Having recently attended the Social Media & Mobile Strategies for Travel event in San Francisco, ICLP noted many discussions based around the possibility of achieving lifelong loyalty in today’s increasingly promiscuous, price-sensitive and deal-driven digital world. It has never been more evident that mobile device proliferation and the social media phenomena of recent years will continue to have a strong influence on the ways in which brands engage with customers. Especially within the travel industry, understanding how these areas can transform marketing strategies or even business models is key in differentiating in a competitive environment and ultimately developing longer and more profitable relationships with both new and existing customers.
Some of the key takeaways from the event:
Understanding the mobile consumer
More than 50% of US travellers are now browsing for travel on mobile devices and 15% are actually booking via their mobile device, making it vital for travel brands to optimise their mobile experience to support how consumers find, buy, experience, and review a brand
With mobile hotel booking rates poised to overtake PC bookings and even mobile flight booking reaching 15% of overall bookings, it has never been more important to get right to ensure brands in the travel sector secure their share of mobile commerce growth market which according to Forrester is predicted to reach $31bn by 2016 in the US alone
Effectively measuring, improving and maximising mobile ROI is proving challenging to all but the savviest travel brands.
Making the most of user generated content
A monumental shift in consumer marketing is taking place with the declining influence of brand communication and travel consumers are increasingly turning to friends, family and third parties for recommendations, reviews and brand/product insights
From moderating and responding to consumer reviews to blogger and influencer outreach programmes, word of mouth and user generated content is a growing and valued marketing currency. There is increased importance for marketers to understand and implement influencer marketing programmes to generate trusted word of mouth
Understanding how to use into this content to feed into co-created content for proactive marketing campaigns is growing in importance for travel brands – now with the ability to tap into the invaluable collective experiences of travel consumers, rather than the more insular marketing model.
Achieving social success
50% of direct travel bookings are reported to have been generated originally by social media in 2012. While many travel brands are able to track some or all over the booking conversions from social media platform, the debate of how social media ROI measurement and accurate attribution rages on
Despite almost 65% of US travel brands claiming to have increased spend in social media strategy in 2012, the overwhelming majority also admitted confusion and/or inability to effectively integrate and manage their strategy across existing corporate structure and culture. The resulting internal conflicts, brand inconsistency and missed revenue opportunities begs the question of how to effectively manage and ultimately monetize social media as a channel
Although some travel brands are able to see a direct correlation between social media click through’s to bookings, others still have a blurred view. Rather than aiming to directly drive sales, perhaps the focus for social media should be to drive consumer engagement, provide information about the brand and create a network of brand ambassadors
With the dizzying array of existing social platforms and new ‘Facebook contenders’ emerging daily, it’s vital for brands to analyse their social investment decisions and ensure that valuable time and resources are focused in the right areas to achieve social success for your brand. Moving beyond Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, many innovative travel brands are now engaging and converting customers on channels like Pinterest, Instagram and Google+. Whilst not specific to travel, ICLP’s research with Forrester highlighted that US brands need to better balance their efforts in social media channels especially as they are over-delivering against consumer expectations in this area which are also not core channels in driving loyalty to that brand.
Today’s traveller is time-starved, increasingly digitally savvy and still highly price-sensitive. Brands that fail to harness and utilize the vast amounts of customer data generated on social media sites and unwillingness to expand business models effectively to cater for the mobile generation could see their hard-earned loyal customers of days gone by fall prey to their competitors.