Consumers Get The Message From Travel Brands
A host of travel startups have begun building messaging apps for travel agents and travel planners who are eager to cater their services to the way modern consumers communicate. These apps provide a number of features that help travel brands better connect with customers.
Without question, consumers are seeking new methods to book travel on the go.
This year, in the U.S. alone, it is predicted that 51.8% of online travel bookings will be made using a mobile device. Meanwhile, it’s no coincidence that brands are simultaneously beginning to utilize messaging apps to facilitate two-way conversations with consumers.
Presently, 1.4 billion consumers around the world use messaging apps. By 2018, that number is expected to hit 2 billion. The travel industry has taken notice; a host of travel startups have begun building messaging apps for travel agents and travel planners who are eager to cater their services to the way modern consumers communicate.
In an increasingly mobile-driven world, messaging apps undoubtedly provide a number of features that help travel brands better connect with customers.
Speed Of Communication
One of the major benefits of messaging apps is the way they enable conversations to take place in real time. A guest sitting on a hotel balcony can order room service without having to get up. Instead of waiting in queue at a busy reception desk, a customer can enquire about a sightseeing trip while lounging by the pool.
This ease of communication is beneficial for hotels, too.
The rapid nature of messaging means individual staff members can quickly deal with multiple requests. Previous conversations can also be viewed and accessed anytime, anywhere, ensuring that hotels can respond easily to guest needs and can track them over time—allowing hotels to build robust profiles of their best customers.
A More Personal Medium
The nature of messaging is also one that’s inherently more personal. While social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter provide a public forum to post queries and express opinions, messaging apps provide guests with a more discreet platform to conduct a one-to-one conversation.
This creates the potential for stronger relationships and brand loyalty as customers begin to experience a more personalized service.
Given such benefits, it’s not surprising that a growing number of travel companies are adopting messaging apps to improve the guest experience in all kinds of innovative ways.
The Increasing Use Of Messaging Apps
Starwood Hotels has already seen huge benefits since adopting WhatsApp to help answer guest queries. Launched in early 2015, Starwood now receives a huge 85% of all messaging through this chat app. With reported response times at around a minute, the speed of communication that Starwood is able to deliver is clearly winning guests over.
WhatsApp’s worldwide user base of 1 billion also offers travel companies one of the most effective ways to connect with a global audience. While the platform has yet to take off in the U.S., it dominates in Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa, with high levels of adoption in both Asia-Pacific and Europe.
As of late last year, Hyatt Hotels started using Facebook Messenger to streamline its communication with customers. Although still in its early days, the venture seems to be proving successful, with 10% of all messages through Hyatt’s social channels now coming through Facebook.
Facebook’s Businesses on Messenger also offers the ability for hospitality companies to enhance customer experiences throughout the entire travel journey.
Dutch airline KLM is running a trial with Messenger as a way of sending out details, such as flight itineraries and boarding passes. The airline is also using the platform to provide essential updates on things like gate numbers and potential delays, while customers can also begin a chat through Messenger to change their flights at a moment’s notice.
This rapid form of communication can make the booking process easier, reduce stress when in transit, and provide an incredibly easy way for consumers to make last-minute requests.
Customized Messaging Apps
While many companies have utilized existing third-party apps to achieve these results, certain brands have begun developing their own text-based-messaging services.
The Aloft Manhattan Downtown has created the world’s first-ever emoji room service menu. Guests can request one of six in-room kits by texting the front desk with the corresponding set of emojis to kits, such as “The Hangover,” “The Munchies,” and “Surprise Me”—a package that promises $25 worth of “fun swag and cool stuff.” The order is confirmed by text and swiftly delivered to the room, with the final bill settled at checkout.
Aloft sees this move as keeping in step with how modern travelers like to communicate. So far, the program has seen high levels of guest engagement, and the Manhattan Downtown property has even had walk-ins from curious customers to see what the program is all about.
CheckMate](http://www.checkmate.io/), a mobile check-in and customer engagement tool, has already found proof of hotels receiving more positive reviews on TripAdvisor after introducing text message-style communication, with reviewers specifically mentioning the way chat apps make correspondence easier during their stay.
In an interview with Tnooz, CheckMate CEO Drew Patterson revealed that an experiment conducted by one of its client hotels found that customer satisfaction levels were on average 20% higher when they were able to communicate via text-style messaging.
Further studies will be required to establish a wider industry trend, but this example does at least indicate how messaging apps can bring about a measurable difference in overall customer satisfaction.
A New Global Trend
It’s clear that one of the biggest advantages messaging apps bring is speed of communication. Rather than waiting on an email, a response on Twitter, or standing at the back of a queue, consumers can have queries and requests answered within minutes.
Messaging apps also appear to represent a particularly effective way to reach younger travelers, something that’s especially true of Millennials.
As messaging apps become a dominant form of communication for various age groups, it only makes sense that businesses will seek ways to connect with customers on their own terms, using the platforms consumers are already adopting at a startling rate on a global scale.
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