The move to messaging as a primary form of communication between companies and consumers is, if anything, accelerating — and it’s time for marketers to be sure they are at least up to date on what this channel might mean for them and their specific products.
According to a survey from communications technology company LivePerson on how consumers prefer to communicate with their airline, 52% of respondents reported they had downloaded their preferred airline's app on their phone.
Second to banks — which have made it so easy to complete transactions on mobile devices — is not bad but there is a lot of work to be done, according to Rurik Bradbury, LivePerson's head of research. “When travelers are in a hurry to get information, like when they’re flying, messaging is the best way to go. Calling is inefficient, but messaging with a chat live option inside an app is a sure way to gain loyalty.”
Make no mistake; this is an issue as much about marketing as it is about technology. The message from this survey is about how airlines (and other travel suppliers) are and should be using mobile and messaging to offer consumers more value and give them what they’re asking for (how to entice them to download — and keep using — their app, for example). But overall, the data provides a window into how airlines can better meet consumers where they are (on their phones!) and deliver the right message at the right time in consumer-friendly ways.
While airlines have been slower than other industries to move in this direction, according to Bradbury, there are lots of incentives to do so, including mobile check-in and incentives to create engagement. There is much more immediacy to messaging than email, said Bradbury, and customized alerts can be created for individual customers. “You could do chat boxes inside threads to offer upgrades where a traveler would just swipe yes” (à la Tinder).
As a marketer, it’s not knowing if a message has been viewed that is a problem, said Bradbury. With messaging, vendors have receipts when a message is opened and a much higher open rate to boot.
Consumers are now very comfortable with messaging, said Bradbury, as well as with live chat on their apps. In a couple of years, he said, bots will be introduced into these systems where the bot can handle simple requests like a change of flights while humans step in when necessary – with a photo of that human on the mobile device. While it seems like expensive technology, Bradbury said mobile messaging and chat are far less labor intensive than other channels because a counselor can handle 10 - 15 conversations at once.
While the kind of immediacy called for with air travel might not apply to hotels or cruises, mobile messaging — and chat — are coming on strong. Not only are they a way to communicate, they are also a way to engage, deliver marketing messages and drive loyalty.