Envisioning Travel’s Super App: Part 3 - How can we prepare for it?
- In the final part of his Super App series, get Impala CEO Ben Stephenson’s advice on how to prepare your travel business for this incoming trend.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve shared my thoughts on Super Apps after hosting a discussion on the Technology Stage at WTM London 2022. In part one, I looked at where travel’s Super App is likely to come from, and part two examined what form it could take. Start by reading those blog posts if you haven’t already, but to recap, we’re still at the early stages of the Super App trend - so there are lots of factors to consider and keep an eye on, but it’d certainly be premature to predict any specific outcomes.
Today, I’m turning to what existing travel businesses can do to make the most of the trend. And luckily, I had an expert panel with me in London who shared their perspectives - so I’ll be pulling on their advice too. I was joined by Tara Reeves, Managing Director at Eurazeo Ventures, Jambu Palaniappan, Managing Partner at OMERS Ventures, John Boulding who’s CMO at Vox, and Alex Barros who’s Chief Marketing and Innovation Officer at Beonprice. It’s fair to say their expertise covers everything from travel’s infrastructure to broad consumer insights and trends.
Start with customers
To be ready for the Super Apps, make sure you’re indispensable to your customers
Many of us in the travel industry think nothing of jetting away somewhere. But the idea of getting on a plane to a completely unfamiliar place - at great expense - is daunting for many customers. The average consumer will be willing to try a grocery delivery service - the worst outcome we can expect is a bruised banana. But the stakes are much higher in travel, so will they trust the newcomers? Trust is absolutely fundamental in our game. So to be ready for the Super Apps, make sure you’re indispensable to your customers. Invest in your brand. Build a reputation that (B2C or B2B) customers buy into. Look after them well. After all, it’s their future you’d like to play a part in.
If you can combine that with an offer customers can’t get anywhere else, you’re onto a winner. John put it very well: “in the future, travel companies need to develop apps that deliver differentiated experiences on the ground”. It’s likely that new travel entrants will (at least initially) rely on existing inventory they can source from distribution partners - sold at much the same price through much the same experience. Companies that create value beyond the norm will be superbly positioned to either steal the Super Apps’ customers, or become the newcomers’ valued partners as they navigate their way into the sector.
If we boil it down, it’s simple: provide something irreplaceable for your customers. Jambu talked about combining innovation and experience, and I think that’s right. After all, innovating their way to a better experience is exactly what the Super Apps themselves are trying to do. You’re already an expert in travel, so why not join them or leapfrog them at the bleeding edge?
Look under the hood
Why not? Ah yes, it’s easy to write some rousing words, but reality is rather harder. And perhaps it’s exactly this reality that has delayed, deterred or discouraged earlier attempts to shake up the space. In travel, our infrastructure is creaky and hard-to-integrate. Our commercial models are rigid and outdated. Our pace of change is slow. And if you don’t believe me, I was recently talking to a decent sized beachside resort in Europe who told me one of their key priorities for 2023 is to stop having to rely on manual spreadsheets to manage so many of their bookings.
The inevitable march of progress will come, and when it does, you’ll want to be in good shape with your boots polished
So while these barriers to entry do provide some protection for the industry as it is today, you can’t expect things to remain unchanged forever. The inevitable march of progress will come, and when it does, you’ll want to be in good shape with your boots polished. Tara talked about partnerships: think about how your technology and commercial models can interact with other companies to produce compelling offers. Look at what better experiences you can build. Push for better tools and infrastructure.
I think Alex put it most clearly: “just be really good at what you do”. Because whether you’re creating great traveller-centric experiences, providing exceptional B2B infrastructure, or working in another part of the industry, the best way for travel businesses to fend off others is to be exceptional at what only they can provide.
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Envisioning Travel’s Super App: Part 1 - Where will it be born?
Fresh from the technology stage at WTM London, and in the first of a three-part series, Impala co-founder and CEO Ben Stephenson examines his panel’s views on how Super Apps are shaping the future of the travel industry.
Envisioning Travel’s Super App: Part 2 - What will it look like?
Impala co-founder and CEO Ben Stephenson looks at what travel’s much-anticipated Super App could look like - examining the insights of a panel he hosted at WTM London 2022.