Online shoppers are familiar with dynamic messaging – the personalised and customised messages which appear on desktop or mobile websites. The messages are based on context and real-time data, alerting shoppers to price changes, supply constraints and popularity.
All the major online retailers use dynamic messaging and the big OTAs are no exception, with the likes of Expedia, hotels.com and booking.com mainstreaming this technique for travellers. Some airlines have observed how OTAs use dynamic messaging and have adopted many standard use cases. Whilst others are getting creative with how they approach messaging which is specific to airlines.
Research proves the efficacy of these techniques – a study of travel and retail sites from Qubit, published mid-2018, found that dynamic messaging – or “purchasing impetus” – increases revenue-per-visitor (RPV) better than other segmentation techniques.
But is it really worth investing in dynamic messaging? Here we explain what dynamic messaging is, how it can work in a travel context and its value to airlines and passengers alike.
Types of dynamic messaging
The simplest type of messages is automated nudges to the shopper, pulling data from airline systems to highlight price offers, popularity, and inventory. Meanwhile, more advanced use cases draw on business rules and data-driven modelling to issue personalised prompts based on preferences, activity triggers and the user’s context.
Dynamic messages can appear as pop-ups or are embedded into the page. They are designed to show different content at different stages in the booking experience, as shown below. This type of messages can improve conversion rates, reduce abandonment and help with customer retention.
Airlines operate in a capacity-constrained environment – there is a finite number of seats per flight or flights per day between city pairs. Messages alerting website visitors to limited availability are commonplace.
According to Qubit “techniques that highlight scarcity by indicating low stock levels are the most effective of all the experiences in our dataset, returning an average RPV uplift of 2.9%.
Popularity on site
Many dynamic messages tap into “the fear of missing out”. FOMO is a new field in behavioural science, aligned with “social proof”. “Social proof” messaging – telling customers to what other customers are doing on the site– “is the second most effective technique, achieving an average revenue per visitor (RPV) uplift of 2.3%,” claims Qubit.|
Most regular online travel buyers are aware that airline ticket prices are fluid. Messages telling shoppers that a price is likely to change, or the price on display can be held, are effective ways to improve conversions.
Travel and airlines have a higher cart abandonment rate than any other ecommerce vertical, according to SaleCycle. A message which appears before someone leaves the site and which has appropriate content can persuade them to stay longer and increase the chance of conversion. Qubit found that “abandonment messaging increases RPV by an average of 1.1%”
Promotional and product discovery
Dynamic messages can also be part of an airline’s retailing or merchandising strategy. They can be used by an airline to promote special offers or even non-flight related elements of a trip such as ski lift pass or car hire.|
Flight disruption messages
Some airlines are using data from outside their own reservation system to generate messages and find new revenue streams. Context-based messages, such as weather-related messaging, displayed in advance of departure, can help airlines not only upsell services such as insurance but also build a better relationship with their customers.
Challenges for airlines
Airlines need to be strategic about how they use dynamic messaging. Qubit explained “effectiveness tends to decline with overuse, and trust can quickly be eroded if customers suspect that low stock messaging and other scarcity prompts are not genuine.”
The content and volume of messages can be curated through business rules so that users see relevant, accurate suggestions. Pop-ups can also be time-limited, programmed to fade out or disappear within seconds, even when they are relevant. Simple layout design principles can highlight specific parts of the page at different stages in the path to purchase.
Travellers are multi-channel and multi-device. Airlines need to consider how messaging works across different contexts – days to departure, location – and devices – desktop, mobile web, app. A/B testing is the most effective way for airlines to understand how users are responding, in real-time, to the prompts. Different text, different placement on the page or different thumbnail imagery can generate varying responses. They need a culture of experimentation and testing to fully exploit what dynamic messaging can offer.
OTAs have undoubtly mainstreamed this technique. However, urgency messaging in the hotel space has caught the attention of UK regulators who are looking at whether OTAs use of urgency messaging or “pressure selling” contravenes competition law. Airlines, therefore, need to be aware of the outcome and comply with the new rulings.
Dynamic messaging is part of the merchandising, personalisation and retailing toolkit and can contribute to better conversion rates and more ancillary revenues for airlines.
It can also be a point of differentiation for airlines. As messages become more aligned with the persona of the individual traveller, airlines can test and learn different messaging for different segments, all of which must begin from the premise that the messages need to be of value to the customer.
Generic or mis-targeted prompts can negatively impact the booking flow. To maximise the benefits of dynamic messaging, airlines need a strategy to ensure that every message displayed is relevant, accurate and unobtrusive.