Have Mobile, Will Travel

ericmugnierNEW“Data Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Eric Mugnier, Senior Vice President at M&C Saatchi Mobile.

Watching a BBC documentary recently, I learned one of my new favorite statistics: At any one time, approximately one million people are flying on an aircraft somewhere around the globe. A record one billion people made international trips in 2012, according to data from the World Travel and Tourism Council. This number represents record growth in global travel, which shows little sign of abating.

Alongside this growth, mobile phone usage has also skyrocketed. Most travelers have a phone and many also have a tablet device, be it for business or for leisure. For the travel sector, the value of mobile is huge. Travelers use mobile devices for a wide range of tasks: researching flights and hotels, supplementing in-flight entertainment, using local maps, checking points on airline loyalty schemes and scanning mobile boarding passes at an increasing number of airports, among other uses.

This puts the travel industry in a perfect position to reap the benefits of both mobile’s global reach and the increasingly connected status of today’s traveler. And there’s some evidence industry is tapping the opportunity. Travel marketers will spend $4.7 billion on digital advertising — including both online and mobile — in 2016, nearly double the $2.4 billion they spent in 2011, according to an eMarketer forecast.

Two other trends are opening up new opportunities for brands that want to connect with travel consumers via mobile devices.

First, the rise of search on mobile devices cannot be ignored. A recent study from Telmetrics and xAd showed that 46% of US consumers use mobile exclusively when performing research online. Another piece of research on search from Google and Nielsen concluded that travel-related searches elicited the third-highest number of follow-up actions per mobile search out of 15 categories. As mobile consumption continues to rise, huge opportunities exist for global travel operators, hotel chains and airlines, among others, to use mobile campaigns to drive bookings, establish broader brand awareness and run retargeting campaigns to up-sell services to those who have downloaded travel-related apps.

Second, there’s the wider availability of free WiFi, coupled with lower-cost international travel rates for mobile data usage. This combination enables both local and global brands to reach out directly to international travelers in their own language, both in the United States and overseas, boosting the effectiveness of mobile advertising. For instance, if a traveler has booked a flight on a mobile device, then – just as with the Web – there’s a wealth of opportunities to offer that traveler related services, such as rental cars, hotels and local restaurants. The opportunity to create localized campaigns with contextual relevance is a powerful one.

With the rise of the connected traveler, it’s more important than ever to understand how important local nuances are when it comes to running mobile campaigns. This is because you’re not just dealing with cultural differences in taste and language, but also with different attitudes toward mobile usage and the adoption of different technologies and habits. For example, mobile users in India are devoted to Nokia and favor mobile Internet browsing via the Opera browser over apps. South Africans, many of whom are still wedded to their BlackBerrys, are savvy and welcoming recipients of mobile advertising. And in Australia, despite high smartphone penetration, a successful direct-response campaign usually needs to be incentivized for it to work. Looking at mobile usage around the world, it’s clear that even in this connected age, it’s not such a small world, after all.

For US-based brands, it’s essential to understand that a successful mobile campaign in the US won’t automatically work as well in other markets. Mobile is no different from any other advertising medium, in that it requires a clear understanding of local consumer behavior.

The “one size fits all” approach just doesn’t work for mobile. A successful campaign at home, applied overseas without this knowledge, could yield a less-than-optimal return on investment – potentially wasting marketing budgets – or could even have a long-term negative reputational effect on the brand. Understanding your market is the single most important factor in executing a successful local campaign.

To create an impactful global mobile campaign with strong local resonance, you need to:

Understand your consumers’ behavior: It may seem like I’m stating – and repeating – the obvious, but consumers differ everywhere. It’s not just about understanding how consumers plan their next vacation, it’s also about knowing how consumers engage with their phone. In your target market, is engagement with apps as high as it is in the UK, or does mobile Internet browsing reign as it does in India? Does high or low engagement with social networks like Facebook influence purchase choices?

Understand the local carrier networks: To a large extent, carrier networks significantly influence consumer behavior. Understanding whether your target market is predominantly pay-as-you-go or contract-based – and to what extent consumers are influenced by carrier tariffs and promotions – should define and structure your campaign.

Understand the local mobile landscape: Aside from local consumer knowledge, you also need mobile expertise. Among the things to know: the mobile platforms that dominate the local market, the quality of the local ad networks, the kind of inventory you will have access to and its relevance to your campaigns.

Follow Eric Mugnier (@erikmugnier) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

World Travel and Tourism Council

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