This year's survey indicates that travel agents, now more than ever, are using mobile marketing to attract clients: 17% of respondents said it is an important way to reach new clients or keep current ones, up from 12% last year, the biggest year-over-year jump of any method. Contributing editor Sarah Feldberg spoke with Avoya Travel's senior vice president of marketing, Sam McCully, about using mobile to market.
Q: Has Avoya Travel increased its focus on mobile marketing in the last year?
A: Yes. We've been actively leveraging mobile in our marketing plans and strategies for years. In particular, we're really watching closely how user behavior and media consumption continues to rapidly evolve, and then within that context, testing new mobile-focused initiatives and programs. Based on what we learn from those, we're optimizing and then applying that to future plans and strategies.
Q: How does Avoya use mobile to reach potential customers?
A: We've deployed a very aggressive and broad-reaching influencer and blogger campaign, [partnering] with an army of bloggers who have a lot of reach and a lot influence within the travel context to start advocating on our behalf. Obviously, a lot of people are digesting that content on mobile-friendly devices, phones and tablets. Another is chat. We've activated a chat beta on our website that is also live and functioning for the mobile version of our site. We're learning a lot there. That's really become an insight and a research tool. We also have social share incentive programs. Once we make a deposit and a booking, we really want our customers to advocate on our behalf.
Q: What has seen the most growth in the last year on mobile?
A: We've seen really strong growth in the prospecting, researching, planning and post-purchase phases of the journey within the mobile context. We see great engagement rates on mobile earlier in the customer journey at the prospecting phase.
Q: Are there any mobile strategies you've found to be less effective?
A: What we learned early on is mobile is not a very strong conversion channel. We sell pretty involved, sometimes complex vacations. So the mobile device, it's very good within the prospecting context, engaging them with our brand, putting really cool content in front of them. But it becomes less of a focus of our strategy the further down on the conversion path it goes. We see much stronger conversion rates on desktop.
Q: Email is still the most used marketing strategy for attracting new clients, but its decreasing in popularity. Do you see that trend, as well?
A: There's lots of reasons why email's share continues to decrease. Just overall competitiveness of the inbox. It's just crazy, everyone and their mother and brother is deploying email marketing, and I think there's a lot of wear-out and fatigue in the consumer landscape. People are just tired of it. You have to really understand what someone was searching for and then deliver very timely, very personalized content in the inbox if you're going to survive in the channel.
Q: Mobile marketing is growing but is still among the less popular marketing methods. Why should agents embrace it?
A: If executed correctly, it's an absolutely invaluable and powerful way to get your brand and your company and travel agency in front of someone you want to sell vacations to. Mobile devices are quickly becoming part of everyone's lives. If you lose your phone, it's worse than losing your wallet or your purse. You have to understand how to use the channel and then deploy mobile-centric, mobile-specific strategies that add value.