Travel Trends: How Do They Impact Mobile Marketers?

At the end of any given year, there are dozens -- OK, let’s be honest, probably thousands -- of articles about travel trends. This makes perfect sense: travel is normative at the holidays. It’s also hellacious. Ever been at an airport bar for six hours on the day before Thanksgiving? Interesting, yet awful, things happen there. We digress.

OK, so … you’ll see travel trends like “the rise of experience travel,” which again makes sense because, well, Millennials. Or you’ll see stats about how people spend lots on travel but want to save money, hence the popularity of sites like Kayak and Hopper -- and this also makes sense because, well, Millennials don’t have a lot of money yet.

But within all these stats and Millennial generalizations, what exactly are the lessons for a mobile marketer? That’s where we come in with a few tips.


Push Notifications

This can apply whether you work in travel-centric marketing capacities or not. Here’s the essential deal with push notifications: always think in the context of value and frequency. People are completely fine getting push notifications of value. But frequency also needs to be taken into account. If you push and push and push and push, eventually customers are going to run screaming from you.

Travel context: let’s say someone was looking for Boston to LA flights through your app. If those flights drop 15 percent for the holidays, that is quite literally the IDEAL time to send a push notification to that specific user. That’s huge value for them. But if you had previously sent 30 push notifications about any number of things not related to the specific trip they’re aiming for, now you might have lost them before the real deal they want comes onto their lock screen. See how it’s all a balance of value and frequency?


Close to 3 in 10 apps are used once then never used again. Why? Again, we go back to value: The value proposition has to be embedded within the onboarding process, as in “Why would I use this app more than two or three times?” Then you need UX ease of use. This also applies to mobile marketing in general and not just travel-specific mobile marketing: clear value prop, easy-to-navigate UX. Both are tremendously important no matter what corner of the mobile marketing ecosystem you inhabit.

Big Sandbox

70% of mobile users have done travel research on their phones. That’s a massive amount of people. The sandbox you’re playing in if your app touches travel is probably much larger than you think. So make sure your thinking is about value, communication frequency, UX, and availability of good booking deals. If you’re nailing those four areas, you’ll nail repeat customers. And repeat customers telling their friends about a cool new travel app means more money in your coffers. Which means you don’t even need that 15% off to LA! But it would still be nice.


The Airport Bar

Ah, we return here. Listen: there are a lot of delays in airports at the holidays. Most of the “worst travel days” of the year are around Thanksgiving or Christmas. For 2018, most of America has had a large cold front earlier than normal; San Antonio just had a November day colder than anything in 102 years. That means, in all likelihood, more delays for weather, de-icing, etc.

What do all these delays mean? Frustration, but … the silver lining … crowded airport bars. The beauty of crowded airport bars is that you have a willing and captive audience to discuss apps, your app, mobile, marketing, mobile marketing, and what people expect from their phones in general. Talk to that random guy from Philadelphia sitting next to you. Engage with the person from Topeka. Ask them what they need and expect from mobile marketing, and what annoys them. Get specific brand names from them. This is some of the best consumer research you can do.

Years ago, in a conversation at the Detroit airport during December business travel, we found out that one brand was sending annoying video emails that had an instant “Schedule A Demo!” pop-up as soon as the video hit the 25 percent played mark. At the time, one of our friends was considering using this strategy. Literally every single person at this airport bar said they hated it and would never engage again with a company who did that. We advised our friend. He didn’t do it. Saved by the bell? Saved by the 23-oz Sam Adams? Regardless, it was free business advice from actual users of mobile. Do this as well.

What else do you think mobile marketers can glean from the travel app world or the horrific travel season that is November/December?