By Marta Sloma, CRM Planner at Zeta Interactive
Once a device for sending texts and making calls, today we use our mobiles for just about anything. Dating, online banking, searching for recipes – even planning our next break.
We spend an average of two hours online on our smartphones every day, creating a clear cut opportunity for travel brands to inspire and engage customers in any place, at any time.
But mobile is so much more than just a one-way route into consumers’ pockets. According to holiday provider Club Med, the average Brit spends over four hours searching for the right holiday deal on at least eight different websites.
With so much of this research undoubtedly being done on the go, mobile can give marketers the inside track into consumers’ habits, preferences and lifestyles that they couldn’t get elsewhere.
So what are the three golden rules that marketers in the travel sector need to obey to unlock the full potential of our favourite device?
1. Listen now, sell later
Given that consumers are 90% more likely to book a trip on desktop, there is limited value in bombarding them with promotional ‘buy now’ messages when they are in the research phase on mobile. Instead, travel brands should use mobile as an early alert system to provide insights for wider marketing campaigns and move them further along the path to purchase.
In a straightforward example, an initial click through from an email on mobile means brands can assume the consumer is a good target to reconnect with on a different device with similar, but richer, messages.
On a more complex level, brands can use insights around location to be more targeted with their approach via mobile – picture a business traveller searching on their mobile for last minute accommodation, and brands using geo-targeting to alert them to a nearby hotel offer.
Travel brands must aggregate the moments of insight that mobile provides to build holistic picture of the customer and use this to deliver a tailored end to end travel experience. For example, if someone is searching on a mobile app for a holiday in Spain for two adults and two children during the October half term week, it is likely that they will book a family trip.
To begin with brands could use mobile to engage and inspire them with information about family friendly activities at their potential destination. As they move further down the purchase funnel, messages could become more transactional – for example a prompt with a ‘kids fly cheaper’ offer to encourage the closing click.
Post purchase, there is scope to cross and upsell too. During the trip, brands could reengage via
a mobile app to provide details about a recommended restaurant or babysitting service.
2. Become the Mobile Concierge
As every holiday-maker knows, travelling can all too quickly become stressful and frustrating if plans go awry. There are few other sectors where customer experience is so important – travel companies can go from hero to zero if they don’t deliver a seamless end-to-end travel experience for their customers.
Mobile represents the ideal opportunity for brands to emerge on top by using the data they have to add value (or come to the rescue) at every stage of the journey.
Brands who truly want to get ahead must focus on becoming a 360 mobile concierge to their customers – investing in data, technology and partnerships to improve the travel experience from start to finish.
This could include integrating with airports to provide timely travel updates, information about delays or suggestions for family friendly airport facilities. It could also include providing customers with non-promotional emails such as weather-based packing tips, or text based alerts on adverse weather conditions for travellers already overseas.
3. Build Trust through Transparency
The volume of data available to brands today means that mobile can be an incredibly powerful tool to deliver a bespoke concierge service to the modern holidaymaker.
But gaining permission and trust from the consumer to use this data can be another matter. Consumers are becoming increasingly wary of the sheer amount of data that is collected about them every day.
A perceived lack of transparency about how data is used has left some consumers reluctant to divulge anything that doesn’t immediately enhance their engagement with a brand. They need to understand exactly what they are signing up to, what a brand will do with their data and how this will benefit them personally.
Research has found that over a third (38%) of travellers believe personalised offers often aren’t tailored to their specific needs and almost the same amount (39%) like them but continue to shop around – demonstrating the importance of using the right data to engage consumers with appropriate messages at a suitable time.
Get it wrong, and it’s not only a waste of marketing spend and effort, but it could be damaging for the brand.
Mobile is an invaluable channel for travel brands to get closer to their target audiences. But brands must always remember it is a two-way relationship. Today’s empowered and time-poor customer must see mobile providing direct and tangible benefits that truly complement their travel experience – whether it’s cheap flights to a city they’ve researched, a reminder of something they need to take, or prompt advice if travel arrangments don’t go to plan.