Many of today’s travelers view mobile travel apps as the simply the newest method to quickly and conveniently research, book, and modify destination and bookings - a shortcut or way around working with a traditional brick and mortar travel agency or even an online travel agency or management company. But for those within the travel industry, particularly travel agencies themselves, mobile travel apps are a key marketing tool travel agencies can leverage to increase deploy modern customer engagement campaigns and increase customer retention.
A recent survey published by Euromonitor International found roughly 44 percent of travel bookings completed during 2016 will be done via mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets, and the use of mobile travel apps is also expected to play a large part in these bookings. Must-have market segments for travel agencies in today’s travel industry like millennials and travelers from emerging markets are spending more and more of their time online, incorporating apps into their daily lives in unprecedented numbers.
With so much of the conversation surrounding tourism and travel taking place in this online and mobile-centric landscape, travel agencies must incorporate mobile travel apps into their customer relations platform in order to remain a part of the aforementioned conversation and foster an on-going dialogue with potential customers. With that in mind, let’s examine several ways in which mobile travel apps can help travel agencies promote customer retention and experience long-term growth in today’s travel industry.
The travel industry is one that pivots on the delivery of information - and this is only exacerbated by the rise of mobile technology and social media, both of which place high value on the speed and ease of the distribution of information. For travel agencies in the 21st Century, the capability to disseminate information to customers in a quick reliable manner is a core driver in efficiency and productivity, and the engaging mobile travel apps as a vehicle to deliver information to customers in this way is a value added proposition for travel agencies in fostering customer retention. Imagine a traveler is scheduled to tour a winery in Northern Italy, but the prospect of inclement weather has forced the winery to cease operations for that day. A travel agency can use a mobile travel app to alert our traveler to the situation and perhaps even suggest similar, alternate activities in replacement.
Utilizing mobile travel apps in this manner not only allows travel agencies to stay on top of developments or occurrences like this and inform travelers about them at minimal cost and investment, but it also provides travelers with a sense of personalization and connection between them and the travel agency, which consistently ranks as an important concern to travelers when deciding which travel agency to work with in booking trips.
As we saw in our example with the winery tour, mobile travel apps allow for easy delivery of crucial information about the status of travel bookings or tours. While an important feature of mobile travel apps, these notifications also function as an important mode of communication between travel agencies and travelers, which is key in turning a one-time customer into a returning customer. Alerts or notifications aside, mobile travel apps allow travel agencies to remain in constant communication with customers through each step of the purchasing process and beyond - research, status updates, changes or modifications in itineraries, and more. This direct channel of communication not only provides peace of mind for customers - a crucial point of leverage in fostering customer retention - but it also allows travel agencies to position special or tailored offers to customers based on prior browsing or purchasing habits.
This level of personalization through communication provides travel agencies with valuable feedback and insight into customer profiles, wants, and desires, and allows travel agencies to create targeted offers with the highest possible rate of return or success.
Before, During, and After
Because mobile travel apps make it simple and easy for travel agencies to alert travelers to alterations and disruptions in itineraries, as well as remain in constant communication via target offers, recommendations, and feedback, travel agencies are no longer relegated to merely following-up with travelers after they’ve returned home - rather, travel agencies can check-in with customers during any stage of their trip to solicit feedback, present offers, or alert travelers to changes in plans or bookings. This ability provides travel agencies the flexibility and agility necessary to alter bookings during a customer’s travels based on real-time feedback. For example, imagine a customer toured a commercial bakery in San Francisco, but found the tour to be boring and overpriced. Because travel agencies can check-in with customers during their trip, they can receive feedback about this activity and use it as actionable data to decide whether to continue promoting this tour to other customers.
As you can see, mobile travel apps, especially for travel agencies, are less about providing customers the ability to make expedient bookings - though that functionality is important - and more about using this technology as a tool to broaden customer relations and enhance customer retention. If the travel industry, like so many others, is about creating repeat customers, then travel agencies must leverage mobile travel apps as a way to create lasting dialogues between themselves and today’s modern traveler.