Phocuswright: Travel lagging behind in the app experience stakes, says Facebook

Phocuswright: Travel lagging behind in the app experience stakes, says Facebook

The experience travel firms are delivering on apps lags way behind other sectors, according to Facebook’s global head of travel.

Lee McCabe, global vertical strategy lead for the social network, said OTAs and start-ups like HotelTonight were leading the way.

But he said many intermediaries and suppliers in the sector are failing to make their experiences relevant and expecting the customer to do too much work.

“The industry is still well behind in terms of how good their apps are,” McCabe told Travolution at last week’s Phocuswright conference in Los Angeles.

“The OTAs are starting to get it but it is the start-ups who are doing the best job. Airlines and hotels are struggling to play catch-up.”

McCabe said one of the faults of many apps was that they were trying to do too much and take no account of the context of the interaction with the customer.

“You should be showing me products tailored to me. You should at least recognise me and not make me sign up all the time.

“The most important thing is convenience. Don’t make me work too hard. If it’s a transaction let me transact quickly and easily.

“Like HotelTonight – you can purchase a hotel with three taps and a swipe, it’s that easy. Companies are trying to cram too much in to their apps.

“It does not have to be transactional, but as long as there is one clear objective. People want different apps for different things.

“That’s why we split Messenger off. You will see that become more of a strategic different business, but there’s one objective and that is to make it work really well.”

McCabe highlighted Skyscanner another firm leading the way on mobile experience, as well as being an early adopter of Facebook’s app install ads.

A case study released last week showed an initial campaign run last January and costing just £10,000 drove 2.7 million app downloads in three weeks.

Skyscanner also said the ranking improvement for its app both in the travel niche and overall saw one organic download for every paid one.

The site said it saw a 77% lower cost per download than its previous mobile display campaign, and three times the click-through rate.

McCabe said Skyscanner’s use of the social network showed how businesses should work with Facebook.

“The big challenge we have is the word social – it means so many things to different people. Being social is not a business objective.

“Businesses that understand that this is an efficient advertising platform and they can meet business objectives like brand recognition cam make it work well.

“But they are still spending their time thinking about likes and friends and creating new business metrics.

“The word social is almost irrelevant. From a business point of view forget the word social, you should be working on the business objectives you always had.”

With all travel firms looking to offer a more personal, tailored service, particularly on mobile devices by making better use of customer data, McCabe Facebook was at the centre of this.

“There is no bigger big data company than Facebook,” he said, “so the targeting we can offer by utilising that data is unmatched.

“Big data enables companies to do two things: understand the customer more and enable them to provide a personalised experience and target people better than ever before.”

McCabe added retargeting on Facebook is optimised due to how quickly it is able to serve an advert to the right person and because it is not reliant on cookies.“You cannot use cookies cross-device. Whatever device people access Facebook on we can put a message in front of them.

“The ad team won’t overload people with ads; we are very conscious about the experience on Facebook.

“It’s all about relevancy. Consistently people say they do not mind ads but what they want is relevant ads. As long as they are people are happy with that. It becomes part of the experience.”

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