Emerging technologies are changing not just how travel brands do business but also when they do it. After years of intense focus on the moment of conversion, travel companies are beginning to reach travelers much earlier in the search and discovery process. Connecting with travelers in a meaningful way before they’re in the buying funnel, guiding them in seamlessly and creating a highly personalized booking experience has major benefits for travel brands
By making an impact earlier in the inspiration phase, travel brands are better able to achieve true personalization further down the purchase path, which improves results and makes for happier travelers. According to a joint 2017 study from Phocuswright and Google, nearly 60 percent of travelers believe brands should personalize their communications based on personal preferences or past behaviors, and when it comes to millennials, they absolutely expect it. However, when companies rate themselves on personalization, just 12 percent give themselves five stars and 75 percent give themselves three or fewer, according to Skift’s 2017 Digital Transformation Report. There’s a lot of room for improvement.
What’s different about today’s emerging tech is that solutions offered by Google and Facebook not only improve business for the brands but also give travelers more of what they want when they want it. In a rare moment, everyone is gaining on the investment.
Facebook’s Trip Consideration audience
Unveiled in March this year, Trip Consideration offers new marketing opportunities for travel brands, allowing them to “optimize ad delivery to people who have shown general travel intent but have not yet expressed intent for a specific destination.”
Based on a user’s Facebook, Instagram or Audience Network behavior, Facebook determines a desire to travel and delivers those users to brands. With access to an audience that is very early in the inspiration phase, brands can drive them into the purchase funnel and follow up with dynamic marketing (e.g., videos or interactive content) to generate future conversions.
What brands get is consideration as early as possible on the path to purchase with travelers who have expressed an intent to travel. What travelers get is access on social media (where a vast majority go for inspiration) to travel destinations, brands and services they may not have considered.
Google makes (big) strides in travel
While Google has pivoted many times in an attempt to gain a stronger foothold in the travel industry, the search giant may have found two entry points for a competitive edge.
Google Hotel Ads has launched chain loyalty rates, which offers brands the opportunity to display special rates for guests who enroll in loyalty programs. The special offers are displayed in the same window with OTA rates, giving brands an opportunity to position themselves more competitively.
Regarding new technology, however, Google has rolled out a series of mobile interface changes. Just over a quarter of travelers surveyed in the Skift’s 2017 Digital Transformation Report said they prefer either smartphones or tablets when researching travel products and destinations.
One of the tools shows price trends, which allows consumers to see hotel prices 90 days out. This gives them critical insights early in their planning process and, in theory, can generate fresh leads for hotels with competitive rates. A new “show all” feature on the Google mobile platform delivers a complete list of geo-relevant hotels within their preferred brand—i.e., travelers can see all the Hyatt hotels in Miami or the Marriott hotels in Omaha.
What brands get is that hotels can finally start to even the playing field between desktop and mobile with Google’s mobile changes, converting more travelers in the increasingly competitive mobile environment. Consider Google’s tech investment a way for hotels to enhance mobile marketing while shoring up branded mobile strategies. What travelers get is access to competitive rates earlier in the search process in comparison to other sites (as opposed to receiving competitive rates late in the pathway and only on the brand website).
Travel brands have every reason to be excited after years of fierce competition with third parties over their share of profits and ownership of the guest relationship. Much of the emerging technology drives a higher volume of inquiries from the very beginning, drives up direct bookings and results in an overall better guest experience. While new tech may at times feel risky, this fresh set of offerings is anything but.