The travel industry has a set of unique challenges. Unlike some other services delivered via mobile, booking a flight, for example, isn’t something many of us do every day. Leisure travellers might only use a typical booking engine or airline app 3 times a year. Even business travellers are unlikely to book travel more than once a month, and that is only if somebody else isn’t doing the job for them.

So although mobile has become a significant channel in the travel industry - forecasted to be responsible for nearly 60% of digital travel bookings in 2017 - the challenge for individual brands is around ensuring that users return when the time comes to book travel again.

The first - and perhaps most important - step is simply ensuring that the mobile app is installed. Users love mobile apps, and the improved user experience they deliver means higher booking completion rates. But in this context the mobile app serves a further purpose: its very presence on the phone enables the business to reach out to the customer via push notifications.

Bringing Users Back To The Mobile App

Push notifications are a double-edged sword for the marketer. Used well, they offer a fantastic opportunity to let the customer know when you have something of value that they personally might be interested in. Used badly, they are the world’s greatest method of training 99% of your audience to ignore you.

We will focus on the former, and do so with a real-world example of smart, targeted push notifications that can really bring people back at the right time - and ensure your service isn’t forgotten.

Push notifications to bring users back to travel apps - A/B tested

Personalized ‘Right Time’ Offers Via Push And In-App

Booking engine apps have to be prepared to let users go when they have finished one task, and invite them back at a later date. To do that effectively means carefully targeting and personalizing push notification campaigns for maximum engagement. You will only get one shot at this, so make sure it delivers first time. Here’s how:

  • Tie the communication to value. That doesn’t necessarily mean discounts, but it does mean considering what each individual user cares about. Do they have a favoured holiday destination? Then lead with flight sales that are relevant.
  • Ensure the timing is right. At the macro level, remember that many travellers - particularly leisure travellers - tend to book at certain times of the year. Make sure you work off that data to deliver campaigns when users are most receptive. And at the micro level, send push at the time that each specific user is more likely to open the app. In the case of a booking engine there might be little data to work on, but nevertheless it should be consulted. ‘Optimal time’ push can double engagement rates.
  • Personalize Content. Addressing the customer by name may seem obvious - but it works. In fact, it can increase click rates by up to 500%. And personalization doesn’t stop there - by using relevant fields such as destination (rather than a generic sale message) users will see messages more directly relevant and thus more effective.
  • Deep Link To The Right Place. The more targeted and relevant the push notification is, the more important it is to link into a specific area of the app - in this instance the specific flight booking area. Of course, in the case of more general promotions, it can be worth linking into an in-app message, again designed in Swrve, that continues the conversation and ensures the user does not get lost.
  • A/B Test Content. It’s never possible to be certain which content approach will work best when it comes to engagement. So test it. Take the time to create distinctive alternative approaches and track which drive the most engagement - and which moves the numbers you actually care about (conversions and revenues typically!)