Elana Kenton, Social Strategy Manager Somo
Mobile devices have transformed the way we travel, impacting behaviour before, during and after trips, creating a new, always connected traveller.
By 2015, mobile devices are expected to account for over 25% of all US travel bookings.
Although this change in behaviour is driving growth across the sector, it has presented several key challenges:
Cross Device attribution: The connected traveller path to purchase includes multiple devices and behaviours, adding complexity to measurement and attribution of single channel marketing campaigns
Multiple target audiences: The modern day traveller can be a business traveller, family, couple or group, creating a need to identify and profile key customers behaviours
Planning across the customer journey: Mobile is the perfect travel companion for all activities post purchase, however developing customer journeys based on their priorities is complex and slow to build traction
Brands can and should incorporate social into their strategies to impact engagement and drive conversions across this complex customer journey.
By nature, travel is an emotional and social activity. As such, social media allows the travel experience to transcend time and place by connecting travellers and non-travellers at any time wherever they are. This creates multiple contexts for contact across the customer journey.
Connecting socially via mobile devices has revolutionised the way people plan, book and experience travel.
Take TripAdvisor as an example. The peer-to-peer reviews site says 82 million people have downloaded its various mobile apps. In Q3 2013 its website averaged 108 million unique monthly visitors on mobile, up 175% year-on-year.
Due to the emphasis on experience over destination or outcome today’s mobile traveller demands, brands must offer personalised services, social connections and information, in addition to value and reliability.
It’s imperative that travel companies implement high quality social media into their marketing strategy – whether as a standalone campaign or as part of an integrated approach.
With you every step of the way
Combining mobile with social enables brands to become participants in an active traveller’s journey.
Central to developing a social strategy that creates brand value and meets traveller’s needs, is the use of social insights which provide an unparalleled, unique and time relevant understanding of changing customer behaviour.
Understanding, adapting and responding to this is key to creating meaningful experiences and driving uptake and loyalty.
To harvest its full potential, a social strategy should focus on each stage of the travel process, from the moment a trip is planned to the events and recommendations from the trip shared on return.
Typically this consists of five stages: research, booking, navigating, connecting and capturing.
For today’s travel brands, many of which offer an all-encompassing experience, the research stage is perhaps the most important.
Neilsen suggests 85% of people make decisions based on trusted sources and 67% value endorsement from an un-biased source to inform decisions.
Using social insights to garner destinations prospective travellers are considering, when, and with who allows brands to offer personalised, ‘independent’ solutions to influence their final decision.
Sites such as TripAdvisor and Airbnb are good examples of how this can work, providing preference-based peer reviews on destinations, accommodation, restaurants and services.
By building social into their core offering, and establishing a presence on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Foursquare, brands create a steady flow of customer and prospect insights to allow them to better serve their market.
They also build a reliable destination for travellers looking to make the most of their journey.
Presented to potential customers in the research phase of the process, a trusted and personalised socially-led offering is the ideal stepping-stone to the booking process.
By providing a mobile friendly destination for travellers to discover flights, accommodation, travel insurance and activities from social media channels, brands can minimise the possibility of users looking elsewhere.
Welcome and enjoy your stay
In days gone by, travel companies would often wave their customers goodbye at the departure gates.
Travellers would be left to their own devices while away, relying on hotel concierges or friendly locals they met at their destination to point them in the way of the best activities. In today’s connected world this shouldn’t be the case.
Using the swathes of data obtained via the research and booking processes, travel companies can create personalised navigational offerings for their customers while they are away.
Combining technologies like GPS with existing schedules and ongoing social media activity, everything from city maps to specifically tailored walking routes can be delivered to a customer to enhance their experience.
The same can be done for other aspects of the trip, connecting fellow travellers along the way and identifying potential partners as travellers schedule, capture and connect.
A social strategy can also feed into and improve other customer touch points such as CRM and customer care. Take the example of a lost suitcase, or a sudden change in schedule.
Brands have the opportunity to suggest alternative arrangements – for example, a similar tour operator close to the restaurant they are dining at, or directions and a voucher to store where they can purchase a new outfit until their luggage arrives.
The benefits are clear
As the roots of social media become more solidified in our everyday lives, it is vital that brands keep pace.
A well planned and meticulously executed social media plan, with mobile at it core, helps to serve customers in the immediate, personalised and collaborative way they expect.
Further cementing it as the future of travel, social creates an invaluable and easily accessible mine of data and boosts a brand’s trust and credibility through ongoing customer recommendation, feedback and endorsement.