Few industries serve an audience as upwardly mobile as the travel and hospitality industries. Capturing the attention of busy consumers and building brand loyalty are ongoing challenges. Fortunately, mobility has made it easier to keep in constant contact with customers, allowing brands to provide their customers with the utility and content that encourages purchases and forges lasting relationships.
If you think about it, mobile devices are our ultimate travel companions. We take them wherever we go, and we rely on them constantly for critical information and help with accomplishing important tasks. We have a relationship with these devices. That’s why mobility presents such a valuable opportunity for the hospitality and travel industries. According to Hospitality Technology, 70% of hotels are expected to employ mobile apps by 2015. Mobile’s versatility offers intriguing possibilities. Hotels can now reach out to guests based on their physical locations and offer tools, like remote check-in/out and digital room keys, that eliminate one unpleasant aspect of traveling—waiting in line. Digital payments streamline transactions and decrease the number of items travelers need to carry around. Mobile reservation systems allow you to book a hotel room or make a restaurant reservation in your destination city while you wait to board your departing flight. All of these features combined help brands build long-term relationships with their customers.
Loyalty programs used to depend entirely on punch cards or mountains of fine print. It was complicated. Now, it’s far easier on both the customer’s wallet and sanity to keep everything safely organized on a phone or tablet. A recent Forbes and Adobe poll indicated that 31% of companies believe the purpose of deploying mobile apps is to increase customer retention and inspire loyalty. Oftentimes, that quality retention comes after brands provide customers with interesting information or useful functionality—techniques that are changing the nature of loyalty programs. While loyalty programs still benefit companies by increasing share of spend, for their customers, it’s not just about points anymore. It’s also about convenience. Personalized offers, such as alerts when a favorite restaurant has a location nearby, are a welcome dose of familiarity for most road-worn travelers. Users get what they want, how they want it, creating loyalty through positive experiences.
The game has changed. Interactions between hospitality brands and their customers were once a series of one-way communications—an airline created an ad campaign, then a customer booked a flight. Nowadays, the relationship is far more conversational, with brands and customers talking back and forth constantly. And mobility is facilitating these conversations. The same goes for every conceivable transaction. Customers want to be able to search, book, buy, enroll, ask and share. And they want to be able to tell everyone they know about what they’re doing, from wherever they are, via social media. Self-service is not limited to making reservations and plans. Customers can take advantage of convenient options like checking themselves into their rooms, accessing boarding passes from their mobile phones or paying for a meal without reaching for their wallets.
While we’re all familiar with the consumer-facing apps available for download in the app store, half of the disruption and innovation is coming from the apps powering employees—whether it’s Uber drivers, restaurant staff, train conductors, commercial airplane pilots, airport staff or front desk attendants. Moving forward, we’ll continue to see apps that improve customer service, increase productivity, collect customer data, increase sales and improve employee satisfaction.
The travel and hospitality industry is particularly well-primed to take advantage of big data. Travel companies can leverage analytics to improve the customer experience as well as business operations, such as pricing and yield management. One of the biggest opportunities lies in applying the insights gained from big data to personalize offerings to various target audiences. For example, a hotel may be able to predict that a customer will be interested in a pet-friendly room. Travel booking site Hipmunk.com uses big data to predict what travelers want. By analyzing customer profiles, social graphs, airline data and reviews, Hipmunk tailors the booking experience to individual needs. Big data also plays a huge role in customer relationship management. Now, companies can easily identify their best customers and ensure that loyalty offers are tailored to customers who are not only the most profitable, but also demonstrate potential to have high lifetime value.