Technology has spoiled travellers for choice so, in today’s ever-changing digital frontier, fostering brand loyalty is more important than ever. But the state of loyalty programmes today is becoming shoddy, and travellers are not happy about it.
It’s a lose-lose situation for everyone – companies lose brand commitment, while customers miss out on travel rewards. Companies are also neglecting opportunities to connect with customers at an important chunk of getting from Point A to Point B – stopovers.
It may come as no surprise to those in the travel industry how the in-destination opportunity has long been passed over in favour of selling hotel room nights and flights.
This, of course, had its merit, as the value of a flight or a hotel room – both more expensive than the price of a desert safari for example. However, the value does not equate the margin. The margin potential with the in-destination market is at very healthy levels.
Discovery, exploration and experience...
Leaving margins and bookings aside, ask yourself the question, “Why do most people travel?” Three words: discovery, exploration, and experience. It means taking a city sightseeing tour bus to get the lay of the land, perhaps buying a ticket to a museum or even just enjoying a walking tour of a town they’ve just arrived in.
Phocuswright revealed that activities, tours, attractions, and events alone were worth about $135 billion worldwide, and this does not even include dining and shopping. A significant amount of these bookings are made while the traveller is in the destination.
With talk of airport bans on laptops and larger electronic devices, passing time at the gate is about to get even harder. Mobile surfing could become even more essential in airports than it already is.
Here are a few ways travel industry players can benefit from mobile stopover programmes:
1. Build customer loyalty
If you can save a traveller from boredom, you’ve won them over. Developing a mobile app is the easiest way to do it. Last month, Heathrow Airport launched a new kids’ travel app using augmented reality to drop digital badges in terminals. It keeps little ones busy so parents breathe easy while creating unforgettable travel moments.
Think of the possibilities: Get travellers psyched about their upcoming adventure via curated guides, maps and other perks on a mobile platform just for them. Guests can instantly book spa treatments and activities via their hotel’s app, plan their vacation or even start researching the next one.
2. Get your customers’ full attention.
You’re catching travellers on downtime, sometimes desperate for something to do. In this hectic day and age, that’s no small feat. When companies put their loyalty programmes onto a mobile platform it allows them to communicate with customers in a direct fashion.
Reach out to targeted demographics or even the entire customer base through in-app messaging and push notifications. Valuable opportunities can be created to build customer loyalty and up-sell simultaneously.
3. Connect with millenials
Millennials, who are becoming business travellers and a dominant industry demographic, are potentially the most important segment for travel companies. The ball is actually in your corner: millennials are eager for loyalty programs connecting them to meaningful experiences.
Research shows that this demographic wants to earn points as much as their elders, but would rather use them quickly than save for big rewards. A recent survey from PwC US found that about a third of millennial leisure travellers choose room upgrades after extra hotel nights, compared with 16 percent of other travellers, showing a preference for seeking superlative travel experiences.
4. Indispensable customer data awaits
Unfortunately many brands are missing out on the rich customer data they could be fed via mobile. A detailed portrait of consumers, their needs and behaviours can be provided from data reporting during app usage.
These reports can be used to create smarter marketing strategies or tweak existing ones to truly meet customers’ desires. Find out what they want and keep them returning.
Building a world-class mobile experience to serve the in-destination market takes digitising a lot of working parts – dining offers, day planners, guides, and instant booking of tours and activities. It’s about the entire experience.
Customising for specific demographics, whether telcos, airlines or even financial institutions who want to connect with customer loyalty, can add another layer of sophistication to the effort in creating more value for their consumers. But in the long game of trendsetting, it’s important to know which side you are on.
The market is wide open and large enough, so it’s still anybody’s game.