Sitting out the race to figure out Snapchat marketing or develop robust partnerships with trusted content providers is a losing proposition for travel companies, regardless of their position in the industry.
Last week we released our annual travel industry trends forecast, Skift Megatrends 2017. You can read about each of the trends on Skift, or download a copy of our magazine here.
When targeting potential travelers through the myriad marketing channels available today, fragmentation becomes one of the biggest challenges and will only intensify in the coming years. Snapchat, Instagram, WeChat, Twitter, Facebook, Google, and text chat are all areas that travel brands need to get used to as traveler behavior shifts in the digital space.
The announcement of Snapchat’s IPO in mid-November 2016, for instance, shows just how ubiquitous and mainstream these channels have become. A Skift trends report found that just 14 percent of Snapchat users are over 35, compared to 20 percent of Instagram users and half of Facebook users. Snapchat itself reported earlier this year that it serves 10 billion videos a day to about 100 million daily users.
If you want to reach the new generation of young millennial and gen Z travelers, these social media platforms are the place to be. Most travel brands, however, haven’t managed the transition to visual and short-form content effectively so far.
“Instagram and Snapchat have exploded in recent years; the user base is certainly there but at the same time, they leave something to be desired for advertisers,” states the report. “Visual content is also a challenge on the production side. How travel brands leverage both branded and user-generated content to engage potential customers will vary. One certainty is that travel should continue to experiment with visual content and the platforms that attract millions.”
Starwood Hotels & Resorts has been one of the more active travel advertisers on Snapchat, deploying Snapchat Geofilters in 2016 to target potential Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty members. National Geographic Traveler as well turned to Snapchat in 2015, deploying a video content Discover channel on the platform.
You can also see Snapchat’s influence on other social networks that are now working to leverage the power of ephemeral, yet targeted, video content. Facebook is currently developing a channel named Discover to better curate news and fight the influence of so-called “fake news” on its service. The channel will showcase content from selected media providers on users’ news feeds, and open up a new medium for targeted advertising. Twitter already has a similar feature that targets users with videos they’re interested in.
Furthermore, adapting to these platforms requires a far-ranging culture shift toward experimentation and away from the tried-and-true channels of print, TV, and digital display advertising. Even established platforms like Twitter are being crowded out by mixed-media sources like Instagram.
Hotel brands are leading the charge when it comes to experimenting with creative cross-channel content that appeals to guests and resonates with their lifestyles. Marriott International, for instance, has partnered with TED to provide a combination of in-room videos, social media content, and real-life events for business travelers.
“When you’re on the road, that’s when the best ideas come to you, or you start to see a new angle to an existing problem,” said Matthew Carroll, vice president and global brand leader for Marriott Hotels. “This is a unique benefit of travel that our target consumer really values. Together with TED, we hope to offer our guests fun and engaging moments of fresh inspiration that inspire new perspectives.”
If you want a view of disruptions to come, look to China, where WeChat plays an almost omnipotent role in a consumer’s relationship with brands. All interactions — from discovery to booking to payment — take place within its closed environment and make the traditional web appear as a non-factor for many users. Want to book a hotel, then a restaurant reservation and then a massage? Want to pay in advance too?
That’s just a few taps away. It’s what Facebook and its platform peers are aiming for, yet are not achieving yet.
Expect smart travel brands to embark upon similar partnerships and look to leverage digital media across multiple platforms as fragmentation continues to increase.
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