Mobile Marketing for Travel Agents

Mobile marketing is not just for big brands but has become the new standard in small business marketing, too. It’s great for securing business with local customers who’re on-the-go.

Any type of local business can benefit from mobile marketing, with the most searched mobile categories being: restaurants, retail shops, financial information, and events/concerts.  This article is about mobile marketing for Indian travel agents.

Rapid advances in mobile technology means that personalized offers delivered straight to consumers’ mobile devices are rapidly becoming part of the new normal. As smartphones get smarter, cheaper and easier to use — coupled with the growing popularity of tablet devices — marketers across the Internet have already declared 2012 to be the year of Social, Local and Mobile [SoLoMo], for the Travel Industry.

The term SoLoMo consists of three main components of a travel customer’s behavior. In travel marketing, there is a major convergence of channels, and social, local, and mobile will work as part of an integrated initiative.

These three initiatives speak to key components of a travel consumer’s behavior.  Social speaks to what we do as human beings and how we share our travel experiences, mobile speaks to our “always on-the-go” nature, and local speaks to the need for information from our immediate environment.

Social interactions are hugely influential on travel customers when they are looking at sorting out a holiday/trip, with recommendations from friends having more weight than a piece of advertising. This can also be thought of as your customers influencing their friends and effectively becoming ambassadors to your brand.

Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have proved highly successful for agents in reaching out to their existing customers as well as attracting new ones. The traveler of today and of tomorrow is well-connected, and it is imperative that agents access this growing channel.

Social content is becoming an essential part in making travel decisions, whereby 3 in 10 travelers share travel experiences and 35 % interact with travel companies on social networks. Mobile plays a big part in social networks, since sites like Facebook have 100 million mobile users, and one-third of tweets sent and read are from smartphones.

Consumer generated content is king. As mobile becomes an integral part of the travel experience, social media campaigns will have a deeper focus on guests sharing their experiences during their stay. Social campaigns that prompt guests to share photos and video from their hotel experience and contests that prompt guests to check-in on social platforms for incentives will become more important than ever.

For the travel industry, the local aspect of SoLoMo is obviously important due to customers wanting to know information about where they are going or wanting to discover information once they are at the physical location. 1 in 3 searches done from mobile phones in 2011 had local intent, meaning that people are looking for information from their immediate area.

The ability to target a mobile audience based on social interests and demographics within any geo-location is becoming an important factor in the effectiveness of mobile campaigns. Mobile ads that tap into social interests, demographic, and time targeting, answer an immediate need for consumers. Based on this need, we are going to see a rise in social-geo targeting technology that accesses demographic data based on publicly available social media activity to better target consumers.

Imagine serving a mobile ad or coupon promoting your on site restaurant’s happy hour from 6-8 to a business traveler located within 5 miles of your hotel with a particular interest in dining and entertainment. Suddenly, an ad impression no longer simply garners a click, it answers  a consumer need.

Location based mobile promotions via Location Based Social Networks like Foursquare and Gowalla can be used successfully by local entities such as restaurants, bars, lounges, and day spas  as well as by major travel brands that are focusing on local customer engagement. Another approach to appeal to mobile shoppers is to enhance the travel or hotel mobile website with rich local content and real-time local specific promotions.

It is no secret that sales and promotions are the most popular types of information searched by the mobile travel consumer. According to Amadeus research, 82 percent of hotel mobile bookings are for same day of arrival.  A special offer targeting mobile visitors is a great way to encourage same day bookings, and leverage an advantage over competitors.

Hoteliers need to focus on this mobile shopping behavior to drive last-minute bookings and to up sell on site amenities, such as spa, dining, etc. One great way hoteliers can tap into this mobile shopping behavior is to offer mobile-only “on the go” value adds (free breakfast, free wi-fi, extra reward points, free spa service, etc) targeting last-minute bookings through the mobile website.

Also mobile can be a great channel for generating ancillary revenues from your current guests. Hoteliers can  take advantage of mobile coupons to promote the on site restaurant, spa, and services.

Location-based services [LBS] are playing increasingly important roles in the travel industry, and travel agents should be aware of the opportunity to connect with visitors and attract them with specific rewards through local business partnerships or tie-ups.

Mobile penetration in India is the second highest in the world today. With over 893 million wireless subscriptions, a plethora of smartphones are flooding the Indian market. Additionally with the recent roll-out of 3G services in the country, India is a hotbed for mobile travel. Add the fact that the mobile phone is one of the few personal possession that travel customers take on their holidays, you now have an extremely strong reason to engage with your customers on mobile devices.

Mobile apps are the ‘Mantra’ for the Gen-Y Travelers. With the increase of travel accessibility and affordability, the new age travelers continuously seek the luxury and convenience that mobile apps offer. Social media and Mobile apps are transforming the way travel is discussed, researched, and purchased.

From GPRS to 3G services the speed of data transfer has enabled technology companies to offer products and services with seamless connectivity to execute even financial transactions. The ease of use has eventually made the customer move from the PC to the smartphone to a larger extent. The adaptability is high and we acknowledge the way people make instant bookings from their mobile devices like smart phones and tablets, make instant itineraries and change plans. Going forward the pie for smartphone initiated transactions will see a phenomenal growth rate.

We have been seeing month on month growth of 15-20% in mobile bookings over the last year, and weekly growth of 15% in bookings through applications. While the majority of bookings are still made through desktop devices, this is shifting quickly!

M-commerce and Near Field Communications (NFC) are playing an increased role in improving and enhancing the travel experience for travelers. The ability of the mobile device to pay for goods and services, coupled with the seamless exchange of information electronically, enabling payments, check- in and personalized marketing messages with a simple swipe of the device against a reader, offers not only traveler efficiency but new opportunities for personalized interaction with the travel provider.

Through their mobile device, the traveler can then do everything from boarding and check- in to mobile payments and social networking.

Facts about travel bookings made through social media and mobile travel apps.

  • Data from a travel site revealed that 70% of bookings made were for ‘same day check- in’.
  • One of the largest airlines mentioned reaching the 6,50,000 mark for apps download.
  • In a survey marketers acknowledged increasing their inputs for mobile marketing by 60%.
  • More than 65% users access social media via their smartphones as well.
  • More than 191 airlines use social media to connect with the travelers.
  • More than 80% of frequent flyers used social media to express their satisfaction about experience.

As we look into 2012 and beyond we can see that travel customers are accessing information and sharing their experiences in real-time from their location aware smartphones and tablets.

In this SoLoMo age, travel brands must ensure they have the basic foundation for any successful SoLoMo strategy. To get started, travel brands must have a mobile website optimized with fresh, local content and location-based offers; accurate and optimized listings on local mobile directories;  and mobile engagement via SMS and social platforms.

Although we’ve talked briefly about SoLoMo as a whole package, it can also easily exist separately and paired together to achieve your business objectives.

If you would like to discuss SoLoMo in more depth and how it can work for your organization then please get in touch.

Rohit Kuttappan

A genial, soft spoken and friendly professional, Rohit helps startups, small and medium enterprises in Punjab, Haryana and Delhi area to build a positive social reputation and have maximum conversion rate in online marketing by running effective campaigns in Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google , YouTube and high traffic websites. Rohit has been involved in the marketing efforts of a number of start-ups and have consulted and managed the social media campaign of some small and medium businesses. He is well experienced in digital marketing for education, hospitality and retail and realty verticals.

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