Travel companies have a huge opportunity to use mobile devices — and the Big Data they harness — to personalise the customer experience. This article, excerpted from Mobile: The Great Connector (Volume 2), a comprehensive eBook authored by Peggy Anne Salz, chief analyst and content strategist of MobileGroove, in collaboration with the MMA EMEA and member sponsors Inspired and Brainstorm, explores the strategies pursued by leading companies in this space leading the way for the entire industry.
Marketing intelligence firm Euromonitor reports that more than 30% of online travel bookings by value will be made on mobile devices. Driving this trend is the advance of mobile apps that are more personal, appealing and powered by location services that help travellers find what they want nearby.
It writes: “As consumers continue to use a number of devices to research and fulfill their travel needs, companies also need to offer consumers ways to identify themselves and continue to recognise them personally each time they access the site from their mobile, laptop or tablet creating a seamless, personalised customer experience that is conducive to purchasing.”
But Econsultancy doesn’t just highlight targeting and personalisation as a top digital priority for 2015. Its recent survey of marketers in the Travel vertical identify targeting and personalisation as a the most exciting opportunity on the horizon.
Connect the dots, and the battle for bookings will be won not only by owning big data, but in the way that companies interpret it to successfully deliver a more personalised, contextual experience for their customers across all devices.
The requirement to personalise all company communications before, during and after activation is essential as brand communication and interaction evolves to span the content and context that define the customer journey.
Orbitz Worldwide, a global online travel company whose portfolio of brands, including ebookers, lets travellers to search for, plan and book a broad range of travel products and services including airline tickets, hotels, car rentals, cruises, and vacation packages, using online, mobile and apps.
Rob Define, Vice President of Mobile & Product at ebookers , observes that his company has seen as much as half of all bookings coming from mobile. “That’s massive. So there is no option about whether or not to focus on mobile first, since that is where our customers are coming from.”
For this reason ebookers is investing significant budget to acquire and convert customers on mobile. As a “heavily data-driven organisation” ebookers is sharply focused on understanding, mapping and personalizing the customer journey across the various devices and channels customers choose to use.
“If you do a search on the desktop, that search will be reflected on the mobile website and in the mobile app,” Define explains. “Mobile doesn’t just blur the boundaries, it removes them.”
But it’s the contextual understanding of the customer and the ability to engage with them continuously across the journey that Define says will allow ebookers to compete successfully against its rivals.
In his view, it’s all about understanding customer signals and data to “increase our ability to drive engagement using creatives and offers that are relevant to the customer profile” throughout the journey, and not just prior to the trip. Right now ebookers is building the capabilities to target customers and add value through company communications that spans the voyage to include hotel and trip reviews and streamline access to customer service.
Mobile is also a driving force for Hotels.com™, which allows customers to book hotel rooms online and via mobile.
The company, which has 85 websites in 34 languages and lists approximately 257,000 hotels in over 200 countries, is seeing a huge demand for last-minute travel and a huge uptake of mobile. In some regions same-day bookings account for 60% of mobile sales.
But mobile is also rising up to rival the desktop as the preferred platform for customers to research their next trip, notes Daniel Craig, Sr. Director, Mobile & Social for the Hotels.com brand. “We see more customers researching and browsing during their mobile-moments on the commute or in the living room.”
Customers are not only assessing their holiday options; they are also saving favorite destinations to wish lists, pouring over user reviews and sharing hidden gems with their friends. “We see some quite lengthy sessions, and observe the most significant cross-device behaviour,” Craig explains.
Generally speaking, the customer journey begins on the website. But it’s the mobile app that takes that engagement a giant step further with personalised marketing and communications that centers on “important and complementary content” such as weather reports, helpful travel advice, checklists and reminders about upcoming trips.
To date Hotels.com is “experimenting” with personalised mobile marketing and relevant push notifications to increase engagement rates and deepen customer loyalty.
The effort to enhance the mobile app — and thus the user experience —is paying dividends for Hotels.com. It reports that “upwards of three-quarters” of all bookings made using the mobile app are made by existing customers.
Hotels.com is also testing an ‘inbox’ inside the app, which — similar to an email inbox — serves as a repository for all the personalised pushes it delivers to its customers. “And when customers open the inbox they can see — at a glance — all the messages they have received so far.” It’s not just added convenience for the customer, Craig says. It represents a new and additional ‘touch point’ where Hotels.com can engage with the consumer and insert itself even deeper in the individual’s daily routine.
Effective marketing is personal, relevant and valuable because it is inextricably linked to what people want — when and how they want it. Even better if it connects with the individual throughout the customer journey — and beyond.
The next article in our series looking at key takeaways in Mobile: The Great Connector (Volume 2)— a comprehensive eBook authored by Peggy Anne Salz, chief analyst and content strategist of MobileGroove, in collaboration with the MMA EMEA and member sponsors Inspired and Brainstorm — will look at the role of location and the impact when marketing uses audience data to deliver more contextual communications.
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