5 Reasons Travel Brands Should Focus on Messaging
Mobile messaging has long been a popular way for people to connect with friends and family, and in recent years consumers have increasingly turned to messaging to interact with travel brands of all types, from airlines and train lines to hotels and resorts.
Now, with the COVID-19 outbreak impacting people and businesses across the globe, we’ve seen messaging volume grow even more. In many of the countries hit hardest by the virus, total messaging increased by more than 50% in March.
The general trend of travelers turning to chat combined with the recent spike in usage means it has never been more important to have a strong messaging infrastructure in place. To help understand how to connect with consumers through these challenging times and beyond, here are five reasons messaging travel businesses is becoming the new normal, as well as a few key things to keep in mind when developing experiences.
1. Messaging is immensely popular
Fundamentally, messaging has been on the rise in the travel sector because consumers were already widely embracing it as a way to communicate in their day-to-day lives.Just how widely? Some 87% of the world’s smartphone population now send and receive chat messages, and more than 100 billion messages are exchanged on Facebook’s products alone each day.Messaging is also immensely popular with businesses: More than 40 million firms globally are active on Messenger and ads that click to Messenger are one of Facebook’s fastest growing formats.
2. Messaging is intuitive
Today’s consumers want a quick, reliable way to communicate with businesses that feels natural. They expect businesses to address their needs quickly, but they also seek the flexibility to respond when it’s most convenient for them. Messaging checks all these boxes, which is why 64% of people say they would prefer to message rather than call a business, and 60% say they are open to receiving personal messages from companies.
Messaging apps also have the advantage of familiarity: They are already on many people’s mobile devices, so they don’t require downloading anything new, dealing with additional notifications, or learning new interfaces.
This combination of convenience and familiarity means brands can easily engage consumers via messaging apps. For example, Canadian airline WestJet created a custom experience for Messenger named Juliet in 2019 to help personify its brand, and this created a 24% lift in positive sentiment among travelers and increased the number of messages WestJet can support by 5X.
3. Messaging is immediate
One of messaging’s biggest advantages is that communication happens in real time, unlike channels such as email.
This immediacy is key in the travel sector given the time sensitive nature of many interactions, especially in times of crisis. With messaging, travelers can get notifications and updates in real time, ask pressing questions, and make itinerary changes while on the go.
For example, airline KLM—which was one of the first airlines to leverage Messenger to transform their customers' journeys by delivering boarding passes, flight updates and more in a single, convenient place—has used WhatsApp in 2019 to send real-time booking confirmations, flight status updates and gate assignments to hundreds of thousands of customers. The brand has also used the messaging service to keep family and friends informed about flight arrivals.˝
4. Messaging allows for communication at scale
Thanks to technological advances, messaging now has a key advantage over other channels for travel brands: It allows for communication at scale.
Specifically, advances in natural language programming and AI have made automations more sophisticated and user friendly, allowing for companies to address the specific needs of many consumers at the same time.
An example of this in action is GlobeAir, which partnered with WhatsApp Business API solutions provider Tyntec to implement WhatsApp messaging tools in 2019 as one of its major communication channels to provide a smoother customer experience, especially during peak business periods, which resulted in a 33% decrease in time taken to address customer queries.7 This increased bandwidth can be especially valuable in times of crisis, when employees may be overwhelmed with requests.
5. Messaging enables personalized engagement
What makes messaging unique isn’t just that it enables communication at scale, it’s that it enables personalized communication at scale.
By combining chat with automated and AI-driven systems, brands can target information and offers precisely to individual travelers. This increases relevance, which is exactly what people want: 91% of consumers say they are more likely to buy from brands that remember who they are and that provide relevant recommendations.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that by handling simple requests, automation enables travel brands to do more. For example, luxury resort Marina Bay Sands in Singapore developed an experience for Messenger in 2019 that automatically responds to basic requests and provides recommendations, freeing up staff to provide personalized support for more complex issues.
Taken together, messaging’s combination of popularity, convenience, immediacy, scalability and personalization make it well suited for engaging travelers. However, the execution must be right to succeed.A Spectrm study of 242 leading brands found 45% didn’t respond within five days when messaged via their Facebook pages.9 Moreover, many travel firms do not supplement their automated offerings with staff who can tackle queries too complex for automation.Ultimately, chat must be responsive and sophisticated to meet consumers’ needs—especially in challenging times when travelers want interactions to be fast and efficient. The good news for travel brands is that if executed correctly, messaging can be a powerful and convenient tool for engaging consumers.
What it means for marketers
Meet people’s expectation of convenience with messaging.
Ensure you have the infrastructure in place to support a strong ecosystem around your messaging experience.
Anticipate what people want to talk about.