The advent, proliferation, and popularity of mobile apps has disrupted many a traditional industry. The rapid transition to an increasingly digital ecosystem – across both web and mobile channels – has revolutionised the travel industry as well. In fact, the online travel industry is well on its way to hit a valuation of over $1,000 billion by 2022, growing at a CAGR of almost 11%.
Data-driven mobile marketers have their jobs cut out for them in an extremely competitive market where almost 5% of all apps available across both Android and iOS app stores are travel apps. While user acquisition is already a massive hurdle, resultant engagement, monetisation, and retention also pose major challenges in the context of the evolving app user lifecycle.
Customers are always going to look at 3 factors before translating a purchase intent into a concrete transaction:
- Element of convenience associated with booking online
- Value-for-money, in terms of best possible prices and deals
- Past purchase experience with the brand
In price sensitive markets like India where alternative options are aplenty, switching behaviour is rampant, regardless of how great the end-to-end user experience is or has been historically. In fact, according to a Google report, 88% of travel app users are liable to switch to a competitor if their needs aren’t being fulfilled. And, 20% of users are likely to ditch the travel app after merely a one-time use, regardless of their needs remaining met or unmet!
Thus, building app brand loyalty becomes pivotal to long-term retention. In such a scenario, it pays to adopt a smart data-driven approach to mobile marketing that bridges the gap between actionable user-specific analytics and multi-channel engagement on a platform such as Netcore Smartech.
Here are 7 tips that mobile marketers at travel apps can implement to gradually up their retention metrics:
Tip #1: Leverage data to highlight bitter truths
As a mobile marketer, actionable insights gained from deep-dive analytics offer meaningful fodder for your retention campaigns. By using Cohort Analysis, marketers can identify user groups that exhibit similar behaviour over a period of time, and analyse behavioural trends exhibited over days, weeks, and months.
These insights can be used to craft and deliver optimal marketing campaigns with a firm focus on driving higher engagement and retention. The effectiveness of these campaigns can be reflected in the rising or falling user retention numbers, mapped from the day of app download or user registration.
Data seldom lies. Data reflects realities. Data demands action and accountability And, mobile marketers are well advised to harness the power of data-fueled insights, every step of the way.
Tip #2: Nudge users to make new bookings through incentives
Once marketers make data their operational partners-in-crime, they can leverage relevant insights derived from a unified view of their customers, especially when it comes to historical in-app behaviour.
For travel apps, historical behaviour would include actions such as flights booked to specific destinations, hotel accommodation viewed or booked, requested information on tour packages, etc.
By harnessing such insights, mobile marketers can nudge users who have made at least one in-app booking to make more transactions. This can be accomplished with highly personalised and relevant message campaigns delivered through dynamic channels such as push notifications and emails.
Calls to action can be made more compelling by incentivising purchase decisions by communicating fresh offers, limited-time discounts, price drop deals, easier payment options, new bundling plans, based on a user’s most frequent travel destinations, airlines, modes of payment, travel frequency, and duration of stay.
India-based MakeMyTrip sends periodic contextual push notifications and emails highlighting limited-time offers and sales based on users’ travel history and preferred payment options. The effective use of deep-linking is also leveraged to direct interested users to the relevant page on the app or mobile site.
Tip #3: Provide users with all the relevant information they need to encourage greater conversions
One of the most common reasons why users abandon travel apps is because they’re unable to access all travel or trip-related information on the platform easily.
It needs to be accepted that a large segment of users will undertake a comparative study with other market options based on availability of flights to destinations of their choice, timings, prices, promotional offers (if any), etc.
This is why travel apps need to empower users with conveniently accessible information on their app, every time they come back and browse before deciding to make a purchase decision.
Skyscanner does a great job of this by offering an easy-to-use interface to search for flights to specific destinations. It also highlights valuable insights such as the time difference between various locations to facilitate easier decision-making.
Skyscanner also has a “Watch” feature that lets users monitor ticket prices for a particular flight and be notified of changes.
This is another way to keep users hooked, building higher “utility stickiness”, and encouraging app relaunch at a later date with the prospect of transaction completion.
Mobile marketers can add greater depth to brand-user interactions in this regard by leveraging multi-channel marketing automation, triggering messages via push notifications, in-app messages, and/or emails, depending upon user response rates to each channel.
Tip #4: Create a habit-building purchase cycle through relevant rewards
Marketers can always lure users back to their app by offering discounts. But, another great way to drive app usage is by offering meaningful rewards.
The Hotels.com app offers users a chance to win a free night at a hotel of their choice. The more bookings a user makes, the greater their chances of unlocking the reward.
Not only does this incentivise bookings, it also brings users back to the app to track their progress towards unlocking valuable rewards.
Once marketers have inculcated a reward-based usage paradigm, it gives them a chance to convert irregular users into loyalists, over a period of time.
Tip #5: Promote loyalty programmes that supplement the user experience
Another way to encourage users to return to your app is by running loyalty or membership programme that deliver value to users in addition to the core product offering.
These programmes shouldn’t be designed with the objective of playing catch up with the competition, but instead as a legitimate extension of the overall user experience. The corollary also holds true. Loyalty programmes alone cannot constitute the foundation of the entire retention strategy.
Users today are smart enough to discern the difference between a leading and inferior app. In such a scenario, if marketers force-fit and push users to sign up for their loyalty programmes, it can backfire quite spectacularly.Such campaigns are best delivered through personalised reminders, updates, and alerts, encouraging users to sign up by communicating the key differentiating value proposition or nudging them to log back in to monitor their account status.
It is also important to target the right users with these campaigns. Targeting first-time users in such a scenario would completely defeat the purpose. It is advisable to leverage insights derived from features such as RFM Analysis, that can help identify and automate user segments based on the recency, frequency, and monetary value of their purchases, over a period of time.
Once marketers have accurately isolated their promising and star users, it becomes to easier to craft appropriate engagement campaigns specifically targeted at these segments
Aegean Airlines loyalty programme rewards repeat users with redeemable air miles.
Tip #6: Engage effectively with post-booking transactional messages
Mobile marketers for travel apps need to remember that delivering satisfactory end-to-end experiences – right from app discovery and download to onboarding and information provision, from transaction facilitation to the completion of the physical travel journey – is the only way to build brand loyalty.
In such an environment, it is important to embed greater value at every stage of the entire travel experience, at a customised level.
How can this be done?
Users with personalised reminders, alerts, and updates that are timely and destination specific, such as top-rated restaurants, shopping venues, attractions, and events.
Delta Airlines sends push notifications to users as soon as their luggage arrives at the carousel. This information is relevant, important, and now, easily available. To put it simply, it adds value to the travel experience, creating a positive impression in the mind of users.
Tip #7: Invest in the power of seamless customer support
Effective customer support is an important cog around which long-term user engagement and retention can be built.
Travel apps are best served by responding to their users’ queries, requests, grievances, and recommendations through a robust multi-channel customer support network.
This could be accomplished through a call center, SMS, email, and social media.
Marketers can also embed an intelligent angle to these conversations by utilising AI-driven Chatbots that can intuitively converse with users based on the most frequently asked questions or historical communication with every user.
The objective is to communicate genuine reliability and a constant desire to better the entire purchase and travel experience. Bringing a subtle emotional angle to the messaging across relevant channels can enhance brand resonance in the minds of users, thereby, encouraging them to stick with the travel app that delights them the most.
Below is an example of how travel app marketers can use simple messaging to encourage users to periodically share their feedback.
Relevant Metrics to Track User Retention Success
Here are some key metrics that mobile marketers at travel apps ought to monitor and gauge user retention by:
Average Retention Rate
(for 3 months)
|The percentage of users who continue to use your app over a period of time post download||
18% – 28%
|The ratio of your Daily Active Users (DAU) to your Monthly Active Users (MAU), expressed as a percentage
A high app stickiness percentage indicates that more number of users keep coming back to your app
20% – 30%
Average Time in App (per session)
|The time a user stays active on your app||
Average Session Frequency
|The time between two consecutive user sessions.
This is a way to measure the addictiveness of your app as it tells you how soon users are returning to your app
10 – 60 days
Buckle Up, for Retention is a Long Ride!
Long-term retention is essential to long-term app success. The only way you can make that happen is by backing up a great product with effective user engagement and retention strategies.
The better the user experience, faster the grievance redressal, and higher the provision of discount-driven or value-adding campaigns and services, greater the chances of building brand loyalty.
As data-driven mobile marketers today, it is important to always remember two sacrosanct truths regarding app user retention strategies:
- There is no “set it and forget it” strategy. Periodic user feedback is pivotal to creating an iteratively improving product and user experience. The idea must be to build a habit-forming platform that maximises stickiness
- No app is churn-proof. It’s impossible to keep everybody happy, so there will be user segments that immediately or gradually become inactive or even resort to uninstalls. While winning such users back is important, travel apps don’t need to hit a 100% retention rate to truly be successful
While engagement and retention should always remain marketers’ north star metrics, there are a variety of high-conversion tactics that can be adopted, targeted at diverse user segments, to build greater user loyalty and advocacy…one personalised, contextual, and timely campaign at a time!
The blog was also published here.