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Nicholas Hall

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Everyday this week Nick Hall, founder and CEO of the Digital Tourism Think Tank, is going to release one emerging digital trend to watch out this year. Today’s trend is about mobile penetration in tourism and it’s opportunity as a marketing trend. Sign-up to get more trends in your inbox.

2016 Biggest Trends to Watch in Tourism

What are the biggest trends to look out for in 2016? This is surely not the first trend prediction you’ve read this year but with my top tips coming in February, it may be the last. Take careful note, I’ve tried here to sidestep the obvious and focus on the five that I believe every DMO should write with a permanent marker on that office whiteboard.

Big Decisions on Mobile

You know it’s not possible to write a 2016 trends piece without mentioning mobile right?

This is the year we’re going to see some pretty big decisions from destinations on mobile, but to manage your expectations, we’re unlikely to see too many more of the groundbreaking immersive applications we’ve seen of late, such as my all time favourite ‘laplication’. Finnish Lapland’s pretty audacious venture into the mobile and tablet space captured the imagination of many with sheer amazement at what was possible when you design an immersive app that taps into every bell and whistle found under the hood of your smartphone.

Sadly, part of my ‘big prediction’ for mobile, is that we won’t see quite so many ‘big ticket’ item investments when it comes to their use as an early stage marketing medium. Sure, there’s no questioning the impressive results that can be had, especially on an engagement level, but most destinations are now planning for the long term, focusing on service design and assessing where they can add value to the visitor in-trip.

With more than 3 million apps out there across several platforms, competition for pocket affinity is hotter than ever so launching apps that only serve to meet your goals as a marketer just aren’t going to cut it without a lot of ad dollars to back it up. This isn’t the only thing shifting strategies but it’s certainly a hurdle to creative experimentation.

Apps are also expensive to develop from scratch. Most marketers don’t want to blow their entire marketing budget on a one-trick pony when there are so many alternative ways to engage users with bold content experiences through third-party and white label apps. Engagement with target demographics (after all, this is what it’s all about) on social is now entirely driven on mobile. The dominance of Instagram and Snapchat are testament to this and in terms of mobile engagement, our attention has firmly turned towards this space.

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We’re going to see these channels evolve in a big way, but crucially, we’ll also see their value for marketers evolve. Wonder into Snapchat’s ‘Discover’ section and you’ll see exactly what I mean. The in-line ad options are also getting better and so too is the ability to make quick ‘boost’ decisions on the go (dangerously easy you might say!). When we consider engagement, we’re only at the beginning of a whole new wave of mobile-only immersive opportunities. Many of us have experimented with Periscope, some with great success others with less and it’s probably fair to say that live streaming hasn’t hit the mainstream just yet, but expect it to this year. Facebook are testing this functionality with selected brands right now so we’re only moments away before it hits the masses and when it does, we’ll see this medium truly explode.

It’s perhaps not terribly exciting to learn that social channels will dominate your mobile strategy when it comes to engagement, despite early attempts to build relationships outside of them. Consider this; social channels may yet have revealed their best weapon. Messaging. My strong advice for destinations and businesses is to consider the role of mobile concierge. Get in there early and be prepared to adapt. We’re seeing some big brands integrating concierge services into commercial offers, my favourite is without a doubt ‘Pana’, who offer a concierge approach to servicing up ultra-personalised travel itineraries and suggestions. I’m yet to commit my $25 per month to testing this but on paper, it’s at least a very telling development. Hotel Tonight, who you could say, know a thing or two about success in mobile, have also launched a similar service. This is certainly tipped as one of the biggest game changers yet to hit the mainstream.

Pana website

Now here’s the catch on concierge, which brings me back to messaging. Did you know that What’s App is considered as the world’s largest social network, with more than 1 billion users? Did you also know that Snapchat, with 100 million daily users, is not considered as a traditional social network, but rather as a new way in which Millennials converse through images? Social networks are evolving from being just that and focusing on dominating private conversation too. Fears aside, what this means for DMOs is that you can expect, sooner or later, in-app concierge will set the bar high for customer service. You might also just find some of those best-known brands at the ready to facilitate integrations to connect you with your visitors. So before laying off those visitor centre staff, hold off just another year and see how this space develops.

Finally, onto the serious stuff. Big Decisions in Mobile.

The growing recognition is that we shouldn’t just jump into mobile because everybody else is doing it.

We’re nearly all there (7 years into the mobile revolution) with mobile web, so that’s a big achievement across the board, but our next move must be measured. It shouldn’t be mobile that drives our decision-making process but rather what our strategic focus is as a destination. If you’re an NTO, focused entirely on awareness and engagement, your mobile strategy might not extend further than delivering impactful content in the right channels at the right time to users on mobile.

If you’re a CTO, you’re likely to be thinking hard about ‘visitor servicing’ and how you can actually support the visitor in the destination and this is where you’ll have a few big decisions to make. When entering this process, just ask yourself:

  • What value can we add to the visitor experience that isn’t already offered by more authoritative brands?
  • Can we design something that is truly useful and serves a clear purpose?
  • How can we master the multiple disciplines required for success, from strategy, to design, content, stability and UX?
  • Can we successfully drive downloads and retain active users throughout their trip?

We spent much of last year showcasing beacon technology and some noteworthy pilot tests. This year, expect pilots to be replaced by confident and serious deployments most of which you’ll perhaps never see. We’ve also been hard at work at the #DTTT, developing our first ever technology product, a new platform for DMOs to populate content, deploy beacons and develop apps off-the-shelf to provide in destination visitor engagement at a very localised level.

This is something we’re passionate about and believe that in the coming years every city will be turning its focus towards competing for millennials through the provision of value-added digital services that support the visitor at a practical level. With 400 million beacons predicted by 2020, we expect the tourism industry to be at the forefront of adoption, using this newest technology in a smart way to build meaningful relationships and interactions, contextually aware and enabled.

Get in Touch to talk to us about your Mobile strategy!

What is your mobile marketing strategy? What do you think are the opportunities that iBeacons and Messaging Apps can offer to the travel industry?
Let us know by leaving a comment below!

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