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Ten tips for creating a powerful airline push notification strategy

There are a lot of factors that go into creating a push messaging strategy: messaging, timing, personalization, opt-ins, and localization (to name a few).

While it sounds straightforward enough in theory, a successful push notification strategy is a lot like a delicate ecosystem. Each of the elements are interdependent, and you can only achieve the greatest impact when you’ve gotten each step right. After all, what good is a well-crafted push message sent at the wrong time? Or a flight delay notification in English sent to a Spanish-speaking traveler?

Or maybe you’ve nailed the message and target audience, but hardly anyone has opted in to your pushes, so the impact is minor at best.

Mobile users who get a promotional push message are ten times more likely to buy than those who don’t. So, getting your push strategy right is essential, as it means your airline could be looking at increased revenue and customer engagement, as well as reduced operational costs.

On the other hand, getting it wrong means high opt-outs and missed opportunities to reach your traveler at the right time, in the right place.

So how do you create push messages that your travelers will engage with? Read on to see our ten tips for creating great push notifications that convert.

1. Optimize opt-in

Your first step is to make it as easy as possible for your travelers to opt in to your push messages. By encouraging your users to opt in, you could significantly increase engagement and retention. In fact, opted-in users have 26 percent higher average monthly app opens and you are likely to retain them at nearly twice the rate of those who don’t opt in.

Unlike with Android where users are automatically opted-in to receive push messages, iOS users need to give permission. And as you can only ask once whether a user would like to opt-in for notifications, you have to make the most of the opportunity. Here’s our advice:

  • Don’t ask them to opt in straight away. Hold off until they get to know the app and the value it brings.
  • Use pre-permission messages. These are interstitial screens that appear before the official ‘permissions’ message. This should communicate the value of the app and the various types of messages you’ll get once opted in.

You can show a pre-permission message as many times as you like, so use this to your advantage. If a user accepts your own message you should then launch the official iOS notifications permission screen. But if they don’t accept, don’t show them the official screen. Instead, wait a while until they are more engaged with the app and try again.

We explore how to optimize for opt-ins more in our eBook ‘Push notifications: An ultimate guide for airlines’.

2. Context is king

Like your email strategy, your push notifications should be contextual, well thought-out and personalized to the recipient. However, unlike your email strategy, you can expect your click-through rates on push messages to be up to eight times higher.

Context is king on mobile in general, but it’s especially true when it comes to push notifications. You need to consider where your users are, what they’re doing and what stage of the trip they’re in to make your messages impactful.

Sending travelers contextual information about their trip when and where they need it adds a personal element to their relationship with your brand. It also makes their experience less stressful and more enjoyable by keeping them informed throughout their journey.

We say it a lot, but context really is the holy grail of push notifications. Messages with relevant content can improve open rates by a staggering 4-7 times!

Consider the customer journey when planning your push notifications

View the full customer journey map in our Ultimate guide to push notifications.

3. Language and localization

When it comes to crafting your push messages, you need to think about the language and tone of voice you’re using for each message. The most important thing is to make sure it aligns with your brand. For example, a low-cost carrier might have a completely different tone of voice to a luxury airline.

Your language should also match the purpose of the message. For example, upbeat, enticing language featuring emojis might be appropriate for a message about a new route or seat sale, but won’t go down so well when there’s a flight delay notification.

Localization also plays a role in terms of the language used. You could consider adjusting your notifications based on the market as some countries might respond better to more formal language. You should also be aware of words that may be specific to a certain region.

For example, Travelport research found that while terms such as ‘return trip’ and ‘hold luggage’ are commonly used in the UK, American travelers would be more familiar with the terms ‘round trip’ and ‘checked baggage’.

4. Frequency and timing

Timing and frequency are crucial. Don’t view push in the same way you view email communications – push messages are above all else time-sensitive.

When it comes to timing, studies have found that the best time of day for open rates is in the evening, followed by around 3pm and midday. But of course, this will depend on the user and may vary across segments.

Timing should also be based on the traveler’s time zone to maximize engagement. Take a look at your analytics to find out what time and day your users are most receptive to push notifications.

In terms of frequency, for airlines and travel brands, the frequency of push notifications differs from other industries due to the nature of travel. Provided that they remain relevant, travelers are happy to receive multiple messages a day during their trip.

5. Align with other channels

Related to timing and frequency is our next tip: align your push messages with the content you’re sending out on other channels.

Consider how often you’re already communicating with your users through email or social, or even internal messaging. Push is the easiest channel for travelers to turn off, so don’t give them a reason to do it.

To be as effective as possible, your push messaging should align with channels such as email, print, social media, SMS etc. Push should form just one part of your overall customer engagement strategy, complimenting your other touchpoints.

The trick is determining what messages work best for each channel, bearing in mind that this may differ between users. Each channel should play to its strength, with push messaging an ideal choice for urgent, in-the-moment notifications.

Push messaging is an ideal choice for urgent, in-the-moment notifications.


6. Tailor your messages

A great push notification strategy is all about personalization.

Personalization goes beyond just addressing a user by name or using the correct language based on where they’re located. You should also personalize based on trip history, interests and behaviors, especially since behavior-based notifications lead to a 726 percent higher open rate than broadcast messages and a 420 percent increased conversion rate.

By understanding your travelers’ trip history and behavior you can tailor the frequency and timing of your messaging strategy accordingly. For example, you can send a ‘last minute booker’ a message just before they will likely travel, unlike an ‘advance planner’ persona who will want the information further in advance.

Personalized push notifications for travel brands

7. Communicate new features

Push notifications don’t always have to be about transactional information or upselling. It’s also an ideal channel to let your travelers know about the great new features you’ve added to your app and ensure you retain users for longer.

Don’t rely on the App Store version updates to inform your users about the new features in your app. If you’ve added a chatbot or ancillary booking, send a push and explain how it will further enhance your users’ journeys.

8. Use rich push

Branch out from using just text in your push notifications. Rich notifications that use images, videos, GIFs or audio (the latter two are iOS only) are proven to have a significant impact on engagement and can increase notification open rates by 56 percent.

Not only do they take up more prime real estate on the lock screen, but visual content has the ability to emotionally frame the context of the message. Adding emoji to your message has also been found to boost click throughs by an average of 25 percent compared with plain text notifications.

When creating rich notifications, think about who you are messaging and tailor the content accordingly, as different markets and age groups will respond to graphical content in different ways.

Rich messaging push notifications-1

9. Track your success

This is one of the most important steps in your push messaging strategy. You should use well thought out analytics and KPIs to track your success. This will let you know which campaigns have been the most successful and where you can improve in your next campaign.

When analyzing success metrics look at how your notifications are performing based on the operating system. Android will have higher open rates due to the fact that users are automatically opted in. Unlike on iOS where a notification disappears once a user unlocks their phone, with Android the message remains visible on the homescreen.

We explore benchmark open rates further in our eBook ‘Push notifications: An ultimate guide for airlines’.

Android push messages will have higher open rates than iOS due to the fact that users are automatically opted in.


10. Make it relevant

This is a mantra for all messaging, not just push. Before you send any message, think first: Is this relevant to my traveler? Do they need it? Will they find it useful?

Notifications must be relevant to who the user is, where they are and most importantly for airlines, they must be relevant to the traveler’s trip. Our rules-based Travelport Engage console allows marketers to automatically target users based on the context of their trip –for example sending a message to add extra baggage the night before.

For each and every message you send out, consider whether it is truly relevant to each user who will receive it. Find out more about how Travelport Engage can help you to create relevant and contextual push messages using traveler profiles and live trip data.

To learn more about creating the best possible push messaging strategy, download our 33-page eBook for even more tips and insights.

Get your free guide to push notifications for airlines

Glenville Morris - Director of Consulting

Glenville has over 12 years experience as a digital & mobile professional in the travel, entertainment & retail sectors. Prior to joining Travelport Digital Glenville worked at easyJet across analytics, mobile marketing & was the product owner for easyJet mobile. At Travelport Digital Glenville heads up the Digital Insights team looking at market trends, operating system updates and how new mobile technologies will affect the travel industry.

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