Many travel brands have become dependent on mobile apps to engage with customers and, increasingly, take bookings.
So when a handset manufacturer such as Apple makes a big move with a new operating system, developers, user experience specialists and e-commerce folk within an organization have to think clearly and quickly.
Apple’s recent iOS 12 - a fairly important update compared to earlier ones - has taken a consumer-centric approach to push notifications.
So, for example, travel companies could see more people choosing to have notifications arrive on their handsets quietly, putting critical day-of-travel alerts at risk.
That said, iOS 12’s introduction of Grouped Notifications and Provisional Authorization features means there are great opportunities for travel brands to increase their screen share, if done correctly.
And the time to act is now.
Many users have already upgraded to the new operating system, and, traditionally, the travel sector receives healthy notification engagement, with 60% of iOS users and 82% of Android users opting in to push notifications, according to our research.
These five tips demonstrate how travel brands can maintain and build their addressable audience by embracing the opportunities that iOS 12 presents.
1. Drive the value of notifications home to all users
With the latest update, travel companies can choose to implement Provisional Authorization, which allows them to reach all app users with notifications prior to obtaining user opt-in - these are delivered straight to the Notification Center without a sound.
Those users that are already opted in to notifications, or those who are reached through Provisional Authorization and choose prominent delivery, will continue to receive notifications on lock screens with an audible alert.
Push notifications are perfect for brands to get important messages across, such as gate changes, delays or reminders to check in.
If over half of users are opted out of notifications, this automatic notification trial may be a better approach to get more users to understand the value the notifications deliver.
In iOS 12, users will be given the opportunity to turn these notifications off or continue receiving them with the choice of prominent or quiet delivery, making relevant messaging all that much more important.
2. Give users more choice if they choose to opt out
In-app preference centers can now be linked directly to notification settings in iOS.
The likes of “manage” buttons within notifications and the “turn off” buttons served via Provisional Authorization bring notification controls front and center for users.
On the plus side, when users tap these buttons, they can be directed to the app’s preference center.
Travel companies can ensure they retain a greater notification opt-in rate by allowing users to toggle notifications on or off for different offerings, such as destination promotions, check-in reminders, loyalty rewards and flight or booking status changes.
Additionally, controls can be provided around the frequency of messages, or which topics they’d rather have delivered via email, SMS or in-app message centers.
3. Relevancy is key for consumer buy-in
The more relevant an app’s notifications, the more likely people will be receptive to them audibly arriving on lock screens.
It’s important that travel brands realize Prominent or Quiet Delivery is an either/or choice by app for each user, so it’s vital that all notifications sent are helpful.
Sending check-in reminders and changes to departure times or location are incredibly useful, whereas messages about flight entertainment options and ordering food ahead of time help to take customer service to the next level.
It’s also more important than ever that travel brands orchestrate customer communications across an array of digital channels.
The goal should be to retain prominent app-based notifications for timely updates when travelers are on the go, with notifications from mobile wallet boarding passes providing a backup channel for highly visible, often critical, alerts.
SMS can also reach people with the same level of prominence, but at a much higher cost per message.
Less urgent communications like destination promotions, mileage or loyalty plan updates or post-stay satisfaction surveys can be distributed to other channels like email.
4. Make the most of your share of the screen
iOS 12 uses Grouped Notifications to condense the display of an app’s notifications on the lock screen and Notification Center, and offers a single button to dismiss them as a group.
With that in mind, travel firms that need to message users multiple times per day or week - even if infrequently - should set up different groups such as loyalty/mileage promotions, one-day sales, day-of travel, holiday inspiration, etc.
This will give users a glanceable view and enable them to easily dismiss a group they’re not that interested in, leaving the other groups of notifications to consume.
Apps that do not set different groups will have all of their notifications stacked on top of each other, leaving only the most recent message immediately visible, which may result in users missing important updates.
5. Seize the opportunity of notifications as functionality
Famously user-first Apple did not open up the ability to reach all app users with push notifications - pre opt-in - to create more marketing opportunities for companies.
It’s likely an acknowledgement that notifications have become critical features for many of the most useful apps, and some users are on autopilot when it comes to tapping “don’t allow.”
The challenge for travel brands is to take advantage of Provisional Authorization in order to overcome these biases.
Now, more than ever, the onus is on travel brands to make notifications helpful and worthwhile for the user, even going above and beyond to delight where possible.
In order to add value, some airlines are combining stored customer intelligence such as layover location/duration, and loyalty information including air miles, with other data sources such as up-to-the-minute flight times, and airport information including terminal maps, gate distance and tips to avoid crowd congestion.
Others are partnering with local businesses to enhance a visitor’s stay including local taxi providers, car rental or public transport companies and sharing relevant information with users on the easiest way to get to the city center.
Personalized experiences like these are great example of how push notifications can re-imagine real-time customer service.
iOS 12 gives users more autonomy over the notifications they receive, which presents travel brands with a great opportunity to leap ahead of competitors by excelling at real-time relevancy.
This expanded opportunity for firms to be there in the moment customers need assistance or white-glove service offers the ability to differentiate on customer experience and earn greater long-term loyalty.