By Tim Pope Client Services Director EMEA, Ensighten
2015 kicked off with CES where everything from connected belts, to cars and virtual reality were showcased, with some of these devices set to enter the mainstream this year.
As a result, the travel industry faces a conundrum – how to engage in relevant, one-to-one relationships with customers, even as those customers interact through multiple digital and physical channels.
A recent comScore study showed the majority of travel consumers are between the ages of 25 and 44. This is a very mobile savvy group – 92% own a smartphone and 51% own a tablet.
To enhance the customer travel experience, brands need to focus more than ever on cross-device marketing and providing dedicated mobile sites to tailor experiences for customers wherever and whenever travel interests them.
Mobile will drive digital travel sales in 2015 so brands must get their heads around cross-channel analytics in real-time, as consumers move from tablet to smartphone to PC and back again.
Not only do check-out processes need to work seamlessly on multiple devices, but the customer journey also needs to be a positive experience whichever path an individual chooses.
Recent research indicates that only a fifth of consumers are willing to stick with a travel retailer if they encounter a bad mobile experience, and 13% will immediately go elsewhere for their travel needs and they’re unlikely to return.
So what does it mean to deliver a positive cross-device experience?
Most travel operators and airlines will have a new set of mobile digital channels that work hard to be the best place to buy a ticket, book an upgrade, secure a particular seat on the plane, check the flight status and check-in with the swipe of your iPhone.
Increasingly, however, customers are asking for more technology applications and telling brands that it’s easier and quicker on mobile.
The resulting challenge for marketers is to deliver these applications, followed by personalised interactions with consumers wherever they are, and they’re using data to deliver this.
Tracking the customer experience in line with this increase in technology applications has historically been a problem for brands, as deploying analytics and new marketing tools can come low down on the IT priority list, often taking up to three months to implement.
Fortunately, technology is increasingly helping brands to remove IT as a gating factor and improve marketing agility. It’s transforming the way they collect, own and analyse data, and making it possible for them to gain knowledge of real-time customer behaviour.
This in-turn gives them the power to activate personalised messaging, whether the customer is on a website, at a check-in kiosk or using their tablet or smartphone.
For mobile marketing to succeed, travel brand marketers no longer have the luxury of spending months working on a single campaign or project and must instead, innovate and respond quickly to evolving customer needs.
This means setting campaigns live quickly, then iterating based on analytics and user feedback to reduce the likelihood of errors and waste. By increasing mobile agility, from quick app updates to on-the-fly app customisation, travellers will show increased loyalty and advocacy to a brand.
Additionally, by using location-based targeting near airports, hotels and tourist districts, travel brand marketers can increase their relevance to consumers’ immediate needs.
Marketers benefit further from adopting this data-led approach by understanding how consumers come to make purchases.
Tui, for example, adopted complete path-to-conversion reporting to understand the full consumer journey, revealing the contribution natural search was making to conversions. As a result the specialist travel company increased the internal priority on search engine optimisation and made a six-fold increase in SEO spend.
Without these kind of insights marketers are largely unable to see the specific impact of different channels on ROI and are unable to make budget adjustments accordingly.
As consumers pick up an increasing number of mobile devices, this is set to become even more crucial for brands looking to deliver positive experiences to mobile consumers.
At a time when consumers report ad fatigue, personalisation and smarter targeting like this matters significantly, as does understanding the technology that will pave the way for this enhanced agility across multiple devices.
Consumers don’t show any signs of slowing down the rate at which they pick up new tech, so travel marketers that want to keep up must mirror this behaviour in order to stay ahead of the curve.