Skift Take

Messaging gives brands a direct, intimate relationship with consumers that social media only hinted at. What will be the long-term effect on marketing when a hotel or airline can contact customers like their loved ones do?

Earlier this month we launched our annual package, Megatrends Defining Travel in 2016, where we identify the global trends in travel in 2016 and beyond.

With mobile taking up more than 50 percent of consumers’ time, messaging is the new social media. Travel brands ignore this at their peril.

It’s the New Language, Are Travel Brands Listening?

Sources: Activate forecast, GlobalWebindex, eMarketer, ITO, Activate analysis. Note: Number of monthly active users is lower than number of registered users.

Sources: Activate forecast, GlobalWebindex, eMarketer, ITO, Activate analysis. Note: Number of monthly active users is lower than number of registered users.

Snapchat, WhatsApp, WeChat, Facebook Messenger, Viber, and many other messaging platforms dominate much of how the modern world communicates. Travel brands that haven’t jumped on those platforms yet are missing out on the future of how people prefer to communicate both at work and at leisure, around the globe.

Messaging apps are a place for connection. The one-size-fits-all booking search box is not a place for connection. Messaging is how you break out of the tyranny of the online travel search box, in use since 1995. Team messaging app Slack demonstrates just how penetrable messaging has become.

So far since launching, Slack has hosted the #nomads and #TNdistrict channels. The former is an invite-only 3,000 member strong group of (primarily solo) business travelers that “chat about life, work and travel.” The latter is a premium, subscription-based travel advice community for millennial-friendly black travelers.

These communities feel more intimate than tweeting at a brand or commenting on an Instagram photo. Messaging groups are focused and committed to their topics, and that is the mindset global travelers yearn for as traveling becomes more common in emerging economies where messaging is domi-nant and these populations seek advice on how to move about the world.

Airlines and hotels have already taken note of the phenomenon. Hyatt, for instance, has been using Asian messaging app WeChat to connect with the Chinese market and Shangri-La uses WeChat for content marketing campaigns. In the airline category, the 28 airline members of Star Alliance are making a concerted push to reach international travelers in China via WeChat. KLM has also tested WhatsApp for its Dutch customers with strong results, and is considering expanding that more widely.

Industry figures point to social messaging as the fastest-growing online behavior within social media during the past five years and WhatsApp, WeChat and Facebook Messenger all individually have more monthly active users globally than Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest put together. Social messaging will account for 2.5 billion glob-al users by 2018, more than the 2 billion general social media users.

As Activate, the media consultancy puts it in its Think Again: Tech and Media Outlook 2016 presen-tation, “what users do in native apps today, they will also do in messaging apps tomorrow,” and travel brands should heed this advising as they weigh the pros and cons of improving their desktop and mobile web booking experiences or thrusting full force into pushing bookings to messaging.

One thing is certain: expect these messaging apps to become a conduit to customer service for all kinds of brands, especially travel brands, as trav-elers on the move use messaging as the primary way they keep connected to family, friends and the rest of the world.

Travelers will increasingly turn to messaging for a one-stop shopping experience where they can book ever ything and communicate ever ything that doesn’t remove them from mobile apps that have increasingly become their primary digital interface with the world.

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Tags: facebook, megatrends, messaging, wechat, whatsapp

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