By Brendan Jones, director of account management at Ve
In an age of rapid digitisation and online travel agents (OTAs) springing up and competing for market share, travel brands need to be doing all they can to maintain the best online customer service and reputation possible.
Every travel company knows that personalisation is one fundamental to achieving online conversion success.
In order to enhance the personalised booking service they already provide, many leading brands have turned to mobile travel chat (MTC), which offers a new and improved way to engage site visitors.
Travel bookers want to offer the most personalised experience they can, and what better way to personalise the process than by opening up new ways to directly communicate?
It’s possible that the one thing our digital evolution perhaps hasn’t succeeded in is replicating the ‘personal touch’ once provided by booking holidays through a travel agent on the high street or over the phone.
Yes, bookers want a smooth and seamless experience, but they also really value that personal touch, and this is the gap that mobile messaging is helping to bridge.
How are travel brands currently using mobile messaging?
WhatsApp, and a handful of other chat apps, are becoming popular tools for hotels, enabling bookers to make requests before and during their travels. There are some great examples of big travel companies, mainly from the US, that have already innovated in this area.
US hotel chain Starwood Hotels developed a WhatsApp chat service last year, while global hospitality brand Marriott International is currently looking to expand the in-app service ‘Mobile Requests’ that it launched back in May, extending it to its chain of Courtyard and Residence Inn hotels in the Middle East, Latin America and Asia.
Other travel brands taking similar steps include US hotel operator Hyatt, which launched a campaign with Asian messaging app WeChat in order to connect with its customers in China, and Dutch airline KLM, which has successfully trialled WhatsApp and is now considering fully implementing it for customers in the future.
Although many of these examples of mobile usage are still in early stages of development, these travel brands demonstrate how effective a mobile messaging strategy can be.
These examples can lead the way for others to start using more creative ways to engage with their customers.
How will this develop in the coming years?
As technology continues to develop at a rapid pace and data-driven techniques become more pervasive in how businesses operate, travel is one of the many industries which stand to benefit.
Modern communication is dominated by messaging platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat and many others, and it’s clear that this is how people prefer to communicate in both their personal and professional lives.
However, the addition of mobile messaging to the travel booker journey is a recent one and there are many different social platforms that fall under this umbrella.
As a result, it’s difficult to predict future trends aside from saying that mobile travel chat clearly represents a huge opportunity for travel providers in how they engage with on-site visitors and personalise the booking experience.
The sooner travel brands can jump on this opportunity the better, and here at Ve, we’re looking forward to seeing more brands adapting their messaging strategy.