TUI hopes video content will help drive year-round mobile app engagement

Holiday operator TUI is readying a video content push aimed at encouraging year-round engagement with its mobile app and address the needs of its diverse consumer base.

Currently TUI’s Digital Assistant app lets customers plan their holidays once booked, and also provides advice prior to departure and during the holiday. However, TUI is hoping that a new focus on content will help extend the shelf life of the app throughout the year, and will better capitalise on the company’s existing content, according digital marketing manager Christian Armond.

Speaking at a Criteo event Armond said that while the app has seen around half a million downloads, TUI is now faced with the problem of encouraging consumers to keep the app on their homepage post-holiday and continue to engage with it.

“Pre-departure is an opportunity to keep dialogue with our customers so we can tell them about any flight changes and then as they go into the holiday they can keep in touch and get trip information,” he said.

“The problem is once they come back they may not interact with us for another year through the app, so therefore what’s the purpose of it at that point and how do we keep them coming back to it?”

The answer, said Armond, is a ramped up focus on video that moves away from the more traditional approach taken by travel companies, such as films showing rooms and resorts. Although the format is not yet confirmed, Armond told The Drum that the introduction of presenter-style content could be a "possibility".

“Most travel websites have always been very transactional… but we’re doing more and more around content and video is especially becoming increasingly important to us to try to make the experience much more engaging and inspirational.

“A big job for us is trying to appeal to as many people as we can…We’ve got a big, big programme to do more content.”

TUI is also toying with the idea of introducing Virtual Reality into its Thomson Holidays store, something Thomas Cook and Virgin have already dipped their toes into, to give consumers a more insightful view of the company’s holiday package offering before committing to booking.

Speaking about the issues surrounding mobile and cross-device, Armond said that “mobile snacking” – the consumer trend of researching a holiday via mobile before booking on a laptop – is a particular challenge when it comes to tracking purchase pathways, but said despite this, TUI has increased its mobile ad spend.

“At the moment no-one has cracked the cross-device measurement so therefore you have to take stuff a little bit more on faith,” he admitted. “It’s almost going back to the old way of doing marketing; it's faith-based marketing.

“[We are doing] more mobile advertising. It’s come out that we’ve recently invested more especially in paid search, and we spent most of last year testing different media owners and formats.”

Also speaking at the event was James Maley, senior display and meta marketing manager, Hilton who revealed that the hotel chain giant is preparing to merge its various mobile apps, including its concierge app, HHonors app and Conrad app to eradicate confusion among its consumers.

“We are looking at consolidating all of our apps because having that many isn’t a great message to our customers, it’s a bit fragmented so it’s best for us to consolidate for sure.”

At the end of last year Hilton invested heavily in mobile and rebooted its digital offering to allow guests to use their mobiles devices to browse floor plans, pick their own rooms, check-in and as room keys.

The travel industry has seen much change in recent years, as start-up players such as Airbnb enter the market, forcing traditional package holiday companies like TUI to keep up with the pace of innovation and customer expectation.

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