Over the last five years, the Indian travel sector has adopted innovative trends, technologies and given a whole new dimension to this industry. The sector has always been one of the most crucial ones of the economy as it is not only a significant contributor to the GDP and foreign exchange reserve of the country, but also generates widespread employment.
It is estimated that the Indian travel industry will generate about USD 42.8 billion by 2017, thus creating hope for a highly optimistic future.
India, a country with a lot of diversity, cultural heritage and scores of languages and dialects, presents unique challenges and opportunities for Online Travel Agencies. The travel boom, evolution of the internet, growing acceptance of e-commerce and the emergence of low-cost carries, have been key factors that have contributed to the emergence of this sector.
Today, consumers have understood the importance and benefits of using technology to book air, train, and bus tickets. They have moved from traditional over-the-counter booking to online ticketing. And with the internet literacy rate increasing in Tier-II and III cities as well, the sector will surely continue its incredible growth in the coming years.
With the advent and penetration of Social Media, Online travel Agencies have an attractive opportunity to showcase the bouquet of services they offer, to connect to and engage with potential customers at multiple touch points. Picturesque places and scenic beauty, bundled with enthralling packages, catches the attention of customers and keeps them spellbound across various platforms.
Online Travel Agents, being the ultimate wanderlust sector, tries to utilize the potential of social media networks to the best of their capabilities. Right from contests to quizzes, descriptions of food, culture, ethnicity, wildlife, adventure sports, hotels, travel facts, travel diaries, best deals, combo-deals and so on, there is an undying scope of generating content which forms a reasonably good strategy to interact and make the two way communication with customers more effective.
Social media opens up a myriad of newer avenues and offers this industry to go beyond the obvious, to create more meaningful and interactive conversations.
The study on this sector is based on the following 10 Online Travel Service, providing portals for a period of 30 day, starting from 1st March 2014 to 30th March 2014.
- Hello Travel
Community Building holds the key to setting up the stage to execute social media campaigns flawlessly. On Facebook, Goibibo has the maximum number of fans (close to 1.3 million), but with a growth rate of 3.5%, musafir.com enjoys the highest fan growth rate among the 10 brands in Online Travel Agencies. The other brands lie in the bracket of -2 % to 2 % growth rate, with an average of 2.3% growth rate, for the sector.
Musafir.com had more ‘people talking about’ them (3.1% of fans) than the average Travel & Tourism Facebook page. This can be attributed to the popularity and reach of their brand ambassador, Sachin Tendulkar. Goibibo has a very strong fan base when compared to others in this sector, except for MakeMyTrip.com , which is next in this race but its fan growth rate is negligible.
On Twitter, @makemytrip has the maximum number of followers at 10,915 and a higher follower growth rate (1.5%) than the average Travel & Tourism Twitter accounts. Goibibo.com enjoys the highest follower growth rate of 6.1% than the average growth rate of 3.1 % of Travel & Tourism Twitter accounts.
Interestingly, @GoibiboDotCom tweets with one hashtag or the other and they use almost 10 different types of hashtag in their communication. The growth, in recent times, for the brand on Twitter can be attributed to the #GoCitiSale contest.
Musafir.com has the highest fan growth rate on Facebook, on the contrary, they have a very poor follower growth rate of 0.79% on Twitter, with a relatively small follower base at around 639.
Yatra.com has the second highest number of followers- 10,749, amongst all the OTAs but the follower’s growth rate for the brand is pretty average, at 0.83%. Overall, the sector is doing really well on Twitter as compared to Facebook, with the average growth rate lying in the range of 0% to 7.5%.
On an average, most brands make 3-4 posts a day. MakeMyTrip maintains an average of 4 posts per day, with fans posting approximately 12 posts on their wall. Posts which have photos are the most common and posts having call to action links are the most engaged ones. Musafir.com makes the least number of posts, with an average of 1 post a day. Sometimes they even skip posting anything. Goibibo is also regular in posting content on their Facebook wall with an average of 3 posts per day. Although Cleartrip takes decent efforts to post content on Facebook with 1-2 posts per day, it has negligible amount of engagement and interaction from the fans.
As mentioned earlier, the Online Travel Agents sector has an immense scope of incorporating a large variety of content in its basket.
Currently, MakeMyTrip is running a campaign called #DiscoverBhutan. To support the campaign, they are posting content like, Reasons to book your Bhutan Holiday, Did You Know? Facts about Bhutan, #DiscoverBhutan Contest and discounts on booking Bhutan Holiday Trip.
The campaign is a cross platform campaign and unique content is being posted on Twitter, starting with a live contest. They have an interactive approach while conducting the quiz to maintain the enthusiasm and involvement of customers.
Other than that, MakeMyTrip also caters to different trips of different experiences like #Nature, #Adventure, #ManMade, #Relaxing etc. Although after taking a look through some of their content, I think the copy needs to go through a proofreader before being published!
Yatra.com’s content strategy is more personal and leverages on emotional appeals to entice the prospective customers. Their posts are largely related to travel but have a special human touch attached to it.
Yatra.com’s content bucket includes travel tips, Friday quiz, offers, co-branding offers and contests.
A noticeable feature in their strategy is to appreciate and congratulate the contest winners by sharing and uploading their pictures on the official page. This leaves the contestants satisfied with oodles of gratification and motivates others to participate in the next activity. In the normal run, contests, tailored according to the occasion and situations, are conducted in an interesting and captivating manner.
Cleartrip, on the other hand, is more informative and helpful in its approach. The Content Strategy tries to leverage solely on the awareness appeal, that is probably the reason why they rarely post offers/deals on the page.
Cleartrip scores really low in follower growth rate and one reason that can be attributed to it is that they don’t use hashtag; they rely heavily on links shared and replies given to their followers. Moreover, the content posted on the page is monotonous and serves the needs/wants of a very specific segment in the target audience.
GoIbibo’s content bucket is experience-oriented and focuses more on emotional quotient. Their current campaign is also based on similar grounds. #WriteToFlycampaign is about storytelling and sharing your travel experiences. You write to them and win tickets. Another hashtag which they have been using recently is #GoOnIndia. With this hashtag they share places in India which a traveler must visit, live in and enjoy the marvelous experience of.
Like others brands in the segment, Goibibo also reserves space for discounts, offers, festival discounts, co-branding offers, policies in their content bucket.
Musafir.com uses the approach of enlightening and guiding its customer. The brand has executed several campaigns based on similar appeals. Recently, they launched a campaign called as #MusafirFab5, wherein they uploaded 5 photos of some or the other place where one should go. Earlier in March, they ran a campaign, called #TravelMovies, showing the association of movies and places and persuading customers to visit it. This a new and innovative way of combining the travel and entertainment industries, and even MakeMyTrip has tried to bank upon this concept with their #FilmiPlaces contest.
Hello Travel, on the other hand, is a young and relatively small community, with a straight forward communication strategy of posting photos which directs a customer to its website. There are few posts which directly show beautiful places and monuments, prompting the fans/followers to tag their friends along. The content is too simple and, on the face of it, has resulted in a very low engagement rate for the brand. There is a scope of improvement here as the brand can bring fortune to the table by spending more time and energy in creating interactive and engaging content.
Like Cleartrip, Via.com also follows the informative approach in their content strategy. The communication is very plain and simple involving brief information about the travel destination. They hardly post offers or run custom campaigns according to the need of the hour.
RedBus banks upon a radically different approach as opposed to the sector. The brand uses the line of attack as self promotion. The posts are not aimed at customer engagement as such, since most of the posts are repeated focusing on the various features the brand offers. The content bucket also includes creatives with crisp copies, highlighting the benefits and advantages of using RedBus.
Expedia.co.in has a very small community of followers as compared to the other major giants of the industry and this is a reflection of their late entry in to the game. The content bucket consists of a judicious mix of posts, ranging from informative, experiential, assertive to personal. They also run a few contests on a regular basis but the overall response on these posts is very average owing to the limited reach of the page.
All these brands use different strategies for content but one common thing in their content is that all the posts have picturesque photos and offers which grab more eyeballs than any other type of content.
Goibibo has the maximum number of fans in India. Musafir.com had the most number of people talking about them (as % of fans) in India, the reason being their continuous and innovative campaigns like #TravelMovies and #MusafirFab5.
Among the 10 OTA brand, on an average, 24% of content posted by admins was “brand related” and Yatra.com posted the most “non-brand related” content on their wall. These are the posts which are aimed at engaging customers, irrespective of their association with the offers made by the brand.
Although Hello Travel is direct and straight forward in its communication, they have a very average fan base and growth rate but they still get a decent amount of response and engagement from their customers. Surprisingly, they lead the charts for engagement on Facebook with an engagement score of 262 – far higher than most other brands. The reason for such high engagement can be accounted to the low number of fans on the page and high number of shares which is mentioned below.
All the efforts done by MakeMyTrip, Goibibo, Ixigo ,Yatra and Hello Travel have served them well. MakeMyTrip received the most likes, at 26,049 on 103 posts, but Hello Travel reached a wider audience by getting over 3,200 shares with just 48 posts. MakeMyTrip got shared for 2,800 times for 103 posts.
@makemytripdoes a clean sweep over its competitors on Twitter with the highest engagement score of 707 with only 250 tweets. @GoibiboDotCom gives a tough fight with an engagement score of 679 and highest number of tweets at 834. @ixigo is almost balanced and is third in the engagement score list with 399 from 417 tweets.
In terms of customer service and customer relationship management very few Online Travel Agencies make optimum use of Twitter to interact and contact customers. Other than Plain text, brand apology seems to be the most popular type of reply by these brands.
@musafirdotcom does not believe in replying to customers on Twitter, they’d rather send direct messages. Out of 24 tweets, in the last one month, only 3 direct messages were sent and the remaining 21 were plain text. Strangely @expediaIN tweeted for only 23 times in the last one month, including the plain text.
On Facebook, MakeMyTrip.com has the best Average Response Time of 2 hours. Musafir.com responded the most number of customers (as a % of Fan Posts) reaching up to 50%. Hello Travel and ixigo respond to very few customers, taking almost 2 days which is too much in any e-commerce business, that too in the travel/tourism sector and it is not useful if someone has a last minute inquiry before traveling. Other Online Travel Agencies like Goibibo, Yatra and Expedia take almost 9 hours, on an average, to reply but respond to only 11%-22% of the posts. RedBus is very active in responding; it responds to 46% of the posts within an average time span of 19 hours.
On Twitter again, @makemytrip rules the roost in customer relationship management as it replies to 88% of their customers in less than 15 minutes. Yatra.com, which is exceptionally active on social media, replied to only 6 responses in the last month, taking the longest time amongst all. In terms of the number of responses, Goibibo replies the most, covering 253 replies out of which 50% were attended within 15 minutes. Ixigo uses Twitter’s conversational property to its best and direct its Twitter handle for customer service. Within a span of one month, it had replied to 110 responses and all of them were attended to within an hour.
Goibibo.com had the maximum number of mentions (5070), followed by MakeMyTrip.com (4956), followed by Ixigo, Yatra and Cleartrip. Expedia was mentioned the least number of times (45) with musafir.com at 47 times and via.com at 57 times. The OTA industry is widely distributed in terms of its brand’s mentions with outliers on both the ends.
The overall sentiment for the industry is neutral, both on Facebook and on Twitter. Expedia and Yatra go neck to neck in the race for positive sentiments, followed by Goibibo and MakeMyTrip. Hello Travel deserves a round of applause because despite having a simple content strategy which is link-oriented, it has a happy and engaged community on Facebook. This can be attributed to the organic ways and means adopted by the brand in building and nurturing their community on Facebook. As a result, Hello Travel has the best (net) positive sentiment. Surprisingly, Musafir.com had more negative sentiment than positive or neutral sentiment in the span of 30 days.
On Twitter, the sentiment is measured in a different way than on Unmetric. It is based on the tweets that the brand replies to. Overall, brands tend to reply to tweets with positive sentiments rather than negative sentiments. Redbus replied the most to positive tweets while, Musafir.com had negative sentiments on Facebook but no negative sentiment on Twitter because they only repled to positive tweets. It is nearly 60% positive and the remaining is neutral, with no space for negative sentiments. Similarly, Yatra.com also does not reply to any negative tweets on Twitter.
The online travel agents sector is widely scattered in every aspect. The size of communities range from thousands to millions, giving the sector an unbalanced stance on social media. Brands like MakeMyTrip, Yatra, Goibibo have a decent amount of fan following both on Facebook and Twitter whereas brands like ixigo, Hello Travel, Redbus are still catching up on the nuances of social media and community building.
The Key challenge for any e-commerce retailer nowadays is customer engagement as only this propels the brand to break through the clutter and become the preferred choice for using an agent. Another important metric for Online Travel Agencies is customer retention. The problem here is that brands’ interactions with these customers is very low and the response system too is also average, a delay in entertaining queries and redressing grievance may act fatal for the brand, especially when someone is shelling out precious time, money, energy and has instilled trust in a brand’s offerings and promises. The sector demands enthusiasm, quick responses and a sound customer relationship management in place.
Overall, the sector tries to incorporate different types of content strategies and most of them work pretty well for the respective brands but still there lies an enormous scope wherein these brands can develop some innovative and engaging content to reach out to potential customers and push them through the purchase decision cycle. The sector generally lags behind in terms of good engagement tactics, except for a few brands which outperform and extend most of their efforts towards customer acquisition and customer engagement. Whatever be the reason for lag these brands are definitely losing out on a promising opportunity to leverage social media platforms in community building and revenue generation. Social Media can play a major role in accomplishing objectives which are a part of the brand’s long term strategy to embark dominance in the Online Travel agent sector.
Analytics support courtesy: Unmetric