How the Travel Industry Uses Push Notifications to Improve Customer Engagement

A colorful beach-themed image that has multiple travel-related objects around a mobile phone with push notifications.
Image by FlareLane

As the world emerges from the shadows of COVID-19, the call for more active world travel echoes louder than ever. Two years since the dark times swept across the travel industry, the online travel sector is now rebounding, soaring to new heights and surpassing pre-pandemic statistics.

In the revival of an industry where improving customer engagement is crucial, the role of push notifications for online travel agencies is more pivotal than ever. They are responsible for building meaningful connections between travel agencies and their customers in a cost-efficient manner.

In today’s article, we want to explore how online travel agencies utilize push notifications to provide a memorable customer experience to travelers.

What is ideal customer experience?

“Our mission is to empower everyone to be a traveler by offering affordable deals on hotels, flights, activities, and more, with a booking experience that is hassle-free from start to finish.” -Agoda

Before we look at the cases, it’s worth knowing first how travel agencies define customer experience. As shown by Agoda's mission statement above, online travel agencies define customer experience as providing an immersive journey with effortless planning that comes at affordable prices. 

To make this happen, push notifications serve as the agency's voice, whispering personalized suggestions and exclusive deals directly into the ears of eager travelers. 

The main reason push notifications are so effective in the online travel agencies is because they sell one of the most intimate, individual, and unique experiences in the world–travel. 

Push notifications, thanks to its personalized messages, can leverage the nature of the product. According to research, users tend to give precedence to a notification–even if it’s disruptive–over a primary task if they deem the content to be useful and important. For example, a surprisingly high number of 54% of the notifications were accepted regardless of the fact that they caused disruption

We've discussed why push notifications are highly compatible with the travel industry, thanks to the interactive, personalized experience they provide to customers. Now, let's look at more concrete examples.

Plan the travel for your customers

Ask any avid traveler in wanderlust, and they'll likely express love for every aspect of travel except planning. According to online research conducted in 2022, the airline industry faces one of the highest cart abandonment rates across industries, reaching up to 90%.

Thanks to the adoption of push notification technology by online travel agencies, you can now receive exciting travel plans tailored to your preferences while working at the office, instead of going through the trouble of browsing 10 different websites for the most affordable accommodation and flight on your precious weekend morning.

Additionally, customers love receiving notifications with travel plans and deals that make their life easier. Without the need for extra research, they can instantly consider various options in one go. Questions like, 'Can I get late checkouts?' or 'Can I get a free breakfast?' are addressed, along with considerations about potential savings when purchasing tickets immediately. 

Whether it's a discounted flight to Bali or a hotel deal left in the cart from the last visit, these notifications not only promote deals but also curate personalized suggestions, transforming travel aspirations into concrete plans. Based on a 2022 study, hospitality and tourism apps demonstrated an average retention rate of 46 percent over 90 days, indicating the potential to leverage a long-term and loyal customer base when sending push notifications.

Send uplifting, memorable reminders

What better news is there than receiving a booking reminder notification just a few days before your trip? With push notifications, online travel agencies have transformed into diligent companions who ensure their friends don’t miss their long-awaited flight to a tropical island.

Thanks to groundbreaking technological developments over the last decade, push messages now include timely reminders for upcoming trips, check-in details, or even suggestions for exciting local events taking place at the destination. Some agencies go the extra mile by adding pictures of delicious local cuisine and a panoramic view of tourist attractions to further elevate the customer engagement.

When used properly, these push notification reminders transcend the transactional customer-business relationship, creating a seamless and stress-free travel experience for travelers. Who can possibly resist a message with an engaging image of local cuisine and a panorama view of your accommodation just a few days before flying?

Boost your loyalty program

Feeling like an insider is always rewarding, especially if it comes with instant gratifications or adds long-term value to customer experience. And guess what–online travel agencies are masters of keeping their customers in the scoop. A CRO in the industry has shared an opinion that instant gratification boosts dopamine levels and reward programs based on this biological fact can contribute to the business growth of the hotel industry. 

Well-timed push notifications can serve as a language of gratitude towards customers for their loyalty and support. They become a convenient means to update tens of thousands of users on the latest exclusive deals within the loyalty program, all without breaking a sweat.

But the definition of ‘loyalty’ within loyalty programs has undergone noticeable changes post-pandemic, driving shifts in push notification approaches as well. According to a McKinsey report in 2023, travelers in the hotel, cruise, and airline sectors are typically members of about 3-4 different loyalty programs. This trend indicates a growing decline in brand loyalty and an increase in the cherry-picking phenomenon.

To help travel industries reshape the loyalty program according to a changing trend, the same report suggests focusing on personalized experience rather than traditional ‘earn and burn’ benefits

From the discussions above, it's evident that achieving sustainable growth in the online travel industry requires a well-calibrated blend of short-term and long-term customer attraction strategies. Leveraging marketing channels, such as push notifications, specializing in providing personalized customer experiences plays a crucial role.

Final Thoughts

While push notifications are an excellent marketing strategy, their compatibility with online travel agencies is unparalleled. They not only deliver key information but have become a bridge between businesses and customers, transforming a simple travel experience into an intimate adventure backed by technology. As we navigate the usage of push notifications in an ever-expanding landscape of digital travel, one question lingers: How will push notifications shape other industries? We’ll explore that in the next discussion.

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