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Still not investing in mobile? Weve’s new tools might convince you

August 29, 2014

(Published in TTG – 26.06.14)

The m-commerce outfit has been busy rolling out new ideas. Matthew Parsons chats to travel industry manager John Finlayson

John Finlayson, travel industry manager for Weve

Weve’s John Finlayson believes the travel industry has been slow to realise mobile’s potential

Weve, the m-commerce joint venture formed by Vodafone, EE and O2, is not even two years old, yet has been quietly running a range of innovative marketing campaigns and picking up awards across a range of sectors. However, John Finlayson, travel industry manager, remains frustrated at the travel industry’s reticence, and reluctance, to tackle mobile head-on.

“The UK travel industry hasn’t yet woken up to mobile,” he says. “According to the ONS, last year was brilliant for the UK travel industry, with figures showing more overseas visits, higher spending and Brits staying longer abroad than ever.

“Mobile ad spend is also increasing, in 2013 accounting for 16% of all digital advertising spend – up from under 10% in 2012 according to the IAB & PwC. Despite this, the travel industry is one of the slowest to understand the true value and role of mobile.”

Meanwhile, he adds, mobile advertising spend has now overtaken radio and outdoor, and is set to overtake press by the end of the year.

Apps in general also come under fire from Finlayson. “The difficulty with travel is that most travel apps are about booking, so it has a short lifespan. You use it once, then delete it – unless you’re a frequent business flyer. Companies invest a lot of money in these, but people can just as easily book on a website.

“The best way is for travel firms to regularly engage with customers passively, not in a pushy way. Target them with regular competitions, new launches and so on, and not just offers but make sure it is relevant to that individual.”

However, Finlayson admits there has been “lots of learning” at Weve itself. “What is it that customers want? We find out, and that’s how we build products,” he says.

Weve initially had a strong focus on the “mobile wallet” concept – where the smartphone itself is used to pay for items – yet while that is still being looked at, he says there has been a renewed focus on rewarding customers. “The real play is around closing the loop on loyalty, as people are happy to pay with their cards.”

One aspect that has not changed since the start is that of physical location – Weve has access to 22 million “opted-in” consumers across the three network operators, out of a total 70 million handsets. These 22 million have specifically requested to receive personalised advertising, and clever advertising is leveraging their mobile behaviours and geo-location technology. Not only does Weve know who its audience is, and what they are doing, but where they are.

Language lessons

But more recently, Weve has been looking at targeting people based on the destinations they have previously flown to, or phone frequently, and also the language of the websites they browse on their phone.

For example, Manchester Airport Group teamed up with one airline to promote flights to Jeddah, India and Pakistan. Brand communications were sent both in English and the native language of the promoted country, via text message, with a link to the airline’s website.

Overlaying data is another new development. If a large company, already with an extensive database, wishes to target new customers, it can now share that data with Weve, which then compares it with its own database – any duplicate customers are removed, meaning new people are targeted.

As Finlayson says: “Advertisers save money, and also know they are not annoying existing customers.”

Another new weapon in the Weve arsenal is having access to a unique ID of that phone user. Companies have found it hard to track a user’s journey over multiple devices. Facebook and Google urge travel companies to ensure they allow people to log in via their social media profile, and so be able to track their browsing habits across different devices.

Now, Weve is able to help better target and track their advertising. “Advertisers haven’t been sure about who’s clicking on their adverts. We know their behaviours, and we can target them with adverts – for example, those 35-year-olds who we know travel a lot [because of roaming on different networks overseas]… they fire up an app or site which also contains adverts – and we can target them using display too.”

It seems there’s a range of tactics travel firms can consider with Weve, which itself consults on best practice earned from a wealth of success stories in other sectors. But to unlock these new profile understandings and characteristics of millions of potential customers, it’s a two-way street. “You have to get the ball rolling, you have to invest in order to get some data back,” Finlayson adds.

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