Cheapflights: Finding flights and hotels through a Facebook chat bot

Cheapflight's Messenger App

Cheapflights won an award in the 'Best use of Social Media on Mobile' category at the 2017 MOMA Awards, for their facebook chat bot. they explain the background, objectives, and strategy that made this a success.

Cheapflights Chat is a Facebook bot. It uses the latest technology from Facebook to help you find flights and hotels in your Facebook Messenger app in a fun and conversational way.

Background

Cheapflights has always been a pioneering travel technology company, following a mobile-first strategy. Mobile is a key growth priority for Cheapflights — 63% of traffic and 54% of revenue now come from mobile.

The challenge is that most people only download three to four travel apps. The traditional app marketing spaces are highly competitive. Re-engaging users with an app once it’s been downloaded is difficult and an app isn’t used regularly it will often get deleted. This proves a problem for travel apps as the average use cycle is monthly rather than daily.

Integrating Cheapflights with an application most users already have on their phone and use daily opens the Cheapflights products to a much wider mobile market - 900 million people use Messenger every month.

For this brief Cheapflights asked: “How can we use social media to compete in this noisy market place, and engage users in an intuitive way on mobile?”

Objectives

The solution must use social media to:

  • Drive brand awareness for the Cheapflights travel search products.
  • Educate users on the benefit of the Cheapflights travel search in a natural and engaging way.
  • Underline Cheapflights’ commitment to innovation and creating products users love.
  • Support Cheapflights’ brand purpose “Smart search. Made simple.”
  • Place Cheapflights at the cutting edge of social media technology.

Strategy

In many countries, 99% of people online use SMS or messaging services and 56% of people expect their messaging to increase over the next two years. In fact, the two most popular mobile apps globally are Messenger and WhatsApp – 900 million people use Messenger every month.

Messaging is not unique to any specific generation either. Virtually the same amount of Boomers are messaging as Millennials.

So, when Facebook announced they were releasing Messenger tools for developers, Cheapflights took the opportunity to integrate their travel products into a popular messaging service.

Within a few weeks of this announcement, Cheapflights had launched Cheapflights Chat – the world’s first Facebook Messenger bot with flight and hotel search.

The Messenger bot uses artificial intelligence to create natural-sounding language in line with how people use Messenger. To add to the conversational tone Cheapflights also included an “Inspire Me!” feature and engaging Easter egg responses to things like “I want to go to the moon”, “Are you real?” and “I love you”.

Combining all these features in one app gives people access to several travel tools by simple having a messaging conversation – “Smart search. Made simple.”

To launch the bot, Cheapflights ran a competition-led social media campaign. The competition mechanic was built directly into the bot and was promoted on Facebook using banner ads and videos.

Cheapflights continues to develop the bot and is getting ready to launch phase two of the bot this Summer. This includes a new UX as well as new and engaging flight search features.

Results

The Messenger bot technology is still very new. Facebook describe the current period as a “test and learn phase”, even for themselves. They recently said there are currently around 30,000 Messenger bots out there, but very few have over 10,000 active chat threads.

Cheapflights bot has tens of thousands of chat threads, placing it at the forefront of Facebook Messenger bot usage, and delivers on the project aim of putting Cheapflights at the cutting edge of social media technology.

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