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The Expedia Partner Conference, hosted by the Expedia Group in Las Vegas, Nevada from December 5th to December 7th, brought together executives in the hospitality, tech, and travel industries to discuss a variety of topics germane to customer loyalty and experience. On the first day, keynote speaker John Kim, President of HomeAway, discussed the speed of technological evolution. HomeAway is a vacation rental marketplace that offers over 2 million rental properties in 190 countries across the world. Its properties include cabins, condos, castles, villas, barns, and farmhouses.
Kim began his discussion with an analogy. “I remember when I was 12, I really wanted to be 13 because I wanted to be a teenager. Then, I was really excited to be 16 because I wanted to drive a car. I was excited to be 18 because I wanted to be an adult. I was excited to turn 21 because I wanted to go to Las Vegas. Then I was excited to turn 25 because I wanted those cardinal discounts. Now, I’m just looking forward to the age when I can go to a restaurant, get half off dinner, and be home by 4:30.”
His point was that human beings and their desires change over time. At different ages, we have different goals. Everyone can relate to this idea. When I was in junior high, I wanted to make the basketball team, so much so that when I didn’t make it (because I’m super clumsy and have little hand-eye coordination) I hid my tears from my friends. Now, though, I don’t care at all. I’ve pursued other interests, and my one-time interest in playing basketball has faded away.
Just as humans change—or, more accurately, because humans change, technology changes as well. Kim described the prevalent technologies of 2006 to illustrate this idea. He discussed how YouTube began as a tab on Myspace, a networking site akin to Facebook that no longer exists. (For the record, I loved Myspace. I got to preview all of Deftones’ fourth album on the platform, while non-users had to wait until the release date.) Kim mentioned Google Maps and the Nintendo Wii as well, the first of which made getting around easier and the second of which added a bit of exercise into video game playing.
Of Twitter, also launched in 2006, Kim said, “We had no idea at the time that we would have such a tremendous source for all of our fake news needs.” Attendees laughed good-naturedly. “Would you have imagined, back in 2006, that just 12 years later we would have technology like what we have now? Would you have imagined that laptops would be this small? They’re talking about printing food, printing meat. McDonald’s started accepting credit cards at the counter not that long ago, 2004. Now, they don’t have cashiers. They have kiosks, and the entire industry is clinging to the idea of automation.”
After a pause, he asked, “What will the next 12 years look like? It’s going to go faster and faster and faster. We’re already starting to see crazy changes.”
Kim is, undoubtedly, correct. Technology will evolve in many ways, ways that we can’t fathom. When flip phones were in vogue in 2006, users probably wouldn’t have imagined that they would evolve into miniature touchscreen computers. Nor did people understand how big Netflix and Hulu would become. Still, Kim suggested that those working in the customer loyalty space need to try to anticipate these changes as best they can. That’s the only way they’ll continue to turn consumers into brand advocates.
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