Expedia Plans To Use VR To Let Customers Tour Hotel Rooms Before Booking

What Happened
Popular travel booking site Expedia is testing a new VR initiative to allow customers to take a tour of the hotel rooms they are interested in before booking. Designed to be an interactive experience, users will be able to slide open a room door or step out onto the balcony to get a full 360-degree view of their prospective accommodations.

Details are scarce on when and how Expedia is planning to roll out this VR feature, but the company has long history of experimenting with virtual reality in its marketing efforts, including a campaign last year that uses a room-scale VR installation to transport sick kids to exotic locales and one launched this January that takes viewers on a mesmerizing VR train ride through rural Norway.

What Brands Need To Do
This is the latest example of the diversification of VR content as virtual reality gadgets start to percolate into the consumer market. VR’s immersive power makes it a powerful tool for travel and hospitality brands to sell prospective customers on the experience they offer. Hotel chains such as Marriott and St. Giles have been experimenting with VR and 360-degree content to attract consumer attention As mainstream adoption picks up, immersive content is emerging as a medium that brand marketers can capitalize on.

How We Can Help
Our dedicated team of VR experts is here to guide marketers through the distribution landscape. We work closely with brands to develop sustainable VR content strategies to promote branded VR and 360 video content across various apps and platforms. With our proprietary technology stack powered by a combination of best-in-class VR partners and backed by the media fire-power of IPG Mediabrands, we offer customized solutions for distributing and measuring branded VR content that truly enhance brand messaging and contribute to the campaign objectives.

If you’d like to learn more about how the Lab can help you tap into the immersive power of VR content to engage with customers, please contact our Client Services Director Samantha Holland (samantha@ipglab.com) to schedule a visit to the Lab.

 


Source: Mashable

MSC Cruises Launches Digitally Enhanced Guest Experiences

What Happened
MSC Cruises, the world’s largest privately-owned cruise line, debuted its fleet-wide digital innovation program at the travel industry trade show ITB Berlin. The company worked with companies including Deloitte Digital, HP Enterprise, and Samsung to develop a new cruise system MSC for Me, which leverages VR content, wearables, and RFID/NFC technology to deliver a connected, personalizable, and holistic guest experience.

Each guest will be given a connected bracelet that will offer guests quick access to the ship’s services and will activate geo-located suggestions through 3,050 bluetooth beacons. Other key features of this new program include digital way finder and mobile concierge services, a VR content for previewing their trips, and a gallery with interactive screens showing the photos and videos that guests shared.

What Brands Need To Do
If this program sounds familiar, it is because MSC’s approach is quite similar to the Ocean Medallion program that Carnival Cruise unveiled at this year’s CES. Together, this two new guest-oriented innovation programs point to the future of travel and hospitality, where new technologies such as wearable and cloud computing work together to deliver a frictionless and highly personalized experience for each guest, guiding them through each stage of their travel.

As AI and wearable tech continue to advance, their potential to transform the travel and hospitality industries is just starting to show. Therefore, brands would be smart to start exploring the vast potential they hold and incorporating them into your guest experiences.

 


Source: Yahoo Finance

Header image courtesy of MSC Cruise’s press release

Cathay Pacific Gifts Loyalty Members With Personalized Artwork Based On Travel Data

What Happened
Cathay Pacific is sending its loyalty program members a unique birthday gift – a piece of contemporary artwork created by a special algorithm based on their travel data. Working with McCann Worldgroup, the airline is presenting members of its Marco Polo club a mini-site that visualizes their travel in the past year into a abstract painting, which also comes with built-in options for people to easily share their personalized “artmaps” via social media.

What Brands Need To Do
This serves as a new example of how brands can find interesting ways to utilize the customer data they collect for marketing purposes other than retargeting. By employing a low-level artificial intelligence – in this case, a computer algorithm that generates artwork based on travel data – Cathay Pacific is able to transform data into something personal and share-worthy to its most valued customers.

As marketers continue to explore the possibility that machine learning and AI bring to marketing by powering conversational services and next-level personalizations. brands need to start identifying the kind of unique dataset that they own and feed it into machine learning services to either learn more about their customers or deliver a more personalized customer experience.

 


Source: Creativity Online

 

Google Launches “Shopping Showcase” Ads & Hotel Smart Filters

What Happened
Google unveiled some updates to its search ad products on Tuesday as it aims to court more ad dollars from retailers and travel brands. For retailers, the new “Showcase Shopping” ads allow retailers to showcase a series of product images in mobile search results. The unique feature that separates this from regular carousel ads is that it is designed to respond to vague search inquiries such as “summer dress” or “living room furniture,” and allow retailers to display a variety of options. According to Google, this kind of vaguely-worded search makes up for over 40% of shopping-related queries.

For travel and hospitality brands, Google is adding Hotel Smart Filters to search results. Now when users search for hotels, they will have the option to filter the results based on price, rating, and preferences like whether a hotel is “pet-friendly.” Hotels with prices lower than normal or running a discount will also be marked with a “Deal” label in search results.

What Brands Need To Do
The Showcase Shopping ads offer retailers a valuable tool to lure online shoppers with only broad purchase ideas in mind using a variety of relevant items from their inventory. The image-heavy nature should give retailers a better chance to pique shopper interest. As for travel brands, the updated hotel search tool means there is a better chance of standing out among competitors with a discount deal. The added filters also include preferences for hotel features, which hotels will have to make sure reflect reality.  

 


Sources: AdWeek

Header image courtesy of Google’s AdWords Blog

Snapchat Introduces Memories To Save Snaps, Debuts Virgin America-Branded Geofilters

What Happened
Snapchat introduced a new feature today called Memories, which allows users to save, organize, and edit their snaps. Users can also search their archive of snaps and resurface interesting ones through their personal Story or private messages. This marks a big strategic shift for the infamously ephemeral Snapchat that initially made a name for itself with vanishing messages. Previously, users could save a snap or a Story to their phone’s camera roll, and now they can save it to Snapchat’s servers with Memories. Snapchat says it is gradually rolling out this new feature to all users in the coming weeks.

In other news, Virgin America became the first airline to woo Snapchat users with a branded Geofilter as it unleashed a branded Geofilter last Thursday at five Virgin airport terminals across the country. For some added fun, the airline designed the Geofilter with a customizable caption “Wheels up ____” for travelers to fill in the blank with their own messages.

What Brands Need To Do
As Snapchat continues to grow its user base and build out its ad products, more and more brands are flocking to the hot social app to reach its young-skewing users. Besides Virgin America, the tourism departments of several U.S. cities are now using Snapchat to lure travelers. With Memories, brands on Snapchat gain a handy tool to conveniently recycle their content and build a searchable content library on Snapchat. Plus, the new feature also allows users to pull old photos and videos from their phone’s camera roll for a public Story, opening doors for pre-produced content to be posted.

 


Source: The Verge & USA Today

Header image courtesy of Snapchat’s YouTube Video

 

Retargeting Ads Come To Instagram

What Happened
Advertisers on Instagram are now able to retarget users as the social network adds Dynamic Ads – a retargeting unit that Facebook launched last year – to its platform. This ad product enables data-driven ad customization so that users are served relevant ads based on their online activity and interests. Facebook is also rolling out two updates to its ad products: a Dynamic Ad unit specifically designed for travel brands and more control on its “lookalike” custom audiences so that advertisers can prioritize different types of users to focus on.

What Brands Need To Do
Instagram has been following the steps of its parent company Facebook in improving its ad products and making its platform more brand-friendly. The photo- and video-sharing network currently serves over 200,000 monthly active advertisers. This new addition should be helpful to brands, especially those in the travel sector, for reaching target consumers more effectively on Instagram.

 


Source: TechCrunch

Booking.com Rolls Out Chat Tool To Improve Customer Service

What Happened
Booking.com is getting on the chatbot bandwagon as it starts to roll out a chat tool for customers to communicate with the hotel they booked. The messaging tool, built entirely in-house, will be made available via its website and mobile apps first, but the company says it is working on integrating it with some popular messaging apps, including Facebook Messenger. Users can ask hotels questions or make requests with their Booking account, and hotels can initiate a chat with a customer to ask for information about their arrival time and accommodation preferences. Booking.com does not specify whether the chat tool is powered by a chatbot or real human customer service reps, but it looks to be a mix of both.  

What Brands Need To Do
With the roll-out of this chat tool, Booking.com joins fellow travel booking sites Kayak and HotelTonight in modernizing their user experience and customer service with messaging. With more and more smartphone users relying on messaging apps as their primary communication channel, it is crucial for brands, especially those in the service industry, to update their touch points and communication channels with messaging tools so as to better serve their customers.

For more information on how brands can effectively reach consumers on messaging apps and other conversational platforms, we recommend reading the Conversational Interfaces section in our Outlook 2016 and our Fast Forward analysis on chat bots.

 


Source: VentureBeat

HotelTonight Expands Its In-App Concierge Service

What Happened
On Thursday, last-minute hotel booking service HotelTonight announced it is extending its in-app concierge service Aces to users to over 30 cities around the world, including big metropolises like London and smaller towns like Scottsdale, Ariz. HotelTonight first started testing Aces in five cities last summer. It allows users to chat with a customer service rep from the hotel they booked for concierge services, such as requests for extra toiletries or local restaurant recommendations without calling the hotel or even leaving the app.

HotelTonight is not the only booking site that is modernizing its service with a messaging interface. Travel booking site Kayak has built a chat bot on team communication app Slack that can handle flight and hotel searches. Startups like Hyper and Pana aim to simplify travel booking by replacing all web searches and phone calls with travel agents with texting.

What Brands Need To Do
Today, more and more people are using messaging apps as their primary communication channel. In fact, Facebook reported that together its two messaging apps – Messenger and WhatsApp – are now processing 60 billion messages a day, which is three times higher than SMS handled at its peak. Therefore, it is crucial for brands to integrate messaging features into their service so as to cater to the changing communication preferences of customers and better serve their needs.

To learn more about how brands can navigate the unique challenges that messaging apps present, check out the Conversational Interfaces section in our Outlook 2016.

 


Source: TechCrunch

How Starwood “Hacked” Instagram To Take Hotel Reservations

What Happened
Starwood Hotels hacked Instagram to allow socially connected travelers to initiate the booking process right in the photo-sharing app. Working with digital shopping platform LiketoKnow.it, Starwood allows users to start booking a reservation simply by liking one of the Instagram photos that the hotel chain paid social influencers for. Once they double-tap, they receive an auto-generated email via LiketoKnow.it with a link to book their stay at the hotel chain’s two featured properties in Paris.

What Brands Need To Do
Among popular social media services, Instagram has been notoriously hard for marketers to crack, largely due to its restriction on clickable links. Save for the call-to-action buttons in ads and the one URL allowed in each account profile, brands have no viable means to move Instagram followers down the sales funnel. Starwood’s effort here provides a new example of how brands can find innovative ways to circumvent Instagram’s restrictions and convert followers into customers.

 


Source: Digiday

Kayak Wants You To Book Flights By Texting A Slack Bot

What Happened
We first heard in December about Kayak’s plan to build a messaging-based app that allows users to text travel queries to get recommendations. Now, the travel site has used Slack’s API to develop a chat bot that allows Slack users to search for flights and hotels. Users can message Kayak’s bot with simple inquiries such as “/Kayak hotels in NYC this weekend,” and the bot will reply with a selection of hotels available with prices, user ratings, and photos.

What Brands Need To Do
Texting is quickly becoming a preferred way to talk to businesses and brands for many consumers, thanks to the dominating popularity of messaging apps. Kayak is one of the several travel brands getting on board with messaging apps. Just a few weeks ago, Dutch airline KLM became the first airline to integrate with Facebook Messenger to offer users customer support. With more and more people using messaging apps as their primary communication channel, it is crucial for brands to follow their customers and consider integrating their service into popular messaging apps.

To learn more about how brands can navigate the unique challenges that messaging apps present, check out the Conversational Interfaces section in our Outlook 2016.


Source: Digital Trends