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The travel industry is big business. Last year, desktop and laptop travel sales reached $113.77 billion; however, the new frontier in this market is really in mobile apps. In 2017, U.S. mobile travel sales totaled $75.85 billion, up 16.7 percent over 2016.
Consumers are adopting mobile for making their travel plans like never before. Last-minute deals and accessibility on-the-go are fueling mobile growth. Emerging audiences like millennials would rather spend their money on traveling than saving to buy a house, according to a survey by Realty Mogul, and millennial households are expected to spend more on travel than other audiences each year.
There are tremendous opportunities for brands in the world of travel apps, but most brands aren’t prepared for engaging users on mobile devices and pushing through the seasonality that impacts this vertical. Consumers tend to plan their holidays at the start of the year to ward off the winter blues; during the summer months, stats show that June, July and August are the busiest months for travel apps user events and sessions.
It’s critical to know how to create a seamless experience for users on mobile, how to measure success with the right KPIs and beat seasonality with the right blend of advertising tactics. Apply these five best practices to successfully drive user acquisition and engagement for your apps all year round.
Provide an end-to-end mobile user experience
Users are going mobile. In 2017, 57.5 million U.S. adults used a smartphone to book a trip. EMarketer estimates that mobile will represent nearly half of all digital travel sales by 2021, beating both desktop and tablet. What’s more, consumers in the U.S. are increasingly researching trips on mobile, with TripAdvisor being the most popular choice, according to eMarketer.
The mobile trend is driven by last-minute deals attractive to users on-the-go. Other factors include larger smartphone screens, easier mobile payment methods and more time spent on mobile.
Consequently, airlines, travel agencies and hotels apps should start their UA journey by making their apps and mobile websites user-friendly. Provide a flawless and engaging user experience, combined with best-in-class service.
Focus on making your app and mobile website user-friendly. Reduce the number of screens and clicks, so users can easily find and book their trip. The sign-up process should be simple and seamless. For instance, take a look at Momondo’s interface design.
Set the right goals and be transparent with your data
Start by setting the right KPIs. Don’t make early judgments and don’t compare travel benchmark metrics with other verticals: unlike gaming apps, where there is a high focus placed on daily engagement of the app, the success of travel apps should be measured differently. For example, building a community of loyal users, gaining positive ratings or being accessible and easy to use.
What is the goal? Is it brand awareness or engaging users? Increasing volume or expanding reach? Align campaign messaging and targeting tactics with your chosen strategy to maximize your ROI.
Additionally, test several sources of traffic throughout the campaign (e.g., new publishers, social media, new networks, TV), and share your post-install data with trusted mobile advertising partners. The faster you do, the sooner they can better target and acquire the right users. Access to data and transparent communications between brands and acquisition partners are a winning combination for any successful user acquisition strategy.
Build an integrated marketing campaign, both online and offline
Consumers are increasingly opting for established apps they trust over the obscure “never-heard-of-it-before” newcomers. It’s imperative to increase your brand awareness and build trust. The most powerful marketing tool is word-of-mouth—loyal users who evangelize your brand to friends. When it comes to the main players, from Airbnb to Skyscanner, chances are that you’ll have read countless reviews, seen lots of social media, TV advertisements or billboards and posters plastered around public transportation areas to maintain awareness and build trust.
Beat seasonality with re-engagement campaigns
Out of sight, out of mind, as they say. Work around the declines in travel app usage by investing in re-engagement campaigns during the year. This will drive engagement and retention, possibly leading to positive word-of-mouth to boost organic installs.
Use in-app push notifications. The majority of travel apps, like Kayak, send an alert that advises users on the best time to book or find a great deal in their app.
For example, offer an incentive such as a discount on the next trip booked if a user leaves a positive review or refers the app to a friend who installs. You can also time re-engagement emails and special offers around the end of the month (payday) and combine these with retargeting campaigns (ads or emails) to users who have visited the site but haven’t booked yet.
Benefit from a burst campaign to outrank competition
While users may download your app today, they may also wait to book a trip three months from now, so it’s key to be patient. Consistently invest in branding and re-engagement tactics so users will trust your app more.
When the time strikes for users to book their holiday and the market is particularly noisy with brand advertisements (Christmas, Summer, etc.), you can boost your ranking in the app stores and beat fierce competition by implementing a “burst campaign” into your marketing mix. Burst campaigns can spur the growth of a newly launched app or rejuvenate the user base of an existing app to prolong its lifecycle. They are also an ideal part of a marketing strategy when entering a new market, as they can help boost the travel app and gain traction fast.
Prioritize mobile now for a stronger future
Above all else, make creating a native mobile experience a key focus for your business this year, both in your app and in your marketing strategy. Whether you’re in the travel industry or another vertical that can benefit from engaging your audience with a multi-platform approach, such as retail or electronics, consumers are increasingly turning to mobile for research and purchasing decisions.
At the same time, competition for mobile users is continuing to increase year after year due to crowded markets and seasonal trends that force brands to compete in short sprints. By prioritizing your mobile app user experience and your mobile ad strategy in the remaining months of 2018, you’ll be setting up your business and your marketing strategy for success in 2019.
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