Bells and Whistles
For the travel industry, brand loyalty is a valuable commodity. Executives say it’s the kind of thing companies are willing to pay for, in hopes travelers will go directly to their app when it comes time to book a trip. The larger goal here is to deter consumers from going to Google (GOOGL) first, searching for a destination, and then being charged referral fees if that same person books the trip through a particular travel app.
Now some travel providers are looking to stand out from the crowd by adding features and rewards programs to their apps. This includes video games and in-app currency that works in a similar fashion as miles or points. Industry executives say they’re putting this focus on the apps themselves based on typical consumer habits. While most travelers routinely visit multiple websites to find a better price, the belief is people are less likely to download multiple travel apps.
Log In, Get Paid
App-based travel agency Hopper is embracing the rewards program concept and forgoing traditional advertising. One of the ways it looks to boost brand awareness and loyalty is by paying its app users. After logging in for seven consecutive days, Hopper users receive $10 in Carrot Cash, which can be used toward the price of flights, hotels, and rental cars.
The strategy seems to be a success so far. Hopper surpassed Booking.com (BKNG) last year to become the most-downloaded travel-booking app in the US. Over the past 12 months, Hopper customers have redeemed $50 million in rewards, vouchers, and flash deals. That’s a larger total than what Hopper has paid on external marketing, during the same period.
There are signs the added features boost engagement. Hopper says if a person is actively planning a trip, they may visit the app once a week. For people playing games or accessing new features, that open rate is five to 10 times higher.
In keeping with this trend, tacking on video games and additional features to travel apps is a popular move. India-based OYO Hotels added mobile games earlier this year. In partnership with Playstudios (MYPS), IHG Hotels and Resorts (IHG) is letting members of its loyalty program earn points by playing mobile games. Those points can be applied toward discounted stays on IHG hotel rooms.
Cell phones are constantly in our hands with eyes glued to the screen. Traditional advertising seems quaint for travel apps when they can get right to the source — just by offering a bit of playtime.
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