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WeQ’s Top 5 User Acquisition Tips for Travel Apps

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Do you have your sights set on acquiring loyal mobile users on your travel app? Our CEO Markus Malti, shares the top five tips for acquiring and keeping users in this competitive vertical, beyond the peak summertime months.

Travel apps are big business. According to AppAnnie, the total number of travel app downloads increased by 20% in 2016 compared to 2015 globally, marking a 50% jump in downloads since 2014. Mobile is leading the way: in 2017, US mobile travel sales totalled $75.85 billion, up 16.7% over 2016. On the flip side, desktop and laptop travel sales declined 1.6% in 2017 to $113.77 billion (Emarketer).

There are big opportunities for brands in the world of travel apps: never before have consumers had so much choice and money-saving options at their fingertips. Yet, in such a booming and competitive market, advertisers in this vertical need to use a variety of strategies to stay on top of their user acquisition game. Additionally, they need to keep in mind the seasonality of travel apps. Users tend to plan their holiday at the start of the year to ward off the winter blues; during the summer months, stats show that June, July and August are the busiest months for travel apps user events and sessions; while January tracks the highest number of events per user, on day after install. Want to successfully drive user acquisition for your travel app all year round? Apply these five critical tips:

1. Start with providing an end-to-end user experience

Users are going mobile. In 2017, 57.5 million US adults used a smartphone to book a trip, up 14.1% from 2016. Emarketer estimates that by 2021, mobile will represent nearly half of all digital travel sales, beating both desktop and tablet. What’s more, consumers in the US are not only booking their holidays on mobile, but increasingly researching trips as well – with Tripadvisor being the most popular choice, according to Emarketer. Globally, 70% of travellers research on their smartphone.

The mobile trend seems to be driven by last-minute travel deals attractive to users on-the-go. Other factors include larger smartphone screens, easier mobile payment methods and more time spent on mobile.

Consequently, airlines, travel agencies and hotels apps should start their UA journey by making their apps and mobile websites user-friendly. Provide a flawless and engaging user experience, combined with best-in-class service.
The simpler the interface is to understand, the better it is for the user. Reduce the number of screens and clicks, so that users can easily find and book their trip. The sign-up process should be simple and seamless. We like the look of Momondo’s interface design.

2. Set the right goals and be transparent with your data

Don’t make early judgements and don’t compare travel benchmark metrics with other verticals: unlike gaming apps, where there is a high focus placed on daily engagement of the app; the success of travel apps should be measured differently. For example, building a community of loyal users, gaining positive ratings, or being accessible and easy to use.

Start by setting the right KPIs. What is the goal, is it brand awareness or engaging users? Increasing volume or expanding reach? Align campaign messaging and targeting tactics with your chosen strategy to maximize your ROI.

Next, aim for retaining the user in the long run: once you win a user in a competitive market, do everything possible to keep the user motivated to return. This long-term approach means that cutting down the traffic for your marketing campaigns too early might not yield the best results, as you might lose a potentially profitable source bringing in paying users. Whether looking at 7-day, 2-week, or 1-month events, there is no guideline on how long to wait before evaluating results; however, ensure that you are looking at the full set of post-install events rather than individual metrics to better forecast future bookings, registration, listing of items, etc.

Additionally, test several sources of traffic throughout the campaign (e.g. new publishers, social media, new networks, TV) and see what has the most positive impact towards return on advertising spend (ROAS). The more post-install data you can share with your trusted mobile advertising partners, the faster they can better target and acquire the right users. Access to data and transparent communications between brands and acquisition partners are a winning combination for any successful user acquisition strategy.

3. Build an integrated marketing campaign to benefit from your community – online and offline

Consumers spend considerable amounts of cash and savings on their holidays, starting with transportation and accommodation booking fees. While the average trip is getting shorter (down from 10 to 8 nights in length), people seem to be travelling in shorter periods during the year. It’s only natural that when booking their vacation, consumers will opt for established apps they trust, over the obscure “never-heard-of-it-before” newcomers.

Work on increasing your brand awareness. Becoming a trusted, go-to travel or transport app doesn’t happen overnight. The most powerful marketing tool is word of mouth – loyal users who evangelize your brand to friends. When it comes to the main players – from Airbnb to Skyscanner – chances are that you’ll have read countless reviews; seen a lot of social media / TV adverts, or seen posters plastered around public transport.

Airbnb’s influencer marketing campaign saw celebrities like Mariah Carey and Lady Gaga collaborate with the brand on Instagram

Build trust with your audience and be present both online and offline. We helped one of our clients – a popular travel research and discount app – increase their user acquisition by up to 20% during the Christmas period, when they teamed their online marketing efforts with a TV campaign. Keep your campaigns holistic.

4. Beat seasonality with re-engagement campaigns

Out of sight, out of mind, as they say. Work around the declines in travel app usage by investing in re-engagement campaigns during the year. This will drive engagement and retention – possibly leading to positive word-of-mouth that can ultimately boost organic installs.

In-app push notifications are your best friends. The majority of travel apps, like Kayak, have an alarm that advises users on the best time to book, or show users the best way to find a great deal in their app.

For example, offer an incentive such as a discount on the next trip booked if a user leaves a positive review or refers the app to a friend who installs. You can also time re-engagement emails and special offers around the end of the month (pay day) and combine these with retargeting campaigns (ads or emails) to users who have visited the site but haven’t booked.

5. Benefit from a burst campaign to outrank the competition

While users may download your travel app today, they may also wait to book a trip three months from now, so it’s key to be patient. Consistently invest in branding and re-engagement tactics, so that users have more trust in your app (see points number 3 and 4).

When the time strikes for users to book their holiday, and the market is particularly noisy with brand adverts (Christmas, Summer, etc.), you can boost your ranking in the app stores – and beat fierce competition – by implementing a “burst campaign” into your marketing mix. Burst campaigns involve a personalized strategy that can spur the growth of a newly launched app, or rejuvenate the user base of an existing app to prolong its life cycle. They are also an ideal part of marketing strategy when entering a new market, as they can help boost the travel app and gain traction fast.

It’s also important to keep in mind the market you are targeting – what works in a particularly geography might not work in another. Find a trusted mobile advertising expert to help implement your burst campaigns in your market and vertical – and help catapult your app to the top of the charts, thus increasing your user base growth and brand awareness.

Article originally published in adweek.com on August 24, 2018


Want to increase user acquisition and engagement for your travel app? Please get in touch with WeQ to find out how we can create a tailor-made strategy to help achieve your KPIs.

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