How are travel consumers interacting with travel brands? Which social media platforms are travel customers interacting on? Have you unlocked any useful data for ROI in your social media strategy? How are travel consumers interacting with travel brands via mobile?
These and many more such pertinent questions are being keenly evaluated by travel companies today.
The industry is keenly looking at the state of travel marketing and how the paradigm has shifted from traditional to social models based on communities. Equally significant is the area of mobile marketing as travel marketers try to assess how consumers interact with their brands via mobile web and apps. Plus, as social and mobile continue to converge, and as the use of smartphones continues to grow, marketers must increasingly make themselves available to today’s tech-savvy shoppers.
“Learning, improving and the same time executing social media and mobile marketing campaigns plus achieving a desired RoI can be a laborious process,” says Gina Baillie, VP Global Marketing & Events, EyeforTravel as the London-based firm released its new Social Media and Mobile Strategies for the Travel Industry 2011 report.
“There are several case studies in this report and experts have discussed in detail where to spend time and resources and their efforts to assess RoI by creating metrics specific to their businesses and their customers,” shared Gina. Citing an example, she referred to a case study:
Social Media Case Study: Unless it’s making money, I’m not using it
Nearly 80% of respondents to the report survey revealed they do not see social media ROI as a purely financial measure. Many did however cite that they felt under pressure from their superiors to show ROI in terms of monetary value.
For Barbara Pezzi, Director of Analytics, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, social media is part of a customer service strategy that’s so important the company has created the position of a dedicated community manager. “It’s not all about RoI or making money,” she says. Pezzi’s role is to take volumes of data and translate it into practical advice throughout the chain. Pezzi takes a nuts-and-bolts approach to data analysis by reminding practitioners to remember some simple but critical steps.
Fairmont as a brand does not run many promotions through Facebook, she says, but when they do, tagging allows analysts to see “what resonates most, if there is a difference in demographics, when people go on the website,” and the like. Following the tags to determine the source of traffic that has been derived from another person’s Twitter account can allow Fairmont to drill right down to individual posts to see what most resonates with social media followers. As a measurement scorecard, Pezzi says, Fairmont uses a range of tools to keep an eye on the social media realm. These tools are detailed in the report.
The convergence of two technological shifts – with the rise of the smartphone use and the meteoric popularity of social media – has created a seismic shift in consumer behaviour. Now, wielding their GPS-enabled phones, social media users are more comfortable than ever before in sharing information about their lives, and also expect instantaneous access to information and purchasing no matter where they are in the world.
According to the report, the majority of marketers say mobile is key to information search, and to a lesser extent, sales (32% of respondents have received direct bookings via mobile devices). While mobile users’ interaction with travel brands throughout their life cycle is analogous to that of social media users, mobile is clearly more important to users while they travel and pre-purchase. Helping travellers to conduct pre-purchase research, facilitating travel with everything from smartphone-based boarding passes to itineraries and other aggregation technologies, to accessing on-the-go details in a live guidebook app are among the approaches that travel companies have taken to staying with their customers via app. Indeed, 38% of those surveyed agreed that investing in mobile has improved consumer engagement.
Location-based services are another way brands can access the power of mobile without necessarily having their own app. Third-party reports say the burgeoning LBS marketplace will see consumer and advertiser expenditures approaching $10 billion by 2016, primarily driven by advertisers targeting consumers by location-enhanced search.
Measuring ROI in the mobile space seems to be a highly divisive subject. Mobile is clearly working for some companies. Those which have invested in apps or mobile-optimized websites cite improved engagement with customers. Mobile works for some companies because they can point to direct bookings, while almost an equal number say it has generated very little or no ROI.
Travel marketers say 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 cited customer service and maintaining in-trip contact with customers as being valuable returns on their investments. As for what doesn’t work, respondents say that mobile strategies fail due to insufficient time and resource allocation, highlighted the report.