How To Treat Every Mobile Traveler Like a VIP

By: Kahuna | October 28, 2014 | Customer Spotlight, Mobile Marketing, Push Notifications

When it comes to their mobile customers, travel companies are leaving billions on the table*. According to eMarketer, mobile will account for 18% of all digital travel sales in 2014. In 2018, this number will reach 37%. When it comes to mobile, digital travel companies have an enormous opportunity—not just to increase mobile sales, but to engage customers at all stages of the customer lifecycle.

To be successful, you need to engage and delight your mobile users as they plan, book and experience their trips. To achieve this, mobile marketers must learn how to effectively communicate with their mobile users.

Today, we sat down for a Q&A session with Kyle Williams, a senior mobile strategist at Kahuna who works with our travel and hospitality clients. Read on to learn how the best mobile apps are perfecting their push notification strategies.


How are mobile focused travel companies using push notifications today? What are the opportunities for further success?


Most travel companies are using two main strategies for push notifications: transactional and basic engagement. When it comes to transactional messaging, sending notifications for gate changes and flight updates are some of the most common ways to utilize push. For users who are already engaged, weather and check-in updates are also helpful when sent in real time.

When it comes to engagement marketing, the travel apps seeing the most success are using push notifications to re-engage their so-called long lost users. The vast majority of travel apps have a high number of app installs, but a small fraction of engaged users – which means there are a ton of potential customers who have downloaded your application but are not currently spending money or actively engaged with your service. Improving this ratio has tremendous effect on the lifetime value of your users and the long-term success of your app.

One challenge is that the stakes for push notifications are much higher than they are for email. App installs are costly, and our research shows that users who receive anywhere from 1-3 bad push notifications are likely to uninstall the app. The reason is that users are far less forgiving when it comes to mobile communications because the experience is more personal and visceral.


What benefits can my company expect from leveraging push?


If you are a travel company, the goal is for your users to build your app into their travel habits. The average frequent traveler has between five and ten travel applications on their smartphone or tablet. Without an engagement strategy in place, users are likely to download your app and then disappear because they are jumping between various applications as they continue to look for the best travel options.

When travelers are starting to plan their next trip, travel companies need to ensure that they are prepared to take advantage of this window of opportunity and intent. Here’s how:

#1. Become the go-to application. You want your traveler to get used to using your app for searching and booking. This happens through promotional offers, new feature updates, or a seamless onboarding process.

#2. Make sure you target the person hopping between multiple applications and pull them back into your app. Try sending a reminder to complete a reservation, or remind them of a recent search.

#3. Understand the persona of each user. Detect what they are looking for and make relevant recommendations. Incorporate personalized attributes into notification content and timing.

The natural byproduct of well executed push notifications is that the traveler has a better and more holistic booking and travel experience.  In some cases, the traveler will actually thank the app (via Apple Review) for the personalized message.


How many notifications should I be sending per week and should every user receive the same number of notifications?


Kahuna’s data suggests more than 15 engagement messages per month can actually decrease overall user engagement. What’s critical is tracking user ‘delights’: Are users engaging with your messaging? Are they uninstalling?

Your push notification campaigns should provide a personal experience for each of your users. The user who is booking and taking key actions without being prompted is someone you will not want to message. The user who eagerly redeems promotions will respond positively to additional messages.

Key tip: It’s just as important to know when to send a message as it is to know when not to send a message. Understanding your user and the way they engage with your application is the only way to do that correctly.


How do I get new users to book for the first time?


Proper onboarding is critical. This happens within the product and should be supplemented with a strong marketing campaign to new users. Here’s what I mean by this:

#1. Make sure you have a great app onboarding experience for your mobile users. The challenge is that an average user has 100 apps on their phone but only uses 25 on a monthly basis. So when they install a new app, there is a high likelihood that they will drop off before they appreciate the full value proposition of your app.

For additional insight on how mobile-focused companies can use apps to increase revenue, click here.

#2. Funnel users through the onboarding process with targeted push notifications. It’s not just about having a great application. It’s also about sending targeted messages to users who have not completed the onboarding process. The right notification will get them to the next stage in the user lifecycle before they lose interest.

Learn more about optimizing your onboarding with Kahuna here.


What are some tactics I can use to encourage my VIP travelers to continue booking through my app?


First and foremost, use messaging that is relevant to each type of user. For a VIP user, make sure you are giving them an exclusive experience through your notifications. Build a separate strategy for messages targeted to them, since they are already engaged with your app. Exclusive offer messages perform very well among this group.

VIP users are also an excellent source of referrals because they are already getting value from your app. Consider asking them to share their travel status through social media, with the goal of bringing in new users or engaging old ones. These campaigns also perform very well.


What types of campaigns should I run to increase user retention?


Part one is understanding the user experience and knowing where users can get that next-level value from your app. Part two is helping users discover it.

Campaigns highlighting new features ensure that users are being prompted to explore key features they have not yet discovered. Instead of sending users a notification about every feature at once, stay selective and message them only about a feature they have not yet tried. For example, let them know that they can save a search if they have searched the same route more than three times. Or, if they have booked with you multiple times in the last six months, prompt them to sign up for your loyalty program.

Providing too many feature choices all at once can be overwhelming to your users. Think about reducing options and making choices easier like Malcolm Gladwell: Choice, happiness and spaghetti sauce.



Take your app strategy to the next level by remembering these key tips:

  • Best in class companies utilize both transactional and engagement messages.
  • Your users are distracted, and you have a limited window to engage them. Use targeted messages and personalized content to keep the experience relevant.
  • Create a separate and exclusive experience for VIP users, and don’t be afraid to leverage them for referrals and social media campaigns.
  • Guide your users through feature discovery by suggesting features after specific milestones and reducing choices.


About Kahuna

Kahuna is a marketing automation company dedicated to fostering consumer delight and driving engagement and revenue through mobile. We help you understand your customers and intelligently communicate with them wherever they are: email, mobile web and apps, social networks. Delightful customer experiences are created by sending the right message to the right person at the right time, and the Kahuna Customer Engagement Engine is the intelligence behind your omni-channel marketing success. Be the brand your customers want to hear from with Kahuna.

Kahuna is trusted by Yahoo, Fox, Hotel Tonight, and hundreds of others. The company was founded in 2012 and is funded by Sequoia Capital.


Mobile Marketing Daily