Travel has been among the first industries to feel the full impact of the mobile shift as customers increasingly make smartphones, tablets and apps part of their travel tools. At the forefront of this trend is what a new report from travel information startup Skift calls the “silent traveler,” eschewing traditional modes of customer service in favor of digital options.
“The silent traveler is a customer who is conversant and comfortable with online and mobile functionality, all manner of it, and in a first-screen capacity. While the silent traveler undoubtedly turns at times to a dot-com channel…chiefly they are among the individuals for whom tablets and smartphones solve in-destination quandaries much of the time,” according to the study.
The most tech-savvy customers tend to skew younger. Based on a Skift survey of 1,500 consumers in June, those aged 25-34 were mostly likely (39.6%) to use mobile search and social media “to resolve a travel problem.” But the study, underwritten by Expedia unit Egencia, defines the demographic more broadly, in the 25-44 age range across gender.
How are airlines and hotels connecting with more self-reliant and mobile-focused customers? Looking at specific examples, the report highlighted Delta, which two and a half years ago introduced its mobile app, and now gets some 20% of airport check-ins via smartphones and tablets.
For Delta, the next step is connecting travel data to social data. “The traveler bound for a new location, in this scenario, would then receive details about whether contacts in their social-media milieu have been to that destination before,” the report states. That would open the door to personalized travel tips and recommendations.
On the hotel side, Hilton’s
social media-based service—Hilton Suggests—allows mobile-equipped customers to ask questions or provide feedback as well as letting the hotel chain scan social chatter for any problems
that might arise at one of its properties.
Marriott executives indicated that the release of its check-in app last August has freed up staff to provide higher-level service.
Mobile is especially playing a bigger role, though, “in-destination,” as people turn to their devices to get local information or make hotel or car rental bookings on the fly. In that vein, the HotelTonight app lets people make same-day reservations and look at a seven-day window of room-rate estimates and availability.
Another app called Shout helps users find people who have hard-to-get restaurant reservations but are willing to sell them, for perhaps $35 to $70. The buyer pays the seller, in-app, and the transfer of the table is handled by Shout.
On the ad side, startups such as Arrivalist are also finding ways to target tourists on the go. The company has developed proprietary ad technology that aims to delivers mobile impressions to tourists in a given destination without including local residents to eliminate wasted reach.
The Skift study overall recommends that brands stay attuned to customer input in their social platforms, where they might be more likely to sound off than in person. That’s where the silent traveler becomes more vocal. “They share and express their experiences. Reaching them, and understanding what the self –reliant customer needs is about proactively listening to this exchange,” it states.
Social media also overlaps more than ever with mobile. Some 71% of time spent on social-networking sites in the U.S. now takes place on smartphones and tablets, according to recent comScore data.