A compelling presentation from a Facebook executive told the packed room that it has a handle on consumer behaviour and can spot user trends.
Neasa Costin, travel vertical lead, EMEA, global marketing solutions, said that the challenge for many travel companies is differentiation.
“Travel has very positive headspace for the end user so marketers don’t have to try very hard. An image of a beautiful beach will do the job for you but if you take away the logo you would not be able to distinguish one brand from another.”
She highlighted Creative Shop, a part of Facebook which is trying to help companies change that through emotional resonance.
Costin said that there had been 63 million hashtags about holidays up to June with “real excitement and high emotion” around travel but that markets are not trying to be distinctive or original.
“It’s very transactional in approach. At WTM London you can see companies investing massively in promotion but when you translate that to digital, there is zero investment.”
She pointed to Airbnb as a company that is doing the right things in terms of brand building and changing consumer behaviour.
Facebook is also investing in new technologies such as augmented reality, voice recognition and immersive video to stay on top of trends.
Established companies also shared how they are managing to embrace digital and get to grips with technologies such as chatbots and virtual reality.
Arnaud Masson, chief operating officer of Voyages SNCF stressed how important it is to listen to customers.
The company has a concept called the Love Team which is dedicated to listening to what customers want, gauging their feedback on its digital services and implementing new ideas.
As a result the company has developed a chatbot on Facebook Messenger and is also looking at voice technology.
The impact of these emerging channels to market is also being felt by the hotel industry which is having to adopt digital practices across the stages of booking and staying in a hotel.
Daniel Wishnia, digital marketing consultant, GCH Hotels, said: “Customers expect you to be everywhere, on multi-devices. They won’t wait for more than three seconds, they want you to be there to assist them.”
He added that hotels had an opportunity to capture guests on their websites through better pricing, video and images but that the industry needs to change its way of thinking.
As established players get to grips with digital transformation, there is also pressure from new entrants.
Hotel Bonanza, an online startup offering hotels distribution for an 8% commission, is planning a soft launch early next year in the UK and Ireland followed by the rest of Europe, Australia, New Zealand, the US and Canada.
Suzy Barber, co-founder of the startup said it was looking to establish a fairer and more transparent model for everyone.
Other sessions throughout the day focused on engaging content and how it helps drive customers and conversion.
Saar Szekely, vice president, research and development, Feelter, helps brands gather mentions and conversations about them from across social media. It then integrates the most interesting content on to the brands’ websites.
Szekely said that people share differently now based on different media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – and that it is this sort of content that consumers trust because of its spontaneity.
Many travel companies have also chosen to work with influencers in the shape of travel bloggers.
Tika Larasati, influencer marketing manager, Skyscanner, said its data shows there is potential to work with influencers but companies need to choose carefully.
She advised the audience to pick bloggers with knowledge of the subject matter, who had a loyal audience with a good engagement rate and that fits with the brand’s audience.
Larasati also highlighted the importance of putting metrics in place and analysing them to gauge how effective campaigns are.
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