How travel brands plan to unbutton sales via Apple Watch apps
As the Apple Watch begins showing up on consumers’ wrists, numerous top brands from the travel sector are rolling out wearable applications to enhance their smartphone apps and drive sales via features such as keyless room entry and additional booking options.
Although many top marketers are developing Apple Watch apps, the potential for spontaneity and convenience are two aspects that suggest the travel sector may be one of the best-suited for the wearables space. Hotel brands such as Starwood Hotels and Resorts and Marriott International are bringing their mobile app’s features to the hotly anticipated device, while Expedia and Booking.com are also joining the action with booking capabilities.
“Keyless room entry, like Marriott and Starwood are implementing, is a great use for wearables, though there are countless other opportunities that hotels should explore,” said Stephanie Trunzo, chief operating officer at PointSource, Raleigh, NC. “Imagine a scenario where the room thermostat adjusts to your preference and the lights turn on in the room when you approach the door.
“You walk in and your favorite artist is playing on the sound system while your food and drink preferences are prioritized on an interactive menu. The hotel experience is now unique for each guest.”
Rise of smartwatch apps
Marketers are certainly expecting for consumers to flock to wearables, judging by the amount of Apple Watch apps being rolled out.
However, travel and hospitality brands may have the best chance to reach consumers with relevant material, especially for those who prefer to book impromptu trips or do not carry their smartphone on their persons at all times during vacations.
“We expect smartwatches to give marketers an opportunity to provide valuable, trustworthy and timely information,” said Jonathan Weitz, partner at IBB Consulting, Philadelphia, PA. “There will be a limited number of smartwatch apps that customers will engage with on a day-to-day basis and marketers that deliver timely, valuable, trustworthy info will be preferred by customers.”
Ms. Trunzo claimed that the tourism industry is centered on offering guests unique experiences, a feat which can be more easily achieved by sending snackable pieces of content directly to consumers’ wrists. If they find the content intriguing, this may serve as a call-to-action and pique their interest in exploring the brands’ complementary mobile apps later on.
Theme parks such as Disney World have already been leveraging wearable technology, as seen with its eponymous Magic Bands which serve as consumers’ virtual tickets to rides and payment methods for meals.
“Brands that aren’t at least testing apps on these new devices will be missing out on a key opportunity to engage on a platform that the consumer has signaled is important to them, and that offers premium visibility and an immediate path to action,” Mr. Weitz said. “As smartwatches become more prevalent, consumers will eventually expect that the brands they want to engage with be present on those platforms.
“Otherwise, they’ll gravitate to the ones that offer the experience they want. For now, it is still early and brands have countless opportunities to surprise, delight and add value via smartwatches.”
“In general, there is an opportunity for smartwatch experiences to reinforce the app habit,” Mr. Weitz said. “Where alerts and glanceables on smartwatches can reinforce the value that brands bring through their apps is by making them location-aware, timely, useful and bite-sized.”
Servicing guests better
Meanwhile, brands such as Expedia and Booking.com, both of whom have rolled out Apple Watch apps, spot an ideal opportunity to market to a greater range of consumers and drive impulse purchases.
Consumers can now book a stay at participating hotels with a simple swipe of a finger, as well as save important information to their wearable device, such as their hotel room number. These functions are able to augment the user experience and offer relevant features.
“Brands shouldn’t think in terms of mobile versus wearables, but rather in context of the user journey,” Ms. Trunzo said. “They should explore where an interaction could be best addressed through a wearable as one part of their overall digital ecosystem to enhance the customer experience.
“For example, if I am nearing a hotel property, prompt my reservation number to appear for simple check-in. Or, send indicators if a watched flight drops below a certain price, and allow quick payment via Apple Pay.”
Ultimately, well-established brands in the hospitality and tourism industry are at a major disadvantage if they do not tap wearable technology, and may miss out on considerable sales.
“Ecommerce companies stand to gain from leveraging the smartwatch effectively through great sales and service experiences that drive loyalty,” Mr. Weitz said. “For instance, on the sales front, brands can explore contextual upsell, such as offering guests an alert for a car rental or hotel shuttle when their flight has landed.
“Companies will also want to explore how to drive installs of their apps to make them a critical element of the sales funnel, especially as permission-based marketing continues to grow,” he said. “The immediacy of the smartwatch experience also creates opportunities to amplify messages in social.
“For instance, when you display a viral marketing message, making it easy to Tweet about an experience can leverage fans of the brand, who are influencers.”
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York