The travel industry, with a wide range of communications flowing throughout the customer journey, is going through a transformation with the power of mobile messaging.
Mobile is at the heart of traveler engagement, with travelers using mobile devices to plan, search, book and prepare for trips. According to the IATA Global Passenger Survey 2017, passengers expect easy access to the information they want, exactly when they need it, throughout the travel process.
Travel brands are picking up on this increasing need to be constantly connected and have better control over the travel journey. According to the Travelport Digital Mobile Travel Trends Survey 2017, 90% of travel brands say that having a mobile strategy is “critical” or “very important” to the future success of their organization. Additionally, fifty-three percent of travel brands feel it is important to engage their passengers via mobile before, during, and after their journeys.
However, for many travel brands, a mobile strategy would mean creating a mobile app, which still seems to be their main mobile channel (60% of travel brands are looking to enhance or replace their app in 2018, according to Travelport’s survey). And indeed, a lot of action is seen on mobile apps, especially searching for a flight, checking-in to a flight, and generating a boarding pass. However, when it comes to receiving time-critical alerts or ancillary offers, an app may not always be the best channel.
At the same time, the Travelport’s survey reveals that 39% of travelers do not have any airline apps installed on their phones. Meanwhile, only 25% of travelers have one airline app installed. In the future, Gartner predicts that 20% of brands will abandon their mobile apps by 2019. Hence, in “app fatigue” times, how can travel brands move their mobile strategy beyond apps?
Owning the customer experience goes far beyond providing direct bookings alone – it is about engagement throughout the travel journey. Travel brands willing to own the customer experience need to combine customer-facing services, relevant communication channels, and automation to shape personalized experiences.
Mobile messaging plays a vital role in doing this for travel brands, due to its high degree of flexibility, ubiquity and conversational capabilities.
Travelers want to text
SMS has been in the travel industry especially in the form of flight alerts. This channel might have been around for a while, but according to the IATA Passenger Survey 2017, it’s beloved: SMS messaging remains the preferred option for receiving travel notifications. According to the End Traveler Mobile Research 2017by Travelport Digital, 51% of travelers expect to communicate with travel brands via messaging.
Beyond SMS, chat apps are taking messaging a step further. 65% percent of users would be open to using a chat platform to research or book a trip in the future, according to Travelport Digital. Chat is being used not only in the airlines business but also in hospitality. Las Vegas hotels are betting on various technologies to differentiate, including texting.
90% of users’ time on their mobile is spent on messaging apps; it’s natural that this channel would add relevance and immediacy to travel engagement.
Travel brands are getting the message
How travelers communicate with brands mimicks how they communicate in real life. Thankfully, travel brands are getting this message and leveraging this new channel to own customer experiences in different stages of the customer journey. For example, for years airlines have utilized SMS for flight alerts, but now are taking the next step in providing a two-way communication channel to allow passengers to re-book delayed or canceled flights with messaging. What was once a one-way notification, has the power to become a rescheduling service that saves time and money for passengers and airlines alike.
Hotels are digitizing the concierge experience with SMS and chat apps, allowing guests to ask questions, order services, file complaints and more, with just a click. Online travel agents are replacing emails and messaging travelers with relevant information, keeping customers engaged during the travel journey.
All of these micro-moments can be powered by messaging, either with human agents and/or chatbots in the background to service demanding customers who want more control over their travel experiences. We can expect that more messaging-centric experiences will come over the next years.
Messaging is a big part of traveler engagement. For travelers unwilling to download an app, messaging – SMS and chat apps – certainly provide an easy form of two-way, multimedia communication that is suitable for time-critical alerts, bookings, notifications, rescheduling and customer inquiries. Not only does it fulfill the user demand, but it also allows travel brands to save costs, maximize efficiency, improve customer service and own customer experiences.
But implementing mobile messaging can be successful only if used in combination with the brand’s workflows and other communication channels. Such a solution can be enabled with an omni-channel messaging platform that gives travel brands the flexibility to apply the right channel, at the right time.
In this complex world, with so many variables, it is paramount to utilize relevant communication channels for each situation. For example, this may mean that travelers interact with an app for check-in, receive an SMS with a flight delay alert, communicate on Facebook Messenger whenever there’s an inquiry (instead of calling the contact center) and chat with a virtual assistant to get details on a hotel booking. Each situation may call for a different communication channel – and mobile apps will not always be the right answer.
With that in mind, travel brands should invest in multiple channels to address multiple needs and situations, as well as meeting new traveler expectations. And one channel that travelers usually demand to be an integral part of the travel journey for is none other than mobile messaging.