If the mobile app world had a homecoming queen, we’d probably nominate travel apps. (Stay with us.) They’re so popular that they experience the lowest percentage of the 3-month churn that plagues other types of apps. And according to TripAdvisor, 42% of users worldwide use mobile devices to plan and book their trips. There’s plenty of potential users out there--and plenty of apps competing to get their attention. Without the kind of personalized experience users have come to expect, it’s easy for travelers to default to the online travel agent apps that have saturated app stores.
Here’s the really good news: your app marketing can create the kind of targeted experience your users want--the kind that results in long-term, loyal users. We're going to cover which mobile marketing campaigns benefit travel apps like yours the most, and how to get started.
But first? To guide your thinking throughout this eBook, we wanted to kick things off on a more personal level. Our team did a quick assessment of Choice Hotel's app, and here are our key findings:
Where You Could Improve:
1. Gradual permission requests: Currently, you are requesting all your permissions from users up front. This can feel jarring to a new user and as a result, they may opt-out. Consider tying in opt-in requests to a rich on-boarding experience that clearly outlines the benefit to opting in to the user. In addition, don't request all permissions out of the gate. Wait for a user to engage and familiarize themselves with your app a few times and then request.
Want more information about permission requests? Check out our "Permission To Push" blog.
2. App onboarding process: Currently, Choice Hotel doesn't have an onboarding process which is detrimental to app retention. The onboarding process is a user's first impression of you app, and ensures they understand you app's value and functionality. In fact, we have found that user retention rates increased by 50% after implementing a solid onboarding process.
Looking to learn more about effective onboarding? Check out our "App Onboarding 101" blog.
3. Mobile Marketing Optimization: When we went through booking a hotel on Choice Hotel's app, we didn’t encounter any in-app messaging or receive any push notifications. Push and in-app messaging have both proven their weight in mobile marketing gold and have proven to be effective in mobile engagement, retention and conversion. The catch? You need to do it right. Putting together a solid mobile marketing strategy is an integral part of growing your app, so let's fix this together.
Need more convincing about push & in-app? Check out our "6 Stats That Prove How Crucial Push & In-App Messaging Are to Your App's Success" blog.
Before you dive in, ask yourself: who’s using Choice Hotel's app? No marketing campaign will get the results you’re looking for if it’s not targeting the right user. Here’s how you can be sure you’re attracting high-value users to your app.
All of the messaging you use to promote your app must be clear and concise. It sounds obvious, but double check (with testing or multiple editors) whether two things are clear:
1. What Choice's app is?
2. Why consumers (and guests) should care/use it
Travel apps are popular. The market is crowded. It’s more difficult to stand out in a crowd. If your messaging is doing the work it’s supposed to do, you can be confident that it’ll attract the type of users that you’re looking for.
Let’s take a look at your user acquisition plan. Which channels are bringing in users with strong engagement and life-time value (LTV)? Don’t focus on app downloads as a key metric. You’re not winning if an acquisition channel attracts thousands of users who churn days later. Closely monitor LTV to make sure you’re attracting high-value users.
Wait, how do I attract high-value users?
Invest in a mobile marketing platform that gives you insight into attribution. This way, you’ll know where high-value users are coming from since you’ll probably be advertising in several different places, like social media and paid search. Understand each channel’s true impact by tracking the sessions and LTV of the average user these channels bring in. Cut channels that attract a high rate of users who churn and invest the additional spend in places where you’re obtaining high-value users.
If there are groups of users that are particularly relevant to your app, take advantage of features like Facebook’s Lookalike Audiences. Lookalike Audiences lets you send Facebook a list of valuable customers. Facebook will show your ads to Facebook users who are similar to your high-value customers.
Once you’re attracting the right audience to your travel app, you can create funnels that give you insights into how your users behave, and how your app drives results.
Understanding the app user lifecycle is crucial to this part of your mobile marketing strategy. Where your users are in the lifecycle should help dictate how you engage with them. Different marketing channels work at different points. With a solid mobile engagement platform, you can set up different funnels to evaluate user flows, conversion paths, and in-app actions.
Let’s look at the funnels you should create to help you optimize your in-app experience:
Onboarding is crucial to user retention. Users don’t waste much time deciding whether they like an app or not, so make your app’s value clear from the get-go. Onboarding typically starts the first time the user opens the app, and progresses through several subsequent user actions.
How do you know if your onboarding works?
Create an onboarding completion funnel. This funnel shows how many users progress through each step of your onboarding. If a significant number of fall off between certain steps, it indicates that something about the app or the onboarding process isn’t working. Your next move? Do some user testing and get a directional sense of what in your onboarding isn’t working. Consider reevaluating your onboarding process to ensure you’re delivering clear, concise instructions that highlight key app features and promote engagement.
Conversion. Conversion funnels are straight-forward, and also a must. You’ll see how many users start the path to taking the primary action your app is built around. Depending on what kind of travel-related service your app offers, it could be fairly complex. (Travel websites typically have low conversion rates for just that reason.)
A travel app conversion funnel for Choice's booking app could look like:
Conversion funnels are important because they help you pinpoint areas where you can improve your app’s user experience or identify potential bugs. When you review your conversion funnel, look for any significant drop-offs in the number of users proceeding from one step to the next. This indicates that something is keeping your user from progressing to the next step.
Whew. Now that we’ve covered funnels, channels, and messaging, let’s get into marketing campaigns.
Apps are like dates: first impressions are everything. If it’s not clear what your user needs to do to get started and eventually find their dream hotel in Greece or that unicorn affordable flight, they’ll likely close your app. (And they may not open it again.)
Use onboarding to new users get acquainted with your app.
Help new users find their way around your app with a series of in-app messages that they’ll see as soon as they log in for the first time. Show off what makes your app great: Key functionality and benefits, cool features, etc. By the end of the introduction, users should be clear on how to use your app to complete basic tasks like searching for a flight or comparing hotel rooms.
PRO TIP: End your onboarding process with a CTA helps users dive into your app. If you know most users are interested in booking hotels, you might take them to your latest hotel deals. This helps set them up for success while moving them through the funnel.
Like onboarding campaigns, in-app marketing campaigns take place while a user is within the app. The key difference is that onboarding campaigns occur immediately upon opening the app, whereas in-app messages happen during use.
Effective in-app messages guide users through your funnels and help them complete tasks. It’s also a good idea to take advantage of rich media and match your company’s unique branding.
Whenever you launch significant new app features, make sure you share them with your users by giving them a very quick overview of the update, and highlighting key enhancements. This strengthens the user experience and boosts engagement since users can see you’re invested in making your app better.
PRO TIP: Use an interactive tutorial to walk users through new features. This ensures they fully understand how to take advantage of your new functionality.
GRADUAL PERMISSION REQUESTS.
Too many apps overlook how they ask users for the various permissions their app needs to provide the best possible experience. Push, location track, etc--users tend are happier when they’re in place, but they’re also not typically inclined to grant permission for an app to use them.
The best way to get those permissions?
Hold off on asking for push notification permissions until after a user’s first login. Show them some value, then make the request.
Ask for one permission at a time. So if you ask for push in one session, wait for the next to ask for location tracking.
Make sure you tell them why they should give you permission.
The best deals go fast. User history and search lets you target your users, so you can provide a friendly reminder that if they don’t book soon, that Columbus Day Weekend Deal might be booked up. It’s a relevant message that’s in a user’s best interest, and nudges them toward conversion.
PRO TIP: Try a progression of in-app messages for purchase abandonment. The first message is a reminder, while the second provides an incentive for the user to complete checkout, like early bird check-in.
Having a sale or offering a can’t-miss deal for a stay at the Comfort Inn Times Square West? Let users know while they are browsing your app so they can take advantage.
PRO TIP: Avoid blasting out every sale you have to the masses. Instead, segment your offers based on user history and travel searches so they’re highly relevant.
When users convert within your app, it’s important to have in-app messages in place confirming these conversion actions. A simple confirmation message will ensure their transaction is complete, reassuring them that they won’t miss out on the big family reunion in Winnipeg.
PRO TIP: Follow up a transactional in-app message with an email to travelers so they have the details they need in an additional place. Include important information like receipts and shipping details.
After their trip, follow up with users and request reviews. Travelers love sharing hidden gems and great finds, and apps with reviews enjoy a 3x higher conversion rate and 5.3x longer average session length than those without.
PRO TIP: If you’re having difficulty getting enough reviews, consider incentivizing guests to review products. TripAdvisor shares stats around the number of views user reviews receive, what countries they’re coming from, and awards points and levels based on the amount of reviews you complete.
Speaking of reviews, creating an in-app message that asks users to ‘rate the app’ via an NPS score is a perfect way to separate your promoters from the detractors. If a shopper’s rating indicates they are neutral or a detractor, you can have the in-app message request that they provide feedback via a text field. You get valuable insights into your app’s weaknesses, and users can vent privately rather than in a public app store review. If a user is a promoter, the in-app message can include a CTA linking to the app store so they can leave a glowing review.
It’s all in the name: inbox messaging is like an email inbox inside your app. So how do they benefit mobile marketers?
Less disruptive. No need to worry about annoying a user with a poorly timed message.
They don’t disappear. Push and in-app messages do once they’re viewed by users, so users can’t revisit them.
You can scroll through them. This allows you to add more detail than you could with a push notification or an in-app message.
SEND CONTENT OR OFFERS USERS WILL WANT LATER.
One of our customers uses inbox messaging to send users a list of cool places to check out once they arrive at their destination. The user may not be ready for the list at that moment, but because it’s an inbox message it’ll be waiting for them when they need it. Or, delight users with a voucher to use at their destination, like a complimentary glass of wine upon check-in at the Hope Town Harbour Lodge.
KEEP USERS IN-THE-KNOW WITHOUT DISRUPTING THEM.
If your user is interacting with your brand primarily through your app, they may not up to date on big--but not critical to their experience--news for the brand. CityMapper knows that as a Bostonian, using their app in Scandinavia probably isn’t crucial for me. But the content is there for me to find on my own time, and if I’m going to Sweden anytime soon, I’ll be pleased to see it. (The subtler message is how the app is growing.)
We know push notifications make some marketers nervous, and it’s true: when done poorly, push can lead users to churn. But before you decide not to use them at all, look what happens when they’re done well: they can increase engagement by more than 88%.
ANNOUNCE EXCLUSIVE SALES.
Hard to resist, amirite? One-day sales create a sense of urgency that makes them especially relevant for push notifications, the most visible app message. Segmentation still comes into effect here, since you should group users based on similar characteristics: lapsed users, travelers who searched tours of Machu Picchu, etc.
PRO TIP: When it comes to push notifications, copy is key--especially when you’re pitching an offer. Relay a sense of urgency with action-oriented text to try and boost swipe-throughs. Drive the one-to-one relationship home by using the user’s name and make it clear that not just anyone’s receiving this offer.
Example: Barry, there’s just one day left to get our special sale fare to Peru!
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF HOLIDAY TRAVEL.
Holidays mean days off for lots of people, which means people are ready to get out of town. For hotel apps in particular, it’s your time to shine. Labor Day isn’t for a few weeks, but travel app HitList knows people are well into planning their long weekends, and capitalizes with a well-timed push notification.
PROMOTE LOYALTY PROGRAMS.
You know engaged users offer more LTV, so you have a loyalty program that rewards them for being such great users. Push is a great way to target users who aren’t yet part of your Choice Privileges rewards program. Send them a special offer to sign up (this would work well as an in-app campaign, too).
PRO TIP: Try the same campaign in reverse. Reward the members of your loyalty program and drive bookings by offering an exclusive deal to members who haven’t booked a trip recently.
Geo-push is really starting to pick up steam in mobile marketing world. Geo-push messages are push notifications, but are sent in real-time when a user approaches or leaves a specific location (like an airport). It’s one of the most user-relevant messages you can send. But with great power, comes great responsibility. The best way to ensure you get geo-push right is to send highly relevant messages to a select group of users.
PROVIDE BOOKING INFO WHEN USERS NEED IT.
Geofencing airports, hotels, and similar spaces means you can send users relevant booking and registration information when they arrive. Virgin Airways sent my boarding pass for a recent flight as soon as I arrived in Logan. With everything else on my mind (did I forget my ID?), I was relieved to have one of the things I needed most ready to go.
SEND HANDY IDEAS & TIPS. TripAdvisor uses geofencing to send helpful content. Walking through the area near our own Localytics office triggered a list of well-reviewed restaurant suggestions.
Remarketing is using messaging or advertising outside your app to bring back users who haven’t opened in a while. Like just about all app marketing, it gets the best results when it’s targeted to users. Segment your remarketing by the actions a user previously took within your app and their current position in the app user lifecycle.
REACH OUT TO LAPSED USERS.
First, make sure your team identifies a “lapsed user.” It varies from app to app, but a good rule of thumb is whether a user has opened your app in 30 days or less (based on our retention data).
How? Try a push notification or Facebook ad. The idea is to drive them to open your app again. Show off a new feature, or entice them with a special offer--whatever you think will drive engagement with these users.
PUSH OR IN-APP MESSAGE POWER USERS.
Remarketing can work well with your power users, too. Who are power users? They’re your most valuable users--the ones with higher conversion rates and Lifetime Value (LTV). Say a user regularly books their stays with you on your app. They’re regularly in your app, so you can take the opportunity to and offer a special incentive. The same kind of message would work well for a push notification, too.
First of all, congratulations for making it to the end of this eBook. But we really couldn’t make it any shorter, and that speaks to how much opportunity is out there for Choice Hotels. Your users (and potential users) are looking to mobile more and more to fill their needs. Remember the stat we referenced in the beginning? 42% of all travelers look to mobile to plan travel. So it’s crucial for you to take advantage of everything mobile marketing can do for your bottom line.
With that in mind, here are a few questions to reflect upon as you think about your mobile strategy for 2017:
1. Geofence. What if Choice geo-fenced airports with Localytics? You could send a push notification welcoming guests to the city upon their arrival, surfacing useful booking info, sharing restaurant recommendations , notifying guests if their room is ready early, and more. Essentially, you'd be able to create a unique experience with your guest as soon as they arrive town.
2. Remarketing. What if guests who didn’t complete a booking received friendly push reminders to finish booking a room before prices went up?
3. Re-engagement. What if Choice Hotels could notify guests of destination hotel deals based on their point balance? (i.e. you have 75k points, that’s enough for this free stay in Bali!)
4. Cross-channel experience. What if a guests bill was waiting for them in the app inbox so that they could quickly screen shot it for expense reporting?
When you tailor your marketing campaigns to your users, you’re creating the kind of experience they want--the kind that results in loyal users. It’s not always easy, but it does pay off. Make sure smart targeting and thoughtful user experience inform all your mobile marketing, and you’ll see the success you’re looking for.