The Emerging Real-Time Business Traveler Market Takes Flight
The Federal Communications Commission last week voted to reconsider the ban on mobile phone calls during airplane flights, unleashing a collective cry of angst from travelers not wishing to be forced to listen to the tedious conversations of neighboring passengers.
Coupled with the Federal Aviation Administration's decision earlier this year that it would allow travelers to make phone calls during take off and landing, the move suggests a new opportunity may open up for mobile marketers targeting business travelers in real time.
Real time is the key here; there are any number of channels that market effectively to people who travel for business, but the coveted subgroup in this class of people are the travelers on the go, at that moment.
Travelers Are Ready
Advertisers have been trying out unorthodox campaigns for years to attract this group. Local hotels will use airline gate information displays to advertise availability, for example; a few years ago, European airline Ryanair sold space to local retailers in airports on passengers' boarding passes based on their routes and demographics.
Then, of course, there are the ads running on airlines' in-flight TV systems.
In short, advertisers are more than ready to have at business travelers no longer required to shut off their phones while in flight. Such campaigns could take the form of text messages from businesses or retailers or hotels in cities in which the travelers is getting ready to land.
The question is, are business travelers ready, willing and able to accept these messages? The answer, it seems, is yes.
Add Mobile to the Mix
For one thing, such travelers are already conditioned to using their mobile devices during travel for numerous activities.
That's according to a survey by Expedia Media Solutions last year, which found the conditioning also makes them more likely to be open to mobile ads and less shy about mobile privacy. Some 44 percent of travelers, in fact, used a tablet or smartphone to plan their trip, the survey found, while 48 percent used a mobile device to dream of their next trip
Sixty-one percent of travelers who own a mobile device, meanwhile, made a purchase on a tablet in the last six months and 51 percent on a smartphone, and they are satisfied with their experiences.
Expedia all but urges companies to advertise to this group, noting that "with one out of every 10 dollars spent online occurring on a mobile device, marketers who are ripe to target travelers should be adding mobile into their marketing mix."
Airlines and airports are embracing mobile use by their passengers as well.
The floodgates apparently opened after the FAA changed its policy on mobile devices. In the wake of that decision, United Airlines reportedly established gate-to-gate use for electronic devices during the entire flight and JetBlue began providing in-flight WiFi including free basic service during its flights, for example.
That said, there are a number of challenges still confronting marketers interested in travelers in the air. Some of the technology is still missing, though that will likely be rectified at some point.
'Marketers Will Have to Think Hard'
"I'm not sure that they would accomplish that much more if mobile service was offered during flights than what they can accomplish through geofencing at airports," David Cadden, a professor of entrepreneurship and strategy at Quinnipiac University, told CRM Buyer. "If they were able to identify the flight from which the call was made -- thus identifying the destination -- then they might target particular services."
There are definitely opportunities here, but they come down to offering real value for a traveling business person, said Luke Kachersky, an associate professor of marketing at Fordham.
"Smart marketers will have to think hard about what products, services or information a business person might want or need while in flight," Kachersky told CRM Buyer.
One example, he suggested, might be a concierge service that can handle some things on the ground for the business traveler -- on demand via an app or mobile website -- while he or she is in flight.