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Understanding Smartphone Users' Behavior as a Luxury Travel Company


by Ritesh Gupta
May 1, 2012

IN-DEPTH: The buzz around SoLoMo (social, local and mobile) and the usage pattern of smartphone users has varied connotations for different travel companies. Travel marketers need to adapt themselves as they look for new ways to enable meaningful experiences with their target consumers.
 
For instance, luxury travel company Abercrombie & Kent USA says as the remotest corners of the world become connected, its clients can now instantly organise their next vacation with their new friends, plus friends and family thousands of miles away – all while still on vacation.  
 
The rapid growth in the use of smartphones has changed the way consumers act in social situations.
 
A report released in the UK by communications regulator Ofcom in August 2011 highlighted that most (59 percent) acquired their smartphone over the past year. Users make significantly more calls and send more texts than regular mobile users (81 percent of smartphone users make calls every day compared with 53 percent of ‘regular’ users).
 
Travel companies need to scrutinise such behaviour especially as consumers want to be constantly connected to all the parties in their “virtual” and “physical” world.
 
Travel marketers have to be astute enough to understand how their consumers are using mobile devices especially the owners of smartphones during their entire travel planning, buying, in-destination and post journey process.
 
For instance, for a luxury travel company like Abercrombie & Kent USA, as more of its clients take their smartphones with them on holiday, the company has found that travellers are researching dining and entertainment options as they are traveling. Also, as Internet connectivity continues to improve in the third world regions that Abercrombie & Kent operates in, its travellers are also sharing photos in real-time.
 
As technology is paving for faster innovation, it is imperative for travel companies to understanding their target audience’s behaviour and to prioritise where they invest.
 
As far as the latest trends are concerned, the mobile web plus social media is stimulating the emergence of a new breed of hyper-interactive travel consumers who demand “immediate, anywhere and anytime”. Mobile, social and local are emerging as key areas of consumer transformation. Travel companies are constantly testing and checking how they can leverage these platforms. Marketers need to ensure that they have the basic foundation for any successful SoLoMo strategy.
 
To get started, it is recommended that travel brands must have a mobile website optimised with fresh, local content and location-based offers; accurate and optimised listings on local mobile directories; and mobile engagement via SMS and social platforms.
 
The buzz around SoLoMo has varied connotations for different travel companies, be it for suppliers or intermediaries.
 
In order to know how a luxury travel company like Abercrombie & Kent USA is adapting itself, EyeforTravel’s Ritesh Gupta spoke to its Director of Internet Marketing, Steve Filipiak. Excerpts:
 
(Filipiak is scheduled to speak at the EyeforTravel’s Online Marketing Strategies for Travel 2012 conference, to be held in Miami (June 5 –6) this year)
 
What new trends do you foresee for areas such as social, local, and mobile, be it for them working in isolation or as part of an integrated initiative?
 
As Internet connectivity continues to improve in the third world regions that Abercrombie& Kent operates in, our clients are now sharing photos in real-time from their once in a lifetime cruise down the Nile or uploading safari photos from our lodge in the remote Masai Mara game reserve in Kenya.
 
It is not uncommon for guests to become friends on an A&K holiday, leading to future travels together. As the remotest corners of the world become connected, our clients can now instantly organise their next vacation with their new friends, plus friends and family thousands of miles away – all while still on vacation.
 
We are facilitating this trend by offering Internet connectivity at more Abercrombie & Kent properties.
 
The convergence of two technological shifts – with the rise of the smartphone use and the popularity of social media – has created a seismic shift in consumer behaviour. What new trends do you foresee as this convergence is now a part of consumers’ lifestyle?
 
As more clients take their smartphones with them on holiday, we are finding that they are researching dining and entertainment options as they are traveling. Usually, it is not a problem to accommodate a client who wants to try a new restaurant or visit an obscure museum. The challenge becomes striking a balance between the interests of the entire tour group and the connected individuals.
 
How can the travel industry leverage the combination of location, activity, demographic and time targeting?
 
It’s no surprise that the best target demographic is past customers. We are extending this target to include current clients who are using social media to tell their friends about their trip while still traveling.
 
Recently, a small group that was traveling together on our Antarctic cruise posted a request on our Facebook wall for A&K to create a new group tour to a region that the company hadn’t traveled clients to in years. By the last night of the cruise, we presented an outline of the new itinerary. The clients loved it, and this new tour will be in our 2013 catalog.
 
Travel companies have been rewarding customers for their affiliation towards social networks and location-based services. A lot was expected from location plus social, and geo-location check-in campaigns were initiated regularly. How do you think the travel industry leveraged such trend in 2011?
 
Many hotels are partnering with Foursquare, with the hopes that when guests check-in while traveling, their friends will consider staying at the same hotel in the future.

While the mantra for marketers in social media has been “try everything” for a long time, I’m not convinced of the long term value of a check-in vs. a review – or better, a review by a trusted friend.
 
Sales and promotions are termed as the most popular types of information that mobile consumers are looking for when engaging with location-based services. What do you make of the mobile shopping behaviour especially from the travel industry’s perspective as this juncture?
 
While there is an opportunity for airlines, car rentals and hotels to offer last minute discounts via mobile, especially for distressed inventory, tour operators like A&K have guides that are in daily contact with their clients throughout the itinerary, so it would be off brand for us to push offers via SMS.
 
Even as geolocation apps are enhancing their offerings with new features, it is being mentioned that there growth rate hasn’t really taken off in a big way compared to last year. How should the travel industry go about such opportunities considering the current geo-social behaviour?
 
The thrill of being the “mayor” of your local 7-Eleven is being surpassed by consumer concerns about privacy. This is slowing the growth of geolocation apps. However, as augmented reality apps improve, there will come a time when one option for your tour guide when traveling could be your smartphone, worldwide.
 
Each generation of smartphone provides even more opportunities for travel companies to enhance the user experience. How can the features of the smartphone – such as locations services, cameras, messaging – be tied into your social media campaigns?
 
Our biggest challenges are facilitating the publishing of video, photos and comments from our remote safari lodges and ships followed by encouraging clients to engage with our brand’s social media presence while traveling with us. For example, one of our guests had an astounding encounter with a family of gorillas on the grounds of our safari lodge in Uganda. However, we couldn’t get the video until the guests returned home.



What are the latest trends in social location broadcasting and sharing in 2012?
 
I think that in the future, social location broadcasting will still have its place, but that the real opportunity for growth is in geolocation apps that prioritise and filter information based on proximity, preference and historical interaction with the app.

For a complete agenda and speaker roster, a complimentary copy of EyeforTravel’s official conference brochure, and exclusive discounts for attendance, click here.

Additional questions regarding this event which is EyeforTravel’s 9th annual Online Marketing Strategies for Travel The Americas & Caribbean conference, can be directed to Brian Smith, conference director, at brian@eyefortravel.com or via phone at (201) 234-4764.

About EyeforTravel
EyeforTravel is a leading business intelligence provider for the online travel and tourism industry. As well as providing some of the most in-depth research into global online travel markets and trends, EyeforTravel produces a series of senior executive travel conferences on a diverse range of topics including travel distribution, online marketing, social media, mobile and revenue management.  For more information visit www.eyefortravel.com.

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Contact:

Brian Smith
Global Director of Events, EyeforTravel
brian@eyefortravel.com
(201) 234-4764


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