology, chatbots enable merchants to deliver quicker service to more customers in Singapore and beyond, on the channels they use the most.

The benefits of chatbots in online travel booking are myriad. To begin, bots can address standardised questions around flight times, security regulations, check-in policies and more; helping a virtually infinite number of customers at the same time, across multiple media channels and time zones. This frees up personnel to handle those customer service enquiries which are trickier and don’t have a standard answer; regarding missed connections or serious complaints, for example.

Chatbots are especially relevant in Singapore. Voracious online shoppers increasingly prefer to browse and buy via their mobile device, and Singapore’s mobile commerce market is set to grow 33 percent in the next five years. An inherently mobile interface, chatbots make it easier for mobile shoppers to quickly get the information they need, without having to navigate between multiple web pages.

However, when it comes to chatbots and online travel bookings, there is still some ways to go. Whilst chatbots can provide a huge amount of useful information to customers, bots can’t orchestrate a seamless payment process from start to finish all on their own – but this will likely change, and soon.

Before we see more examples of transactional travel chatbots, developers will need to work out how AI technology can handle the multiple complexities of travel; from delays, to cancellations, to customers who want to plan out and pay for a suite of flights, accommodation and holiday activities all at the same time.

Merchants will also need to have an agile payment system in place, so that chatbots can quickly enable seamless payments, and provide customers with upgrades or refunds if travel plans change. Offering the right online payment experience is particularly important when it comes to mobile shoppers, who are harder to convert than desktop shoppers and abandon their carts more often; this on top of the fact that travel still has the largest cart abandonment rate when compared to retail and fashion.

With integrated payments and chatbots supporting a better buying experience for mobile customers, travel merchants can reap the benefits. In fact, a recent customer research study reveals that many customers in Singapore’s neighbouring markets will increase their shopping expenditure if they get a great mobile experience. Sixty-two percent of consumers surveyed in China and 64 percent in India said that they would be happy to pay more for an item, trip or service if the mobile user experience is better; far ahead of the global average of 41 percent.

Increased payment integration for a smoother user experience also has an important role to play as travel shoppers increasingly look to shop via social media. Integrated payments can help to make the chatting, booking and paying process feel easy, seamless and secure – all of which can help to convert social media from being solely a channel for service, to being a channel for revenue generation too.

The future of smart travel is certainly taking off in Singapore and across the region. By putting the right payment process in place now, online travel merchants will be ready for what’s coming next; from fast rising numbers of mobile shoppers, to social commerce across a multitude of Asia Pacific consumers’ favourite local platforms, to chatbots that not only answer inquiries but actually enable the entire purchasing journey.

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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Phil Pomford

Phil Pomford

Phil is the General Manager, Global Enterprise eCommerce, Asia Pacific at Worldpay. He leads Worldpay’s Global eCom team across Asia Pacific which operates from three offices in Singapore, Japan and China, as General Manager. Phil has over 12 years of experience in financial services in payments, acquiring and credit card issuing with companies including Citi, Diners Club, American Express and Worldpay. He has a degree in Accounting and Law and is currently completing an MBA with Manchester Business School.

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