January 31, 2017

Balancing Tech + Human Touch

While some travelers feel that vacations are time to disconnect from technology, or take a “digital detox,” most people don’t actually unplug. When we asked travelers about their wish list for their hotel stay, the majority of people said “free WiFi.” In fact, millennials will choose a hotel based on “Instagram-worthy” de?cor, pointing to their desire to be connected to social networks while vacationing.

This need for connectivity also speaks to continued planning during a trip. Travelers frequently use navigation apps while traversing a new city, or apps like Yelp and OpenTable to figure out where to eat.

The dependency of technology has removed spontaneity from travel - open-ended exploration has been replaced by people moving through destinations based on their popularity and share-worthiness. But research and anecdotal stories show that spontaneity is good for us. There is still nothing that quite compares to the thrill of discovering a gem by happenstance.

However, travelers have conflicting feelings about spontaneity. We found that 47% of travelers said they

wish they were more spontaneous, while 30% said they wish they were more of a planner. Most will accept a nudge to be more impulsive – as 73% of individuals said they would be willing or very willing to receive text messages about unplanned excursions, dinners and other experiences while on vacation.

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So what kind of useful tips can brands provide travelers? Well, family-friendly activities to start. But surprisingly, travelers ranked food experiences as their second most memorable moments.

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When it comes to communicating with travelers at a destination, the best medium depends on context. Our research revealed that 84% of travelers are open to receiving text messages from hotels with check out time, WiFi usernames and passwords, menu specials, etc., while 67% are likely or very likely to use chat services or texting with airlines or hotels. For transactional conversations like these, a text, chat or emoji will suffice.

However, a whopping 76% of surveyed individuals believe that human interaction throughout travel- provided services is important or very important. While the majority of individuals (55%) have used a concierge when at their destination, the remaining 45% who did not felt they didn’t need one or that they could find the information they needed on the internet. Of those who have used a concierge, most prefer to have conversations in-person, not digitally. When we spoke to travelers, many of them reflected positively on the times they had one-on-one conversations with their Airbnb host and received local – not touristy – recommendations.

It’s important for travel brands to understand when they can interject during a trip, when to emphasize in- person conversations, and when a text will be more well- received.

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Key Takeaways: 

  • Travelers welcome useful suggestions fro brand that prompt them to be more spontaneous.
  • For transactional communication, digital will suffice. However, for personalized concierge servies, most travlers perfer in-person.

To learn more, download our newest Whitepaper, ‘Targeting Moments of Need in the new Travel Landscape’ – here.

January 25, 2017

A New Type of Travel Agency: AI Meets Human Expertise

Over the last two decades, OTAs and direct-supplier ticketing websites have revolutionized the industry and forced many brick-and-mortar travel agencies to reinvent themselves, find their niche, or close their doors altogether.

Many of the travel agencies that remain standing serve a wealthy clientele. When Travel + Leisure wrote about the importance of travel agents in May 2015, they cited trips like a 32-person, two week, six city trip across India as an example that highlights a travel agent’s indispensability.2 While one may appreciate the services provided to make this trip possible, it is not a relatable scenario to most travelers. Yet, according to IBIS World, the travel agency industry is growing once again and showing signs of a broad turn to experts to help plan travel.3

We see four trends that will increase demand for travel agents in the near future:

  1. OTAs that serve endless choices, not solutions
  2. The possibility for better, more personalized recommendations powered by big data and artificial intelligence (AI)
  3. A new generation of travelers who have come of age on mobile devices
  4. The ongoing premium placed on 'authenticity'

When it comes to booking, our study showed 79% of individuals want customization and ease. The majority (56%) of those surveyed have used a travel agent in the past, citing deals, time savings, and expert advice as the best reasons to use a travel agent. Of those who had not used an agent, 30% didn’t do so because they enjoyed the planning process and 25% found it to be too expensive. Another 21% said, “I trust myself more.”

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Importantly, frequent travelers value an agent’s expertise and ability to save time, whereas infrequent ones value an agent’s ability to save money and stress. While 85% of individuals are willing to have another party help plan their trip, agencies need to help consumers understand more clearly how they offer personalization that demonstrates desirable ROI.

Traditional travel agents should also be warned of new services like Lola, which fuse a chat interface, AI and human expertise to generate trips.

Lola offers a glimpse at the future of travel agencies – personal, immediate and delivered through a chat interface. The brand deliberately avoids the data tables that plague almost all other booking experiences. It is the only travel experience we know of that is built for an audience who has come of age conversing through mobile intermediaries.

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Key Takeaways:

  • A combination of AI and human expertise is about to disrupt the travel agency industry.
  • Travelers are receptive to planning assistance for an agent provided there is demonstrable ROI (time saved, money saved, expertise, or personalization).

To learn more, download our newest Whitepaper, ‘Targeting Moments of Need in the new Travel Landscape’ – here.

January 17, 2017

Hey Travel Brands, Here's How to Stand Out in the Planning Phase

Anticipation and Information Overload 

Consumers are spending more time planning and researching their vacations, and they’re using multiple devices to do so. Online research typically starts 45 days before booking, with most individuals devoting 2-3 hours to research. Our study showed that 16% claim to spend 6 or more hours planning. While travelers still rely primarily on their laptops, millennials are increasingly using their smartphones to conduct research.

The number of websites visited by travelers while planning a trip is on the rise. Hotel websites and apps are the most frequently used, followed by airline websites and apps. Our survey showed that 38% of respondents claim to spend at least one-hour reading travel reviews, while another 30% spends two hours. Still, most of travelers’ time planning is spent looking for the best deal - especially when it comes to flights and hotels. Consumers will check multiple sites on multiple days to ensure they are getting the best price, yet even then fear they are overspending.

However, with so much information available, travelers feel confident in planning their own itinerary, with 78% claiming to enjoy the research and planning process. Despite the depth of research, many consumers still suffer from FOMO - fear of missing out - if they skip a particular activity, restaurant, or attraction at their destination. In fact, even though they profess to enjoy the process, 72% of individuals said they feel overwhelmed or sometimes feel overwhelmed when planning a trip.

Once travelers arrive at their destination, many continue their research process. However, at the end of the day, most individuals (79%) said they felt they had spent the right amount of time planning their trip once they’ve arrived.

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While consumers overall seem relatively happy with the planning process, there is ample opportunity for travel brands to better serve them. We found that 39% of travelers felt personalized recommendations would make trip-planning more enjoyable, while another 31% stated they would want recommendations that come from a real person (i.e., not automated). The most frequently requested service for which travelers turn to booking engines is the ability to book multiple travel elements (flight, lodging, excursions), followed by the ability to see all of their itinerary details in one place.

Very few existing booking experiences perform either of these tasks well. Existing online travel agents (OTAs) face threats by new services that can better aggregate and bundle multiple trip components – services that behave like a simplifier, not just an aggregator of data.

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Meanwhile, brands are also atomized in this planning process. They live as micro-moments across myriad devices and touchpoints. Brands that uphold strong and consistent behavioral guidelines will have an easier time building meaning across so many small interactions.

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Key Takeaways:

  • Hotels and airlines should invest in their websites and apps as they are the most used resources for travelers during the planning phase.
  • Start acting as a simplifier to meet the needs of travelers who are overwhelmed when planning a trip.

To learn more, download our newest Whitepaper, ‘Targeting Moments of Need in the new Travel Landscape’ – here.

January 11, 2017

How to Improve Your Look-To-Book Ratio: Converting Selfies Into Sales

Advocacy + Inspiration in the New Travel Landscape 

When tourists aim to compose the perfect vacation selfie, they’re creating more than just travel envy – they’re creating copycats. Our research revealed that 84% of millennials and 73% of non-millennials are likely or very likely to plan a trip based on someone else’s vacation photos or social media updates. And, while traditional word-of-mouth is still the most prominent source of travel inspiration, Facebook follows a close second, especially among millennials. In fact, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube each beat out traditional sources of travel inspiration like TV, movies, and magazines.

Travel destination brands should consider ways to make their experiences “share-worthy” – incorporating wit, unique visuals, and selfie opportunities, as well as rewarding brand engagement.

"84% of millennials and 73% of non-millennials are likely to plan a trip based on someone else’s vacation photos or social media updates."

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1 Corporate America Under Pressure From Consumers' Rising Expectations, Lithium, June 2015. 

We found that 59% of individuals and almost 70% of millennials follow travel brands on social media. Uber and Airbnb, both of which are categorically closer to tech, are the most-mentioned brands that travelers follow. Although each has struggled with corporate optics, they both stand out for their ability to use shared media to their competitive advantage.

While Uber is promotion and stunt-driven, Airbnb uses social tools to highlight destinations that are purposely unlike any hotel. Each has its own clearly defined voice and deliberately ignores its category’s previously defined “swim lane.” Both offer lessons about the possibilities to inspire consumers by earning engagement with a larger audience in ways that traditional travel brands have not.

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Key Takeaways: 

  • Since advocacy is the biggest driver of inspiration for travelers, align advertising strategy accordingly.
  • Use a unique brand voice and be aware that the standards for engagement are being set by technology brands.

To learn more, download our newest Whitepaper, 'Targeting Moments of Need in the new Travel Landscape' - here.

August 11, 2015

Understanding the Price-Oriented Shopper on Pinterest

How Understanding the Price-Oriented Shopper on Pinterest can Humanize Your Brand

Pinterest, a visual discovery tool to find ideas for projects and interests, is one such opportunity for brand-consumer engagement and understanding. By fully utilizing a social medium that is literally dedicated to creativity and personal voice, brands will be able to connect with current millennial users on a personal level and attract potential consumers.

The Target Audience

Many millennial Pinterest users consider themselves DIYers, meaning they enjoy 'Do-It-Yourself' projects. This is a target audience in itself. These folks are crafty, creative, thoughtful, and mindful of expense. They aren't trying to look 'cheap' in any way; they just enjoy the process and sentimental value of adding personal touch. They put in a little bit of extra work in order to achieve the best possible outcome, creating a memento that derives personality as well as the pride of a job well done. Millennial DIY users will gain confidence in a brand through Pinterest engagement, thus partaking in conversations and amplifying product sales as well as overall awareness. Pinterest users spend on average 89 minutes at a time on the site, compared to the 21 minutes on Twitter and 8 minutes on Facebook (IDG Research). By targeting this millennial DIY audience via Pinterest, creative ideas will not only be shared and discovered, but brand engagement and activation will be boosted significantly.

How to Successfully Target Using Pinterest

Millennial users want to engage with brands that are fun, personable, and up to date with current trends, not stiff and seemingly inhuman or behind on the times. A humanized page layout and voice will allow consumers to interact with a brand as if it were a friend. The projects these DIYers take on are individualized and original. This bargain aspect is where travel brands can utilize Pinterest in order to target the DIY demographic. DIYers aren't always looking for a bargain, but the best possible personalized choice never hurts. Brands can take advantage of this concept by removing the 'shame' in searching for the best bargain. Adding DIY projects to the brand's Pinterest board will allow millennial consumers (both current and potential) to see that the brand recognizes and engages in similar activities and holds similar interests. Promoting individuality through creative projects and ideas enables millennials to see that the brand has a personal voice and isn't afraid to show it. The humanization of a brand lets users see that they can relate to the brand on a personal level, which produces a higher likelihood of purchase as well as an overall increase in brand awareness.

Being conscious of and improving brand health is immensely important; just as a person is conscious of healthy choices and maintenance, a brand needs to be aware of its surroundings while prioritizing its wellbeing. Millennials come in all shapes and sizes, so to speak; so targeting individuals through creative and personalized means allows millennials to see that a brand can be human, too. Integrating a personalized feel into the marketing and execution of vacation packages could attract DIY attention. Instead of buying travel packages, DIY consumers might prefer to mix and match the flights, hotels, and activities of their trip. DIYers look to discover the 'best' of everything: the best airline paired with the best accommodations. This trip personalization could allow consumers to mix and match flights, hotels, and transportation, or even give consumers the ability to pose a price to the seller to take into consideration in order to create this personalized trip. DIYers want to see originality and creativity in the way a brand functions and sees itself, similar to how DIY millennials see their own personal projects. A hotel stay can be bought easily at full price, or can be a more personalized and boutique-feel experience by putting in a tad bit more effort for the best possible outcome.

Connecting with millennial consumers on the personal and creative level adds an air of confidence to the brand itself, but also to the consumer when deciding whether or not to choose the hotel. Humanizing a brand allows millennials to see a professional brand in a new light. Users will not only see themselves in the brand, but will also see a relatable and personable friend within the brand, with whom they can connect, interact, and share experiences. Pinterest gives brands the unusual opportunity to not only focus solely on marketing and branding, but to have a little fun and get creative with their audiences. Adding this originality to a brand's style and voice will attract the plethora of creative millennial users who admire individuality and take pride in being original. Taking risks in marketing can be challenging, but engaging an audience that prides themselves on originality and being different can be beneficial. By targeting this creative and mindful millennial demographic on Pinterest, users will engage with the brand through continued awareness and stylized engagement.

Revisit our site next week to understand how millennial Twitter users utilize the medium to post opinions and reviews.

 

 

August 3, 2015

Understanding Your Shopper on Social Media Outlets

How Understanding Your Shopper on Creative Social Media Outlets can Humanize Your Brand

 

Millennial travelers are the target opportunity in the travel industry. Making up 27% of the US population and 25% of the labor force, millennials will account for half of the US labor force by 2020 (Skift). By 2030 they are predicted to outspend baby boomers. But where is all that spending power going? As work experience is gained and a steady income acquired, millennials will put that spending power behind their restless passions of wanderlust.

 

Why Is This Important?

Social media outlets serve as some of the most utilized mediums through which travel brands are able to connect with the millennial demographic. According to AdWeek, millennials spend on average 18 hours a day with media, with 71% checking social media at least once a day. Excelling in social media communication can be a difficult feat because of the disconnect between buyer and seller, therefore making the understanding of an audience a high priority. By using social media outlets to humanize a brand, understanding habits and connecting successfully with millennials will become simple and familiar through these personalized interactions. As users become more familiar with the brand's voice and creative presence, a sense of trust will be gained between brand and consumer as marketing goals are achieved.

 

Mediums Brands Should Focus On

There are a myriad of social media sites utilized by millennial travelers around the digital world. Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram are three mediums utilized by millennial consumers of all sorts, traveler or otherwise. While specifically targeting travelers will directly affect current consumers, attracting a wider range of users across these social mediums boosts awareness and credibility. Expanding a brand's consumer demographic is important for awareness, but attempting to successfully target every millennial is impossible. By catering to a specific demographic, new followers can be gained, consisting of the specific millennial demographic as well as other interested millennials. Having the ability to reach all millennial audiences, while targeting a single millennial demographic, can be effective and conducive to a brand's social strategy.

 

Demographics are tough to target. Millennials are even tougher. By focusing on an identified persona within a specified social medium instead of an entire widespread demographic, branding can become creatively diverse in a personalized and original way. Here are a few examples of social mediums through which brands should become familiar with their specified audiences:

  • Pinterest, with followers who enjoy DIY projects, allows brands to engage with consumers on creative and conscious projects and ideas.
  • Twitter allows brands and millennials to directly interact, enabling amplified activation and brand voice while gaining insight into consumer opinions and trends.
  • Instagram gives brands the opportunity to visualize consumer mentalities and inspirations, opening an interesting window to reminisce and engage in a creative way.

 

So What??

Utilizing these social media sites in order to individualize a brand's style and voice will help brands understand consumer habits and engage with their target demographics. This understanding of both the target and general millennial audience will then guide the brand strategy.

 

Check-in next week on how understanding the rationale of the price-oriented millennial shopper on Pinterest can help humanize your branding.

 

 

March 6, 2015

How Airlines Are Using Integrated Marketing to Drive More Online Bookings

Today, every travel brand in the world is asking themselves:  'How do we drive more online reservations and revenue?'?  Expedia is trying to answer this through acquisitions, with their recent announcement of plans to acquire Orbitz Worldwide for $1.6 billion in cash.  With the massive consolidation happening with online travel companies, there is a fresh opportunity for brands to create unique opportunities and offers for consumers to book directly through their channels vs. a third party like Expedia or Priceline.

This especially holds true for airlines.  Airline brands such as Turkish Airlines, SWISS, and Icelandair are engaging with their consumers directly, using innovative marketing tactics to drive more online bookings.  Here are three recent examples we've found particularly inspiring at AMP Agency, due to their integrated nature and ability to connect the digital, social and offline worlds under unified programs:

#1.  Turkish Airlines ' 'Epic Food Map'? Turkish Airlines launched their Epic Food Map competition encouraging global travelers to upload pictures of exotic food from their destinations around the world for a chance to win an international travel package for two.

This is a great example of user-generated content that benefits the brand by being socially sharable and presented in a unique, discovery experience.  Each photo cleverly includes a link to the Turkish Airlines booking site connected to flight options for the selected destination. The message of 'Discover'? is much more enticing than a 'Book Now'? button.

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#2.  Swiss International Airlines ' 'The World of Swiss'?  is currently serving up a one-of-a-kind interactive discovery experience that engages users with slideshows, short films, interactive maps and aircraft demos, all designed to demonstrate the exceptional experiences travels encounter when choosing to fly with Swiss.  The use of embedded hotspot technology within the content allows visitors to take a deep dive into the world of Swiss Airlines.

With rich and immersive content, the airline is creating an emotional connection to their brand and destinations. Despite the fact the Flight Booking button is tucked away in the accordion navigation, the experience and content is so compelling it creates a strong connection to the brand and destinations that almost immediately beg the question 'How can I book a trip there immediately?'?

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#3.  Icelandair ' 'Uber Surprise Stopover'? ' Full disclosure ' Icelandair partnered with AMP Agency to deliver the Uber Surprise Stopover program, though it's worth highlighting as a great example of the digital world colliding with the offline world with an innovative, Uber-twist.

The program started with targeted, relevant mobile and digital ads, rich in imagery showcasing the beauty and wonder Iceland offers.  During the campaign, as target consumers engaged with digital content, Icelandair launched a partnership with Uber in select cities giving Uber riders an Icelandair ride experience that included free Uber rides, Icelandic surprises and sent a few lucky riders on a free vacation to Iceland, courtesy of Icelandair.

Are you looking for new and innovative ways to engage consumers and sell more online?  Leave a comment below or reach out directly.

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