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Jun 18, 2014-Now is the time to break down digital divides to create a holistic and seamless experience for the customer, irrespective of the channel. Our upcoming webinar can help

Consider this scenario: an airline announces a new international route on its website and follows that by a mass email campaign. Job done, you might think. But no, in today’s world where customers expect the same brand experience irrespective of the device or channel, the time of day or night, or where they are in the world, that is simply not enough.

Today that mass email could be shared via text message alert, on a Facebook page or via Twitter. In fact, given today’s highly connected traveller, that message should be shared strategically and consistently across all digital and mobile channels and with one voice.

This is what it means to be omnichannel and what travel brands should be striving to achieve. Ahead of an in an upcoming webinar featuring Orbitz, Westjet and Syniverse, we identify five ways to boost your omnichannel strategy.

1. Turn information into intelligence and show you care  

“Travellers want brands to know and to care about them, and the key to achieving that level of personalisation is data,” says Mary Clark Chief Marketing Officer, Syniverse.

Above and beyond traditional CRM, today’s travel brands can leverage vast amounts of information on their customers via digital, mobile and social channels. But brands says Clark, need to turn that information into intelligence in order to get the right information to the right customer on the right device at the right time.

This is something that Orbitz is working hard to achieve. “At Orbitz we have many different optimised experiences for our customers (desktop, tablet web, mobile web, and mobile apps) and we know that throughout the travel planning and booking process our customers are visiting our sites from multiple channels,” explains Megan Hughes Director, Product Lead – Mobile.

2. View the customer as a market of one

Many travel companies today are investing in tools that let them to view each customer as a ‘market of one’. As Hughes points such tools allow brands “to tailor content and messages according to individual desires, motivations and travel behaviours across all communication channels anywhere, anytime”.

For example, if a customer logged in on an airline site was frequently searching for flights from San Francisco to Hong Kong, an airline could – with that customer's explicit opt-in – tailor text message alerts and push notifications to allow the customer to immediately find out and act on special offers and schedule updates for that route.

3. Think ‘big data’ but understand ‘little’ data

The amount of big data available to travel companies continues to increase exponentially as travellers become more connected and use more channels to interact.

“That’s a lot of noise,” says Clark, who recommends that instead of “getting lost in big data, brands need to understand the ‘little data’ too”.

By this she means “those small but time-critical and highly contextual points of intelligence that can be used to personalise content and to make messages and offers more relevant to the individual”. And all this in real time!

Instead of getting lost in big data, brands need to understand the ‘little data’

Orbitz, for example, is applying science to its hotel-sorting algorithm. In the firm’s mobile apps, if you do a search for ‘hotels near me’ Orbitz does more than show you the hotel across the street. They also factor in things like:

  • Is the hotel cheaper than normal?
  • Are there any mobile specific deals ‘mobile steals’
  • The ‘best value by distance’. On the desktop site, Orbitz shows the ‘best value’ list without taking distance and current location into account.

4. Be mobile centric but use all channels

With mobile devices being looked at up to 150 times a day, according Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends, travel brands must ensure that their omnichannel strategies are mobile-centric. This means more than ensuring that websites are mobile optimised or that they have an app.

At Orbitz, where today over 30% of hotel bookings are via mobile, this fast-growing channel is viewed as the driver for omnichannel personalisation. “The latest feature that we are working on helps our consumers continue shopping when switching between devices by remembering their recent searches,” says Hughes. The feature pulls up a rich destination image of the location a customer was searching for as well as the details of the search.

So Orbitz customers might start searching during their commute on an Android phone but then, in a single tap on the iPad, pull up and complete the booking when they get home. 

For Clark it’s about ensuring a brand can reach all customers all the time; the most successful omnichannel strategy will integrate the host of available communication channels including text messaging, email, social media, Passbook and voice - to create a seamless customer experience that delivers the right messages, to the right people, at the right time. 

Hughes agrees. “To really focus on personalisation, it needs to be compelling and easy for the customers to sign into the site on all devices,” she says. Orbitz has achieved this in two steps by:

  •   Implementing features like social login through Facebook and Google+ on all of the channels. This makes it easy for customers to remember their password and sign in as soon as they get to the site.
  •   Personalising and adding additional contextual details to the experience to personalise the shopping and booking experience on all channels.

5. Think beyond the app

Although apps have become focal points for the mobile strategies of many airlines, hotels, car-rental companies and theme parks, Clark argues that SMS still represents the most reliable mobile channel to reach travellers. As she points out, the market has become oversaturated with apps from nearly every major brand, and non-smartphone users, which represent almost half of all mobile users, aren’t able to access apps at all.

SMS still represents the most reliable mobile channel to reach travellers

“Text messaging offers a universal and surefire channel to provide updates about flight schedule changes, welcome messages, directions and other urgent traveller communications,” says Clarke. And moreover, the use of real-time mobile intelligence holds the potential to hyper-personalise those messages.

6. Offer packages

Could mobile data packages present a new marketing opportunity? Clark thinks so.

“With data roaming services both an ever-present need and a cost concern for travellers, brands have an untapped opportunity,” she says.

Citing an example, Clark says a hotel could drive reservations by offering a package of 100 megabytes a day with each stay. “Since mobile users are often left to figure out their own data roaming arrangements, the inclusion of the package could incentivise consumers to proceed with a purchase,” she adds.

7. Partner effectively

According to Hughes, Orbitz has dedicated technology teams that are focused on building the experience and products for each different channel. 

“We work with internal teams to ensure we are incorporating the best practices for selling flights, hotels and cars as well as with Google and Apple to ensure that our experience is consistent with the overall app operating system standards,” explains Hughes. 

Orbitz’s Android app is fully integrated with Google products like Google+ Sign In and Google Wallet to make the booking experience frictionless.

“Customers who visit our android app and use those products can book without ever typing a single piece of information,” Hughes says. 

Orbitz has also integrated with Google Now to display day-of travel information for the customer right when they need it the most.

To hear more about omnichannel strategies sign up for our free webinar next week where Megan Hughes Director, Product Lead – Mobile, Mary Clark Chief Marketing Officer, Syniverse and Manoj Jasra, Director of Online & Mobile Strategy WestJet

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Contact: Gina Baillie, GM / London, UK: +44 (0)207 375 7197 or US Toll Free: 1 800 814 3459 ext. 7197

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