Beacons and Passbook Offer Versatile Mobile Tools to Engage Millennial Travelers

Today’s travel and hospitality companies are operating in the age of the “Now Generation” – a generation of millennial travelers who are proving themselves to be the industry’s fastest-growing and most influential customers. Millennials, also known as Generation Y and typically defined as those born from the early 1980s to the late 1990s, are a generation that has never experienced life without computers. For this reason among others, these always-connected travelers have come to represent a crucial market segment for travel and hospitality companies to engage with.

Millennials’ amount of travel and mobile use are eye-opening. Consider that, according to a report by the World Youth Student and Educational Travel Confederation, by 2020, 320 million international trips are expected to be made by young travelers each year, a 47 percent increase from 217 million in 2013. These travelers are also spending more than their Generation X and baby boomer counterparts, with millennials having increased their spending on travel by 20 percent in 2013 and surpassing the 12 percent average year-over-year increase of all U.S. households. What’s more, millennials’ use of mobile is huge, with 43 percent using their phones every five minutes, 49 percent planning as well as booking trips on their smartphones, 84 percent saying user-generated content has a real impact on their travel decisions, and 57 percent updating social media every day while traveling.

In essence, if you’re not targeting through the mobile channel, you may well be targeting for failure, and for this reason, implementing a full-scale, cross-channel mobile engagement strategy should be at the top of every travel and hospitality company’s agenda. But with so many mobile communication channels available today – including everything from text messages and emails to push notifications and social media updates – how can a travel or hospitality company choose the best and most effective methods to engage their millennial customers?

From my recent work with customers and more than 18 years in mobile, I’ve gained several insights on developing successful mobile engagement strategies for millennials, and in this post I would like to share a few of those with you. In particular, I’m finding that two new mobile tools, beacons and “light apps,” like Apple’s Passbook, are helping travel and hospitality companies engage with millennial travelers as never before, providing timely and hyperpersonalized information at every point of their journey, on every mobile device they carry.

Beacons are small wireless devices that constantly broadcast radio signals to nearby smartphones and tablets. Think of a beacon as a lighthouse emitting light in regular intervals. A travel or hospitality company’s mobile app can listen for that signal and react in some way, effectively triggering a real-time location-based action in the app, such as the delivery of a coupon or discount based on a customer’s proximity to a certain product.

Passbook helps consumers keeps things like airline boarding passes, movie tickets, and gift cards all in one place, letting customers scan their iPhone or iPod touch to check in for a flight, get into a movie, redeem a coupon, and more. Even without a native capability to power transactions, Passbook has helped a handful of big businesses boost their loyalty programs and significantly extend their mobile footprint.

Both tools help marketers increase the effectiveness of their communications by making them mobile which, as I stated earlier, is the critical channel for engaging influential millennials. Using the two tools, here are three use cases that I think can offer travel and hospitality companies new and powerful ways to engage those travelers:

  • Dynamic Travel Alerts – Keeping travelers informed on the details of their journey with relevant, timely updates can form an important element of an engagement strategy. I’ve found that these alerts are must-haves for information-hungry millennials. Using a light app such as Passbook to deliver dynamic travel alerts can be a simple way for travel companies to communicate itinerary changes in real time to mobile devices without requiring the traveler to open an app.
  • Personalized Offers – Special offers that are timely and relevant provide an important way to engage customers through mobile, and I think they are critical for reaching millennials. New mobile technologies have created a world of new possibilities for tech-savvy millennials to interact with their favorite brands in richer ways,  and millennials increasingly crave engagement in context to their particular usage. Beacons offer a versatile new tool to enable this. For example, hotels can leverage beacons to determine the location of guests’ opted-in mobile devices while they are on a property. Using this, the hotel can send a relevant offer, either by text message, by email, through an app, or through a tool like Passbook, which can be redeemed by a guest on-site, such as for a coupon for a free cocktail with dinner when a guest is near the hotel restaurant, or a coupon that can be redeemed for discounted hotel merchandise.


Email offers can be redeemed through Passbook
and provide an easy way to reach travelers. 

  • Enhanced Loyalty Programs – Loyalty programs offer another strategic mobile channel to engage millennials through. I constantly see that millennials love to earn loyalty points and earn special rewards, so enhancing these interactions through mobile offers a major engagement opportunity. To make it quicker and easier to keep track of frequent flier miles, for example, an airline can use Passbook to dynamically update a traveler’s account balance and itinerary. Additionally, by using beacons inside of an airport terminal or even on board a plane, airlines can deliver real-time, relevant loyalty offers like discounts for certain airport stores or on in-flight drink purchases based on a customer’s location.


Frequent-flier miles can be automatically
updated in Passbook.

These are just a few of the use cases I’m working on with customers today, but the opportunities to optimize engagement with millenial travelers by using these mobile communication methods are many.

I’d be interested to hear if and how you are employing tools like light apps and beacons for your business, especially for engaging the always-connected millennial audience. Please share your thoughts in the comments section.


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About the Author ()

Paul Kingsbury is a former Business Development Director at Syniverse.

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