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Travel Technology

How Whatsapp Flows Could Pave the Way for Personalized Travel Experiences

  • Skift Take
    WhatsApp’s evolving suite of services and its impact on businesses demonstrate the platform’s potential to reshape customer engagement and service. The future of customer interactions appears increasingly promising.

    Meta’s WhatsApp will be introducing a new service called Flows aimed at businesses worldwide for creating personalized experiences directly within chat threads.

    The idea is that a customer could complete a range of tasks — selecting airline or train seats, placing meal orders — without leaving the chat interface.

    The announcement of Flows comes as WhatsApp continues to expand its suite of services for businesses, particularly on the WhatsApp Business Platform. The service is expected to roll out globally in coming weeks.

    WhatsApp has already been testing Flows with range of business partners, including travel service provider redBus.

    Speaking exclusively to Skift, Prakash Sangam, CEO of redBus, said other than bus booking, the company has integrated Whatapp Flows to collect ratings and reviews after trips.

    “We’ve built this flow in both English and Hindi and this feedback is shared with bus operators to improve service levels. The customer response rate is 80% higher on Whatsapp Flows compared with normal notifications where a user is redirected to other pages or sites,” Sangam said.

    Through the integration of WhatsApp Flows for bus bookings, redBus aims to create an end-to-end booking experience on the WhatsApp platform.

    “The experience is designed in a way to lower the user’s cognitive load and help them make faster decisions. This integration will help us reach out to the large base of bus users from Tier 2, 3 and 4 markets, who are comfortable using WhatsApp but typically transact offline today,” Sangam said.

    Since the integration of Whatsapp Flows for bus bookings last month, redBus has noted 17,000 conversations initiated with 35% users selecting Hindi as their preferred language option.

    The introduction of Flows is poised to benefit travel companies, as it allows them to upsell and cross-sell additional services, according to Yoknath Rajan, product manager (travel and hospitality) for Publicis Sapient.

    “All of this can be achieved seamlessly within the WhatsApp chat environment, eliminating the need for users to switch to other apps or websites,” Rajan said.

    Monetization Strategy and Click-to-WhatsApp Ads

    In its second quarter earnings call, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg highlighted the significance of business messaging in their monetization strategy. He noted that the 200 million users of the WhatsApp Business app can now create click-to-WhatsApp ads for Facebook and Instagram without needing a Facebook account.

    This simplifies the process of bringing businesses online, particularly in regions where WhatsApp serves as a gateway to digital engagement, Zuckerberg said.

    With over 500 million users, India stands as one of the largest markets for WhatsApp globally. The travel industry in India has embraced WhatsApp as a preferred messaging platform for personalized marketing, customer engagement, accelerated sales, and enhanced customer support.

    Speaking to Skift earlier, Manish Amin, co-founder and chief technology officer at Yatra.com, emphasized WhatsApp’s utility for customer service communication and customer retention. The platform’s integration within business strategies is on the horizon for the company.

    Talking about another interesting use case of Whatsapp other than Flows, redBus’ Sangam listed out Railbot for redRail, its train ticket booking service through which the company shares updates on live train status, coach position, train schedule and cancellations along with automatic updates on train ticket status.

    “We’ve seen that while emails and messages have low open rates, automatic updates on Whatsapp have phenomenal open and click rates. For instance, the ticket status open rate is 75% and click rate is 22%,” he said.

    Kerala Tourism’s Success Story

    India’s Kerala Tourism offers a compelling case study of WhatsApp’s utility in the travel sector. In March 2022, the state launched “Maya,” a 24×7 WhatsApp chatbot service designed to provide virtual travel assistance to global travelers interested in exploring Kerala.

    According to PB Nooh, director of Kerala Tourism, the objective of Maya is to enhance tourist support, address inquiries, and provide a superior travel experience.

    Moreover, Kerala Tourism’s “Holiday Heist” campaign, conducted on WhatsApp in July, had a strong response.

    “The month-long campaign leveraged engaging bidding experiences and drew an astonishing 80,000 bids, generating over 45 million impressions and amassing an impressive 13 million-plus video views. Over the campaign’s duration, Kerala Tourism engaged in a total of 520,000 conversations and welcomed 41,000 new contacts into its travel community,” said Nooh.

    Photo Credit: Whatsapp announced a new service Flows for businesses.
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