product management

Virtual Assistants in the Travel Industry

Virtual Assistants in the Travel Industry

This is an article I had contributed on the impact and future of virtual assistants in the travel space. It was first published here.

More often than not, the home is the place where all great trips begin. It is the social setting where destinations, accommodations, and activities are selected and planned with a common consensus. However, one thing that almost always accompanies travel planning is indecisiveness. Which flight to book? Which hotel would be better from all these amazing options? The questions just keep piling on, extending the planning process unnecessarily – sometimes even resulting in the ditching of the effort and, eventually, indefinite postponement of the plan.

Technology has been a great enabler in the making of travel itineraries, with lists of countless possibilities available just a click or a tap away, and it comes to the rescue here as well. AI-enabled virtual assistants can act as proficient mediators, not only during the planning of a trip, but also for executing tasks like booking of a flight or a hotel.

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Building Great Mobile Apps

Some thoughts I had put together for a presentation a couple of years back. So much of it is still valid. Doesn’t include anything related to the sensory aspects of a mobile app.

  • Thinking from “first-principles” is the best way to solve problems.

  • It is still difficult to tap, type, correct and read on a mobile screen. Reduce and remove friction for these actions.

  • Reduce the number of taps required to reach a goal. Provide recommended starting points, combine actions to reduce clicks, ask for as few details as possible.

  • Reduce duplication, make it easy to “find again”. Remember recent and past actions, repeating inputs and “what I’ve already seen”.

  • Anticipate user needs and intervene. Assisted filters, fuzzy search and real-time input validation reduces stress.

  • Make it easy to assimilate information. Solve for aggregate (result-set grouping) as well as specific information (result metadata). Progressively disclose details.

  • Gracefully handle errors - What did I do wrong? What are the consequences? What should I do now? Switching context to Google for solutions is stressful.

  • Solve for the journey; not the stop. Engagement brings users back. When users come back, trust increases. Increase in trust leads to (repeated) conversion(s).

  • What does a customer lose by leaving? What does a customer gain by staying? These are the best use-cases.

  • The best use-cases decay slower than others increasing retention. Encourage and guide users to these use cases.

  • Solve for “mobility”. Use device capabilities, solve mobile specific use cases (eg. “near me”, “right now”, “share”).

  • Respect the platform. Use first-party patterns where available. Don’t port patterns across platforms.

  • Respect the physical limitations of the device - display, storage, bandwidth, battery.