Facebook: reducing friction and easy ways to win

Brands that don’t reduce friction and surprise and delight their customers will be in trouble, says the social network

It is not that travel businesses are getting worse at what they do, but customer expectations are changing all the time, Neasa Bannon, Facebook Head of Travel Marketing for the EMEA region, told the EyeforTravel Digital Strategy Summit in May.

They are becoming more mobile, they have more choice and they want information in one place and at their fingertips. “They’re engaging with brands across multiple channels before making purchases, and are less willing to suffer any inconvenience,” Bannon says. The consequences for brands that don’t step up their game to reduce friction, are significant.  

  • 40% of EMEA website visitors abandon a site after a three-second delay
  • 76% of customers will switch from a business that doesn’t meet their needs

“That’s not a lot of time,” says Bannon, explaining that every year, in the EMEA alone, up to $86 billion of revenue is lost (or deferred) because people abandon online shopping carts.

Travel is, after all, a complicated journey with multiple touch points, and some of the things that can go wrong include irrelevant offers or too much choice, failure to store loyalty details and snail-paced loading times. Interestingly, on average travelers only use three companies to book travel, and so its crucial for the chosen ones to retain customers.

There are many things that travel brands need to be thinking about when considering how to remove friction; the rise of voice search, mobile, and the growing use of contactless payments, to name a few (see also ‘Payments shouldn’t be a hurdle we fall at,’ says Facebook, EyeforTravel, June 24)

3 things to consider:

1. Make it visual

One easy win to spark discovery and bring a brand to life is to invest in images and video. According to Facebook, 50% of consumers are inspired by visual material and travel has become the number one search category on Instagram, beating even the highly popular categories of food and fashion. “This is unbelievable,” says Bannon, who added that, “immersive content and visuals are really, really working, and we are constantly refining our platforms that assist with discovery.”

For example, using stories, engaging video ads that work to build interest in the feed or transporting people with 3D photos, panoramas and immersive experiences. Bannon is confident that this will pay off.

  • 50% of people report that imagery can effect their travel decisions
  • 48% of Instagram users rely on Instagram photos and videos to help choose their next travel destination
  • 35% of users look to Instagram to discover new places.

2. Keep it simple

Bannon cited EasyJet’s Look and Book app as an example of how brands can “collapse the path to purchase and make it really easy to book”. Recognising that Instagram is changing the way people are inspired to travel and look for holidays, EasyJet worked with creative agency VCCP and Travelport Digital. The team used artificial intelligence and machine learning to detect the location of an Instagram post, and then identified the nearest airport. By shortening what could be a complex journey for the consumer, the airline saw bookings rise.

In looking for other ways to reduce friction (and drive more revenue), Facebook has developed Collections, an advertising product that allows users, who have been inspired by a friend’s trip, to save posts and advertisements in the right place. This means that they don’t have to scan through multiple messages to find something that inspired them a few months earlier.

3. Use AR and VR

Increasingly, in the discovery phase, consumer expectations are rising and augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are also fast becoming part of the travel DNA. In fact, Facebook’s research shows that:

  • 84% of travellers are interested in products using AR/VR
  • 42% believe technology represents the future of tourism

As one example, MSC Cruises recently gave prospective customers the opportunity to experience a cabin using an Oculus VR headset, which creates excitement ahead of a booking and this did “wonders for the brand”.

The simple new necessity

Customisation and personalisation are no longer niceties, they are necessities, and customer service remains a hot topic. In fact, Facebook data shows that 89% of consumers expect brands to respond within 24 hours, and yet 56.5% are businesses are not contactable on social media. Brands also need to think carefully about how customers wish to interact with them as within travel space 43% of people said would prefer to interact with a mobile messaging app than a than call centre.

Customisation and personalisation are no longer niceties, they are necessities

KLM, a frontrunner in social communications, recognised that its customers were active on Messenger. It evolved its Facebook chatbot from being focused only on CX service, to one that uses AI to enable check in on the app, and allows users to receive their ticket, boarding cards and even information about baggage delays and so on. “There is no more sifting through multiple email accounts to find your booking. They’ll notify you when check-in opens and …you get your boarding pass sent straight to your device. Obviously you can scan it straight from your phone so it couldn’t be more convenient,” says Bannon.

One of the most valuable things, however, is that you can message KLM 24/7 and expect a response. Among those using the Messenger experience their net promoter score was five points higher than goal.

Bannon believes that this is a great example of people and technology combining for the greater good. KLM agents are working with AI to respond to messages. She explains: “When agents receive a customer question, they are given a proposed answer through AI, which is trained to answer more than 60,000 questions. The agent decides whether the answer is the right one, makes any necessary adjustments, and replies through the appropriate social media channel. The system learns, based on the agent’s action, and becomes smarter in real time.” KLM have also expanded the functionality to allow people to book tickets via Messenger too, and they are not the only one’s experimenting.

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