Ten essential takeaways from up-to-the-minute travel research

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Against a backdrop of economic uncertainty, rapid technological changes and rising competition, travel brands are faced with a number of choices. EyeforTravel.com editor Pamela Whitby looks to our most recent research for answers.

In spite of ongoing recessionary doom and gloom, travel and tourism is still a growing sector. In 2013 it is expected to increase its total contribution to GDP by 3.2% - that is faster than the 2.4% expected for overall economic growth. So travel brands still have everything to play for. To make the right decisions in the multichannel environment - where social and mobile are centre stage - requires access to quality data. The EyeforTravel.com Social Media and Mobile in Travel Distribution Report: Online strategies, consumer and industry trends, 2013, provides just this. In over 30+ industry interviews, surveys of over 2,000 executives and 20,000 consumers, the plus 100-page report is packed with insights for and from the travel industry. Here we identify just ten highlights.

1.     Mobile has momentum. It accounts for 20% of all travel sales and 37% of consumers worldwide accessed the Internet for travel purposes on their smartphone.

The bottom line is that the mobile has to be central to any strategy today. In 2013, a quarter of all travellers used it as a search, research and purchase channel and this is only going to grow. There are plenty of opportunities to be had here to target customers before, during and after the trip.

2.     Social cannot be ignored. Social media penetration is now averaging 44% across the developed world, and developing nations at 29% are not far behind.

Both suppliers and intermediaries (36% and 35% respectively) view it as a critical information tool. Yet less than 8% of executives surveyed see social media as a booking platform. Yet this represents an opportunity and some brands like Best Western, which was the first brand worldwide to become fully bookable on Facebook, are grasping.

3.     The multi-channel environment is key. Mobile and social are not two entities to be worked on separately but must be seen as part of the whole.

There is a growing sense of urgency around integrating mobile and social and brands recognise that failure to do so can result in lost sales. However, they also understand that they must get their overarching digital strategy – and in particular the booking strategy - right before rushing into the bells and whistles.

4.     Think of consumers as your broadcasters on the move.

Mobile-originated content is dominating the social media space and content-sharing is become far more common. And content, we know, is king but it is becoming increasingly clear that brands must consider carefully what value short videos, photography and micro-blogging can deliver. It must also be fit for purpose. As Instagram has shown, each time a post is hashtagged with a brand name or shared on a social network, consumers are essentially broadcasting on behalf of brands – so content better be good.

5.     Love the last-minute;45.3% of travelers would make a last-minute booking on a tablet up to a week before travel, while 43.8% would do so on a mobile

Do we need to say more? Most agree that mobile performs will in the last-minute and is not as price sensitive as it once was. Brands must investigate what ‘nowizm’ means for them.

 

6.      Ancillary revenues cannot be ignored and now that you know your customer’s location this is a growing opportunity.

Interacting in real-time through social media channels on mobile can increase ancillary sales and boost perception of the brand.

Both social and mobile – and in particular the two together – present opportunities for driving ancillaries – think low payments, contactless technology and impulse purchases based on location.

7.     The BRIC nations are a major opportunity for outbound travel.

Three times more Chinese travellers went abroad in 2011 than they did in 2003 and it is a similar story for other emerging nations. Growth in Asia will continue to be supported by a burgeoning middle class. The big opportunity then is ensuring your brand understands how travellers from all corners of the world operate. Did you know, for example, that Chinese travellers are highly social and love to share?

8. Do not ignore the ageing population. Older consumers (45+) are heavy users of mobile in both developed and BRIC nations.

This is good news as this demographic may well have more disposable income. So understanding how to target them is essential. In the BRIC nations though smartphone penetration is much strong among 16-24 year olds than elsewhere. Since these markets are still growing and disposable income is rising, this demographic is not to be ignored.

9. The rate parity debate could give mobile and social a boost

Regardless of channel today, OTAs and suppliers in a partnership must agree to rate parity. But legal battles are underway that point to such agreements as price-fixing. If rate parity were abolished, social and mobile could become increasingly important channel in securing distribution.  

10. Payment, payment, payment – 20% of all transactions today occur in the mobile channel.

Last but certainly not least comes the issue of payment, which is a growing area of focus. Again it is mobile that cannot be ignored. In fact, mobile ownership and adoption of payment technologies on the platform may well see mobile increasingly becoming an operational driver of revenue post 2014. 

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