Are digital marketplaces the future of travel?

05 Aug 2018

  • Leadership
  • Digital Marketing
  • Data-driven Marketing
  • Customer experience

The travel sector has seen a rise in digital marketplaces in recent years, a trend which is driven by a desire for convenience on the part of consumers and suppliers alike.

The best known example is without a doubt Airbnb which is seeing tremendous uptake on Australian shores, something Sam McDonagh, Country Manager for Airbnb, who will be speaking at ADMA Global Forum in August, attributes to our willingness to embrace technology.

He says: “Australians are relatively early adopters of technology, but we're also wonderful world travellers.”

This combination is a boon for Airbnb which today offers travellers the option to book accommodation as well as experiences and restaurants.

According to McDonagh, 30% of adults in the country are users of Airbnb – the highest penetrated country for the brand globally – yet he notes that Aussies were supportive of digital marketplaces long before Airbnb came along.

“Australians are early adopters of technology, but I think almost more than anywhere else in the world, we're early adopters of marketplaces, particularly online marketplaces. Being part of the startup management team of eBay here in Australia in 1999, I got to see first-hand how Australians were early adopters,” he says.

And it wasn’t only Airbnb that eBay paved the way for. Marketplaces have become a staple of the travel experience with research by Expedia finding Australian consumers are among the top users of online travel marketplaces.

While many of us would have been logging on to our computers back in the day to visit pioneering digital marketplaces, today, most users have them in the palm of their hands. And as young millennials and Gen Zers mature, we’re likely to see a shift toward mobile-only versus the now established trend of mobile first.

From a customer experience perspective, both many of these marketplaces rely heavily on reviews to ensure users are being looked after. McDonagh says: “The review system means the next guest that's going to book a host's listing can see exactly what the guest has said about staying there and they can only leave that review if they've actually stayed.”

Taking things to the next level is the Airbnb ‘Superhost’ program which requires hosts to provide that next level of service.

So is the future of marketplaces destined to be 100% digital? In the case of Airbnb, McDonagh notes that technically, a large part of the experience isn’t digital. “While we're on an online marketplace, the business of Airbnb is significantly offline. It's taking place in a person's home,” he notes.

So while we may be relying on digital marketplaces we carry around in our pockets, the experience is one that is set to remain very physical.

Join Sam McDonagh at ADMA Global Forum as he discusses leading transformation and change in a CX-driven enterprise on a panel with Rachael Powell, Chief Customer and People Officer, Xero and Taavi Roivas, Former Prime Minister, Estonia.

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