Mobile Marketing: A Help or Hype?

By Robert King General Manager, Travel & Hospitality, ClickSquared | January 23, 2011

Mobile Marketing is "top-of-mind" among travel & hospitality industry marketers, and for many, it's a bit overwhelming. It goes into that same black hole as social media – too ubiquitous to ignore, potentially promising, but somehow too challenging to map a clear course of action. And even for those who recognize the importance of including mobile within an integrated cross-channel marketing strategy, where do you begin; how do you do it; and how do you know if you are successful? Regardless of which camp you fall into, what follows are some thoughts that should help you move forward confidently.

What's Going on in the Mobile Marketing Space?

So what is mobile marketing? The Mobile Marketing Association defines it as, "…a set of practices that enables organizations to communicate and engage with their audience in an interactive and relevant manner through any mobile device or network." That means mobile marketing encompasses all communications via a mobile device, whether they are standard email messages, digital content viewed on a mobile device, or SMS (text) messages.

According to MarketingProfs, more than 61% of people rely on their cell phone for up-to-the-minute information. Their research found that 33% of people regularly check their email on their cell phones while 59% do so occasionally. The same study also found that almost half of individuals cite text messages as their preferred way to receive information.

If there is any industry that is well suited to mobile marketing, it would have to be travel and hospitality. After all, customers are often en route to, on site, or returning from, their destinations. In a Forrester Research report focused on European travel practices (Forrester Research, December 2009, Travel Firms' Initial European Mobile Strategies Should Focus on Convenient Services), analysts found that consumers are routinely using mobile devices to consume travel information.

While only a small minority are utilizing mobile to book travel, it is clear that interest in innovative mobile travel services is growing rapidly. Beyond checking flight status on mobile devices, consumers are beginning to look to airports, hotel chains, car rental agencies, train systems, tourist destinations and even travel insurers to provide mobile offerings, and in particular, text-based communications.

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Social Media: Getting Personal

There Social media platforms have revolutionized the hotel industry. Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Tumblr now account for 2.3 billion active users, and this phenomenon has forever transformed how businesses interact with consumers. Given that social media allows for two-way communication between businesses and consumers, the emphasis of any marketing strategy must be to positively and personally engage the customer, and there are innumerable ways to accomplish that goal. One popular strategy is to encourage hotel guests to create their own personal content - typically videos and photos -which can be shared via their personal social media networks, reaching a sizeable audience. In addition, geo-locational tags and brand hashtags can be embedded in such posts which allow them to be found via metadata searches, substantially enlarging their scope. Influencer marketing is another prevalent social media strategy. Some hotels are paying popular social media stars and bloggers to endorse their brand on social media platforms. These kinds of endorsements generally elicit a strong response because the influencers are perceived as being trustworthy by their followers, and because an influencer's followers are likely to share similar psychographic and demographic traits. Travel review sites have also become vitally important in reputation management. Travelers consistently use social media to express pleasure or frustration about their guest experiences, so it is essential that every review be attended to personally. Assuming the responsibility to address and correct customer service concerns quickly is a way to mitigate complaints and to build brand loyalty. Plus, whether reviews are favorable or unfavorable, they are a vital source of information to managers about a hotel's operational performance.  The February Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to effectively incorporate social media strategies into their businesses.