Why Mobile Matters for Travel Marketers

App use on iphoneAnyone who’s read this blog (or the main blog), knows that I think mobile’s going to be huge. All signs point to that fact.

Not “forecast.” Or “prediction.” Or “guess.”

Fact.

Whether it’s Booking.com tripling its mobile business last year or (according to Business Travel News), Choice getting 10% of its bookings from mobile or La Quinta getting 23% of its traffic from mobile, mobile is beginning to represent some meaningful numbers.

And as the Business Travel News article linked above highlights, the growth these players shared “…does not take into account the growing volume of bookings from third-party mobile sites and apps, available not only from the legacy online travel agencies but the ever-expanding list of startups targeting the hotel sector.”

Guests and passengers and travelers in general use mobile because it helps them accomplish their goals. Both research and my experience suggest that consumers no longer care about “channels” or, for that matter, devices. They’ll use whatever’s handy — desktop, laptop, tablet, or mobile phone — to meet their needs. In fact, Pew notes that a growing number of people use their mobile phone as their primary means of accessing the Internet, bypassing the desktop altogether (while some of Pew’s research in this area refers primarily to teens, A. it’s also true many older demographics use “cell-mostly” internet, and B. Gen Y and Millennial demographic cohorts represent your customers in just a few years).

Why do travelers use mobile so much?

Because it’s always at hand.

Literally.

So, the fact remains, your guests and passengers increasingly rely on mobile to research, shop, browse, and buy travel and related services. The question is: Are you helping them?

Interested in more? Sign up for our free newsletter to get more information on how to build your social, local, mobile marketing strategy. You might also enjoy some of our past coverage of mobile, including:

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The Key to Social Media Success

Social media successFew businesses have faced as much competitive pressure over the last decade as travel agents. Those who’ve survived have done so by connecting effectively with their customers, addressing real needs, and providing excellent service.

But the growth of social media has introduced a new variable to travel agents’ relationships with their clients, one that many struggle to navigate. The latest issue of Travel Agent Magazine features a cover story, “Social Media Tips From the Experts,” all about how travel agents — and anyone in the travel space, really — can use social media to connect with their clients in ever more effective ways. The piece features tips from a number of leading social media marketing experts, including our own Tim Peter.

Among the tips Tim shared with the magazine was this advice:

“Think about what’s of value to your customers,” Peter says. “Travel agents should be better at this than a lot of other people because you talk to customers every day. What are the things your clients ask you all the time? That’s great info to share.”

Content marketing — itself core to any social media marketing efforts — challenges marketers to continually generate new content. But any business person, travel agent or otherwise, who talks to customers regularly knows what really matters to those customers. Or should.

Creating deep relationships with customers depends on first listening to what your customers say and working to understand what customers actually need. Of course, the understanding is as important as the listening. Henry Ford famously said, “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Ford translated “faster horses” into serving a real need: providing reliable, inexpensive, and, yes, faster transportation.

Your social media efforts should aim for the same goal. First, listen to what your customers and clients say, on social channels as well as offline. Then understand what those customers need. Then, finally, engage with customers to address those needs.

By the way, the article as a whole is filled with a ton of tips you can use, regardless of your industry or occupation. Check it out if you get the chance.

And, if you’re interested in more, sign up for our free newsletter to get more information on how to build your social, local, mobile marketing strategy. You might also enjoy some of our past coverage of social, including:

Booking.com just announced something amazing

The growth of mobile So, I don’t normally cover press releases, but this one’s worth mentioning:Priceline subsidiary Booking.com reported late last week that their mobile booking revenue tripled last year. Which would be impressive, until you consider that it tripled to $3 billion from $1 billion in 2011. That’s billion. With a “b.”

Um… wow.

I gave a talk this morning to a group of travel and hospitality companies about how big mobile’s going to be. And I referenced items like the growth of the millennial market, how to handle the iOS/Android debate, and all that jazz. But, by any standard, those are some impressive results. I’m thinking there might be something to this mobile web business after all.

Interested in more? Sign up for our free newsletter and get more information on how to build your social, local, mobile marketing strategy. And, if you’ve got a minute, you might enjoy some past coverage of mobile, including:

What Are Your Customers Actually Buying?

Customer satisfactionWhy do airlines suck? That’s the question raised by the just-released Airline Quality Rating Report for 2012 [PDF link]. The report suggests that airlines increasingly get the operational details right. But, despite these successes, customer complaints also continue to grow.

Why?

Well, as NBC News notes,

“…rising customer dissatisfaction with the airlines goes beyond the basics of operational performance. While the AQR analyzes quantitative measures, there are obviously qualitative difference between the various carriers. After all, an airline can be on time, lose few bags and not bump a soul — and still provide a miserable flying experience thanks to cramped seats, lousy food and fees for everything beyond a seat belt and oxygen mask.

“The air transportation experience is suffering from issues that are not measured in the DOT [Department of Transportation] or AQR [Airline Quality Rating],” said Charlie Leocha, director of the Consumer Travel Alliance. For Leocha, other issues, such as proliferating fees, confusing code-share rules and policies that make it difficult for families to sit together without paying extra, add fuel to the flames of passenger frustration.”

This is top of mind for me right now, as I’m talking to a group of travel executives next week about customer experience and the high cost of ignoring value (a topic I’ve addressed before).

Travel is an unusual product, in that, for the most part, there’s no tangible good. Someone buying a cashmere sweater at Saks or Target, a book from Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or a mobile phone from Best Buy or Verizon takes home a physical object, some thing they can touch and live with again and again, day after day.

Travel doesn’t work that way. You get one shot to get it right. The experience is everything. One bad experience might mean a lost future sale — or worse if they write an online review trashing your product/service and let the rest of the world know exactly how bad you treated them (whether justified or not).

Marketers offering hotels, airlines, rental cars, cruise lines, and rail — or packaging the whole shebang — to their customers have to continually look for ways to improve the experience. This isn’t about going above and beyond customer expectations; for many components of the travel experience, just meeting the customer expectation would be a step in the right direction. Sad, but true. As AQR author Dean Headley notes in the NBC piece, “The sad part is that when I get back from a trip and people ask me how my flight was, the best I can say is it was uneventful.”

Interested in more? Sign up for our free newsletter and get more information on how to build your social, local, mobile marketing strategy. And, if you’ve got a minute, you might enjoy some past coverage of customer experience in marketing, including:

And, don’t forget, you can have me speak at your next event, too.