We’re a global, mobile society . . . And as consumers increasingly use their social media networks and smartphones to research travel information, book reservations, check flights, read reviews, solicit opinions, look for deals and more, travel brands are finding themselves in an increasingly precarious predicament:
Either they have to adapt to today’s empowered consumer or apparently, they’ll have to succumb to competitors that do choose to adapt.
The study, Social Media and Mobile Strategies for the Travel Industry 2011, found that:
Travel marketers see mobile apps as crucial to interacting with customers.
- Information search, and to a lesser extent, sales, are key drivers. Mobile is even more important than social media during travel and pre-purchase. Plus, nearly one-third of participants in the study have received direct bookings via mobile devices.
- Travel brands are designing creative mobile apps. Some apps help travelers conduct pre-purchase research. Others facilitate travel with everything from smartphone-based boarding passes and itineraries to on-the-go details accessed via a live guidebook app. Some 38 percent of those surveyed agreed that investing in mobile has improved consumer engagement.
- Location-based services allow travel brands access the power of mobile using a third-party app. According to EyeforTravel, the burgeoning LBS marketplace will see consumer and advertiser expenditures approaching $10 billion by 2016, primarily driven by advertisers targeting consumers with location-enhanced search. (This is in contrast to other research indicating that personalized marketing may be more effective, at least for some industries).
Financial metrics are important, but they’re not the only measure of social media success.
While many travel brands say they feel pressure from the C-suite to show ROI, most (nearly 80 percent) of those polled said they do not see social media ROI as a purely financial measure.
As I have pointed out before, consistent metrics (and interpretations) regarding social media/mobile ROI remain elusive, and not surprisingly, this study revealed conflicting opinions about the value of measuring ROI for investment in mobile apps or mobile-optimized websites. Some travel marketers cited improved engagement with customers. Others pointed to direct bookings. Almost an equal number, however, say mobile has generated very little or no ROI.
Adding to the confusion, travel marketers said they measure ROI in a variety of ways, including the number of app downloads, visits to their mobile websites, customer feedback and bookings. They also said providing customer service and maintaining in-trip contact with customers deliver valuable returns on their investments.
What doesn’t work? Survey respondents said that when mobile strategies fail it’s usually because of insufficient time and resource allocation.
As marketers continue to adapt and refine their marketing automation processes, I think we’ll see more clarity about how social media and mobile contribute to revenue growth. Then, marketing teams will be able to better design digital marketing campaigns –and they’ll be able to better prove ROI, as well.