Even without the statistics, we know that mobile usage as a method for communication is on the rise. It also goes without saying that most of this time (nearly 90%) is spent on apps.
Think of how you use your phone – your weekly screen report will likely indicate that the bulk of the time was on social media or messaging apps. We use mobile to connect.
Considering the familiarity we have with both mediums, it becomes apparent that using messaging apps for travel bookings is going to increasingly play a part in how people interact with companies selling the services they are after. After all, they provide a quick and convenient way of connecting.
Which Apps Should Your Travel Business Be Active On
As is the case with social media, different messaging platforms serve different purposes and reach different types of travelers at different stages of the funnel. The trick is to then decide which one is best suited to meet your business’ needs.
Let’s take a look at some of the statistics and best uses of two of the main contenders.
Based on the number of monthly users, WhatsApp has an astounding 1.5 billion people accessing it on a monthly basis.
Unlike facebook messenger which provides a bit of context through profiles, there is more separation between a travel business and a traveler on WhatsApp. Combined with the fact that you need a phone number to communicate, the messaging app is best suited for communication once a customer is in the booking funnel.
Whatsapp enjoys high-end encryption which makes it super secure. As a result, communication such as confirmations, updates, reminders, QR codes, and customer service all work well on the platform.
You can also set up opt-in newsletter groups and send your latest offers, marketing materials, an invitation to an event, etc. in a simple and short message that includes just the highlights to capture attention.
The recently launched WhatsApp For Business platform, allows companies to create a free account which displays relevant information such as working hours, website, email address, contact numbers, etc on the profile.
Tools on the platform include quick replies which let you save templates of messages you use often so you can answer questions quickly, and automated messages to let people know if you are away or inform them of any relevant updates to their travel booking.
You also get access to message statistics as well as Whatsapp web which means that the messaging app can be run from your desktop or laptop, and not only your phone.
KLM is an example of a travel business leveraging the messaging app to improve customer experience. If travelers opt in for the service, they will receive their booking confirmation, check-in notification, boarding pass and flight status updates on WhatsApp.
Next in line is Facebook Messenger with a very healthy 1.3 billion monthly active users. 8 billion messages are sent between people and businesses per month, and over 300,000 chatbots are active on the platform.
Because of the wide user-base of both businesses and travelers and the instant nature of the response, the platform is a good place for most forms of communication. This includes responding to informational and booking queries, confirmations, customer service issues, privately solve customer complaints, help travelers buy your product, and then messenger ads to upsell and cross sell, etc.
There is no need to think of the service in basic terms either, as the platform provides great functionality when it comes to organizing and responding to travelers messages. You can create categories, view people’s profiles, set a greeting, away, or instant response message, share your location, etc.
Airline KLM is certainly making the most of messaging apps as they are present on messenger too and reported a 40% increase in customer interactions from using the platform.
How Do Messaging Apps Give Your Business An Edge
Improve Customer Satisfaction
We are all familiar with the nature of messaging apps, and most people will agree that using them implies a more instant response is expected once communication has been sent out.
What this means for a travel business communicating via instant message, is that the experience needs to be an instant one too. Quick turnaround times to supply information means a greater chance of securing bookings as traveler’s questions will be answered on the spot, reducing abandonment rates.
They Can Connect With Chatbot Technology
Of course, it is not possible to be online all the time, and this is where AI can step in and help. Travelers are active throughout different time zones and of course after hours too, so a chatbot can be set up to respond when you need to go offline.
HiJiffy created a messenger booking engine and chatbot for hotels which connects through Facebook messenger and allows travelers to book, check-in and discuss traveling plans through it. Anything it doesn’t understand and a human agent will take over.
It’s not just answering questions and providing information either, AI technology is being used to assist on messaging apps for travel bookings. As an example, hotel booking service SnapTravel uses a combination of human and chatbot technology to respond to people on messenger with travel options. 2017 saw them bring in 1 million in bookings revenue from the app.
What Travelers Expect When Using Messaging Apps For Travel Bookings And Information
Receive Reservations, Confirmations, And Reminders
As travelers are becoming more comfortable communicating with chatbots and even prefer to self-serve over speaking to a travel agent, using messaging apps for travel bookings makes sense.
They expect assistance with reservations, as well as to receive confirmations and reminders before their travel event. Responding through messaging apps will give travelers the instant gratification they are after, and your business quicker conversion times.
To Build A Relationship With Your Brand
Once you have happy customers on board, you want to keep things that way. Of course, being active where your target customers are is a sure way to get access to the market so to speak.
People tend to look to social media when it comes to customer complaints, so being present and responsive on the platforms will help to keep them happy and establish your brand as one that travelers can trust.
It is fair to say that messaging technology is only going to become more advanced as time progresses, especially considering that a mobile phone is virtually an extension of the self at this point in time.
We can navigate cities, order food, shop online, get face time with family on the other side of the world, search jobs, etc from it. So it makes sense that messaging apps are already a popular way for people and travel businesses to communicate.
As travelers are increasingly using messaging apps for travel bookings and information, the real question is not really when your travel business should start using them, but rather how you are going to keep up with the technology that is driving it.