Expert: Why Brands Need to Re-think SMS

By Kristina Knight, BizReport

New data shows most US travelers are moving their travel plans to mobile – they are researching and booking via smartphones and tablets more often than desktops. This kind of change is also opening up an opportunity for travel brands to better engage with this customer base.

Kristina: Bringing SMS to scale is an issue that we are hearing causes problems for a lot of travel brands. What is the hold up here?

Austin Wheat, Senior Product Manager Enterprise Mobile Messaging, OpenMarket: SMS is one of those rare technologies where its popularity and success can potentially hinder a company, if they are not properly prepared for the upswing. For instance, 80 percent of U.S. travelers own a smartphone. If a hotel institutes an SMS engagement plan without the proper groundwork in place, how will they handle the onslaught of new text messages whenever a guest has requested extra towels or has difficulty with the Wi-Fi passcode?

Kristina: Is artificial intelligence a viable option to implement SMS?

Austin: One approach is to leave out the human factor, and turn to artificial intelligence (A.I.). Companies such as Go Moment’s Ivy leverage IBM’s Watson–a cognitive computing platform–to simulate interaction with hotel staff to support guest requests and solicit feedback. Perhaps an even simpler, albeit more constrained approach is to use chat bots, software that is programmed to respond to select requests.

Kristina: What kind of potential does SMS hold for travel brands?

Austin: So there is a huge opportunity for hospitality brands to engage with customers for all elements of travel. Six of the 10 most used mobile apps worldwide are messaging apps, so SMS is a wide open door for customer engagement. Travel and hospitality brands looking to attract millennial customers also have a chance to connect with them via SMS. In fact, it is predominantly younger adults who are driving the use of messaging among travelers–especially the youngest segment aged 18-24. Another perk is that hospitality companies can now use SMS to collect valuable data on guest requests–more data creates new opportunities for analysis and process improvement.