The numbers around texting are jaw-dropping. Facebook and WhatsApp combined deliver 60 billion messages a day. Plus, there are another 20 billion SMSs sent each day. And we aren’t even counting messages on other leading applications like Line, Viber, Skype, Hangouts, Allo, WeChat, Signal and Slack, a majority of which have the convenience of smartphone and desktop usage. The question is: With so much messaging, who has the time to talk? In 2015, text messages outranked calls in the US. On an average, smartphone users spent 26 minutes a day texting and just 21 minutes talking. This trend is rising worldwide, pushed along by the habits and behavior of millennials. And this trend is drawing savvy marketers to re-asses their strategies. Marketing money is no longer going where the mouth is. It is being liberally applied to texting.
The trend could mean sunset for several contact centers. Contact centers, preferred by Generation X, became hot property because of the personal connect and empathy they created with a real voice at the other end of the line. By contrast, millennials don’t want intrusive conversations. They don’t want the pain of transcribing or making notes from phone conversations. They want to multitask; and texting fits the bill perfectly. With only 30% mobile users receiving texts from companies, this behavioral trait presents an unprecedented opportunity to address potential customers.
Businesses are already leveraging this trend. Booking.com has a text service that enables users to interact with hotels before and after their stay. More importantly, it also allows hotels to initiate conversations with their guests. Expedia too has quickly followed with an identical service.
For long marketers have focused on promotional aspect of messaging to cross sell and upsell products/services by providing coupons, offers. It is important to understand that the value proposition of the channel will be undermined if it’s solely used for promotions. To make the channel more meaningful, marketers should focus on other service offerings. Some of the top focus areas for text marketing in the travel, hospitality & leisure industry could be:
While adopting text messaging as a marketing tool is inevitable, the race is on to ensure that the tool can continue to deliver more value. For example, organizations can use chatbots – a mix of natural language processing, machine learning, semantic ontologies, pattern recognition and data and knowledge modelling technologies – to improve the speed and efficacy of their text marketing capabilities. Basically, customers should be able to engage in basic conversations with chatbots and get quick, contextual and accurate replies. When you say, “Find me a hotel in Miami”, the app should produce a response that fits your travel dates, budgets and existing hospitality memberships. Or, “What’s the Wi-Fi password?” should be answered promptly without having to call the front desk. Other than customer acquisition and service, messaging as a marketing tool can also support customer loyalty programs of hotels by reducing the burden on their customer support centers. Through a seamless integration with the backend data systems, most common queries like “what is my reward balance?”, “when will my reward points be awarded to me?” can easily be managed via messaging.
The bigger innovation in texting will be when text applications and chatbots are integrated with digital devices such as Amazon Echo and Google Home — which in turn are networked with other devices (a TV for example) and can leverage their capabilities (show a quick video in response to a request). Of course, when fun things like emoticons are thrown into these conversations, everything gets even more engaging.
With complex capabilities that messaging can bring about, things can also begin to go wrong very quickly like in this experience shared by a consumer where artificial intelligence was not really helpful and resulted in a more artificial than intelligent conversation.
What’s important is to not abandon efforts in this direction and do the next best thing – paying attention to customer feedback and adapt. Organizations should understand that when customers find text applications useful and unobtrusive, they become fans and fans turn into loyal customers bringing in more new customers into the fold.
Adding messaging to your travel brand’s marketing mix can help you create more of such loyal fans and with our extensive experience in chatbots technology, we can help you do this well. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to unearth the power of messaging through chatbots for your travel brand.
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