By Rob Weisz, chief executive of Zensend
The vast majority of consumers only have a few precious weeks of annual leave, holidays are the most treasured part of the year.
Whether the consumer journey starts months or just hours before the holiday begins, the path to purchase inevitably comes as the result of emotional responses, anticipation and excitement. For consumers, that journey also extends well beyond arrival back home.
Savvy travel businesses are increasingly using mobile messaging to engage and influence their customers at every stage of this journey, from communicating promotions to travel itineraries, updates, ticketing, post holiday reviews and satisfaction surveys.
It’s a simple logic; mobile messaging improves the entire travel experience, and getting the message right at each interval is a sure-fire way to grow sales and increase customer satisfaction.
The millennials are coming
There’s a growing trend within the travel sector for holidays to be booked at the last-minute. The trend can be plotted against the rise of apps like Hotel Tonight that are fuelling a market for so called millennials, the mobile first generation.
One report suggests that 60% of hotel bookings made via mobile happen within 24 hours of a stay. SMS offer notifications as part of a messaging mix that is driving a huge chunk of the traffic to apps and websites servicing the spontaneous vacationeer.
Moreover, millennials characteristically seek unique and authentic travel experiences and are comfortable embracing technology. They don’t want to print tickets or wait for them to be delivered by post.
They are also more likely to engage if they are receiving something exclusive or secret. Experimenting with revealing a travel location on the day, or offering limited tickets can be key to creating excitement around a can’t-miss experience. They expect that the brands and services that they interact with to be using mobile and communicating intelligently at every touch point imaginable.
Mobile and messaging clearly has an important role to play for travel brands, not just as a way to drive traffic but also as a longer-term loyalty strategy to foster relationships with millennials as they move through their lives as consumers.
On holiday we’re in messaging mode
In a recent survey more than two thirds of holidaymakers stated that they would be lost without their mobile phone whilst away and 60% said that they simply couldn’t travel without it.
What’s interesting is that according to a study by the European Commission, 36% of Brits turn off their mobile data capabilities when travelling abroad to avoid the roaming charges.
About half of all Europeans never use the internet when in another country. Only one in 10 will use emails the same way as at home while millions prefer text messages to voice calls.
At the same time, the travel sector is particularly time-sensitive. Success depends on keeping to time schedules; customers can miss flights and flights can be delayed for example.
Other services such as hotel confirmation or travel insurance details (should the worst happen) operate under the same consumer need.
Put these two factors together and mobile messaging wins, particularly when the message is mission critical. Moreover, while switching off data (as the European Commission survey suggests) will hobble the delivery of an email, a text message will still be delivered instantly.
Given that SMS messaging is the main, and often only, point of interactivity whilst people are on holiday, it follows that travel companies necessarily have to meet and engage their customers where they congregate. Not online but on message.
Closing the loop with messaging
After a holiday, messaging can be instrumental in gathering feedback via a survey.
Asking your customers simple questions like; how did you rate your holiday? is vital in closing the loop on the entire vacation experience. Not least because by being pro-active and initiating feedback you are less likely to incur negative reviews, enabling you to identify any problems and deal with them away from open social media platforms.
Response rates to SMS satisfaction surveys make this a highly effective strategy (31% respond to SMS surveys within five minutes).
Crucially surveys also provide another opportunity to capture the respondent’s mobile number and offer them a chance to opt-in to further marketing and promotion campaigns down the line.
There are good reasons why mobile messaging endures in the travel sector. Throughout the holiday experience, from receiving last-minute notification on offers to more mission critical things like flight information or travel insurance details, mobile messaging underpins customer service and communication at every stage.