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The Future of Messaging Technology in the Travel Industry: Pt. 1

by James O'Brien + Skift Team
Hospitality
Mobile
Start-ups
Travel Tech

Skift Research Take

Messaging technology is expanding at a rapid pace across the online commerce ecosystem, across categories. This report addresses the marketing operations side of the messaging technology equation among travel companies. A companion Skift report will focus on bookings and messaging tech.

Executive Summary

Messaging technology is expanding at a rapid pace across the online commerce ecosystem, across categories. Especially among younger users, ages 18–29, it is a rapidly evolving and nearly primary method of electronic communications.

For the travel industry, in which messaging tech has experienced a slow growth rooted in GDS and finding some initial traction in business-travel arrangements, the impetus to develop and implement new messaging approaches is now a point of focus. It is a drive directed in two key directions: (a) bookings and the ways messaging can fuel conversions; (b) marketing/operations as messaging can foster positive customer experiences and loyalty-building interactions. This white paper addresses the marketing operations side of the messaging technology equation. A companion Skift report will focus on bookings and messaging tech.

In the marketplace at present, while Facebook stands to steer much of the conversation around messaging technology with its Messenger and WhatsApp properties, companies such as Twitter and even Kayak are moving to compete by changing functionality within their platforms. Meanwhile, startups such as Slack are pursuing — and reaching — user bases in aggressive and significant quantities (in Slack’s case, they’re doubling every three months by some estimates.)

The implications around data and analytics are also significant as messaging technology expands within the travel industry. Legacy companies like Sabre see the opportunities to acquire new insights into traveler behaviors, open vistas on up-sell strategies for the future.

Vertical by vertical, messaging technology is moving at different paces within the travel industry. Southwest Airlines is implementing messaging strategies with interest, but carefully. Plans for future rollouts include geolocation as a messaging-tech approach. Meanwhile, rental car innovators such as Silvercar have built messaging into the back-end of their user experiences. It is a model experts suggest is acutely needed at hotels.

Within hospitality, Hyatt is seeing early and significant traction with user response to WeChat in Chinese markets. Additionally, companies like Checkmate are fueling not only a centralized way for marketing and operations to visualize and act on guest-to-hotel messaging across platforms, but to share data between the two departments. That stands to fuel a convergence of marketing and operations in how offers, services, and loyalty-creating experiences reach travelers in the first place.

Lateral to the concerns of marketing and operations on-site is the rise of messaging communities around particular travel styles and demographics. Nomad List and Travel Noire are two examples, and they represent a frontier of focused data — if travel companies can penetrate early resistance to marketing within the spaces.

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