Four Mobile Factors Redefining the Travel Experience: Part 2

I recently shared how my work with customers in the travel and hospitality sector has led me to form two key insights on how today’s latest mobile technologies are creating new opportunities to redefine the industry. In this post, part two, I would like to share two more insights on this topic.

In particular, in the first post, I explained how, more and more, I’m observing that travel companies must be prepared to use mobile to engage with consumers as never before, providing timely and hyperpersonalized information at every point of a traveler’s journey. This included, first, that I increasingly see travel companies and their partners entering a new era in which they can transform their mobile experiences with consumers through the use of greater and more detailed information, or big data. Second, I described how I see travel companies moving beyond big data to use what’s being termed “little data,” or the application of big data to serve micro-customer segments and individual users.

In this post, I would like to build on these factors by shedding light on how privacy and multi-channel mobile engagement are altering the travel experience. Today’s travelers increasingly rely on their mobile devices and want to be engaged by brands on those devices while they travel. However, travel companies need to be aware that the wealth of both big and little data provided by travelers’ mobile devices increases the need for a focus on privacy, both to protect the consumer and ensure that travel companies meet the strict requirements laid out by mobile’s governing bodies. As I describe below, I think the need to protect personal information and the need for interaction will play important parts in informing travel companies’ mobile strategies.

  1. Privacy – The advanced technology available in today’s mobile handsets and networks offers the power to track our individual usage patterns as never before. Now companies have the capability to unlock greater-than-ever access to us and acquire specific data through such things as tracking our locations, recording our purchasing trends, and monitoring what channels we like to communicate through. Yet with the availability of this “mobile context” data, there lies a tremendous vulnerability. Consumers face the threat of having private information revealed to or misused by outside parties. For this reason, I increasingly see that it’s critical for mobile marketers to understand that it’s their relationship with the customer that governs what they can do – what one of my colleagues, Rob Hammond, likes to call the “creepy/cool factor.” Just as you may pull away when a casual acquaintance shares too much information about himself, a customer can withdraw if a company goes too far past a customer’s comfort level. The opposite is also true, though, with situations where a friend shares something only he and you will understand that becomes a rewarding experience that draws you in to get more. Following from this, I think it’s imperative for travel companies to be able to absolutely ensure the protection of any mobile context data that they use, and also to use that mobile context data wisely. They can do this by, first, making sure they have a responsible conversation with each consumer and gain her or his explicit opt-in for the use of any personal data, however small. Second, they must demonstrate that they are worthy of having access to this data and that they are respectful of each customer by only sending relevant communications that fall on the cool rather than creepy side.
  2. Multi-channel Mobile Engagement – It’s truly staggering how today’s sophisticated mobile devices, innovative apps and advanced multimedia capabilities have opened a new world of possibilities and expectations for us to interact with our favorite brands. New channels offered through apps and social media have converged with more traditional channels like messaging and email to present an ever-expanding range of options for us to choose from to suit our preferences. Consequently, reaching and, more importantly, engaging consumers through one primary channel has become ever-complex in a more and more fragmented mobile landscape. Consumers not only gravitate toward their favorite channels to communicate, they set the agenda on how they want to communicate through these channels, and  travel companies must fulfill new roles to deliver on these engagement expectations. Specifically, travel companies must have a multi-channel mobile strategy to be able to reach consumers with a communication how and when consumers want it. As a customer-service example, when an airline has to communicate a flight delay, it must know and be ready to communicate this to each customer scheduled for the flight through each customer’s preferred channel. This could include a phone call, text message, email, push notification, or even a social media posting, and what’s more, the airline should have an escalation strategy that includes a combination of several channels that could be used to reach a customer if the customer doesn’t respond to the first or second channel. Critically, today’s smartphone-empowered consumers are Internet-connected all the time, expect immediate interaction, and aren’t shy about turning to social media to broadcast any negative experiences. One famous example of this that has made its way across the Internet communicates an experience that some frustrated diners had in a restaurant that made them wait too long. The diners took customer-service criticism into their own hands and posted an unforgettable image on social media. With this expectation and power by consumers, travel companies must be prepared with a multi-channel strategy to respond to and engage with consumers through the right channels when it comes to their mobile interactions.

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I would love to get your thoughts on the role that privacy and multi-channel engagement are playing in redefining the mobile travel experience. What channels do you prefer to use to communicate with your favorite travel brands through mobile?

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Paul Kingsbury is a former Business Development Director at Syniverse.

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