According to a recent Forrester survey commissioned by mobile engagement provider OpenMarket, 74% of business leaders view mobile as a major priority. In fact, since 2009, the number of leisure travelers using their mobile devices for travel has increased by more than 450%. By 2014, mobile travel bookings in the US could triple, with mobile sales possibly reaching $26 billion – nearly one in five online travel dollars. Already, three out of four travelers use a mobile device while on a trip, with 75 percent likely to explore, shop and book activities via mobile.
As travelers turn to mobile not only to book flights and hotels, but to enrich their entire trip experience – book restaurant reservations, research local hotspots and so forth – companies in the Travel, Tourism, and Hospitality industries are leading the mobile engagement charge. Mobile engagement platforms are available that allow companies to empower customers to easily find what they’re looking for on location, or to make automated recommendations through applied customer intelligence. With more tourists than ever turning to mobile devices to instantly read reviews, compare prices, view property amenities, and redeem loyalty offers on the fly, consumers expect travel and hospitality companies to deliver superior mobile experiences throughout the entire traveler lifecycle. This is why mobile must be a high priority for hospitality organizations that want to enhance brand awareness and increase long-term customer engagement, creating a lucrative opportunity to improve the bottom line in the process.
In addition to attracting new travelers, mobile is a critical component of maintaining customer engagement after the initial point of purchase. Once a guest has purchased a ticket or booked a hotel room, companies can immediately reach the traveler with mobile messaging. Delivering timely and relevant information that provides value and builds lasting relationships ultimately increases customer spend and drives repeat business. By frequently engaging guests with value-driven communications, travel and hospitality companies can keep their brand top of mind, ensuring positive customer reviews and fostering long-term loyalty.
Mobile for Today’s Travel Industry
The flexibility of mobile messaging can help travel and hospitality companies achieve their goals of brand awareness, more frequent purchases, and better customer service and loyalty. Mobile messaging can include automatic updates or it can be interactive, allowing travelers to request and receive the desired information.
Hospitality companies should follow a number of best practices in order to launch a successful mobile strategy:
Promotion: Deliver time-sensitive information on travel deals or late-breaking fares, price discounts or hotel, event and parking coupons. Offer promotion codes to receive a free upgrade, or on-property specials such as dining discounts.
Customer Experience: Keep guests informed of new properties, destinations and amenities. Send weather alerts and directions prior to arrival. Engage travelers with room readiness updates and local event reminders.
Loyalty and Rewards: Reward travelers with loyalty points and coupons with personalized information such as their mileage balances, reservation numbers or confirmation codes. Send discount codes for next visit promotions and solicit post-travel feedback.
With mobile engagement technologies travel and hospitality businesses can better understand and exceed customer expectations through integrated communications and using a variety of channels, including SMS, MMS, push, email, and voice, to keep in touch with travelers. As multi-channel communication often engages guests at several touch points during their travel experience, companies should leverage each mobile channel based on general customer preferences. In all, mobile engagement solutions help businesses to understand, anticipate, and react to customer behaviors more efficiently while maximizing revenue by filling flights, hotel rooms, and restaurant reservations.
What about Apps?
Although mobile applications have gone mainstream, they are just one piece of an overall strategy. Companies can spend considerable time developing apps that may never be seen, much less downloaded or used regularly. Industry analyst Chetan Sharma reports that over 50% of apps are never used after download. In addition, My Destination finds that only 12% of travelers have downloaded an app related to their trip. While most travelers won’t necessarily have a hotel’s custom app, nearly all guests will be able to interact with text messages. This type of multi-channel approach will help companies directly engage with their guests, ultimately delivering a better customer experience.
The (Mobile) Bottom Line for Travel & Hospitality
Clearly, a balanced customer engagement strategy is a necessity for companies operating in today’s competitive travel and hospitality environment, especially when attracting or retaining customers. Through mobile channels, companies can differentiate themselves from competitors and drive long-term customer loyalty. Mobile is a crucial component in any customer engagement strategy and is the most effective channel for delivering a timely and personalized experience throughout the traveler lifecycle.