Travel high investment category both monetarily and emotionally: Pulkit Trivedi, Facebook

Director, Facebook India, on how brands can leverage the platform of Facebook and thereby influence purchase journey of travellers

e4m by Apeksha Mishra
Published: Sep 6, 2018 8:59 AM  | 6 min read

Facebook recently released its fourth research report titled ‘Eliminating friction in travel path to purchase’ under its programme Zero Friction Future, exclusively for the Indian travel industry. Pulkit Trivedi, Director, Facebook India, spoke to us on how brands can leverage the platform of Facebook and thereby have a huge impact in influencing travellers’ purchase journey. Speaking on the implications of a mobile-savvy consumer behaviour on businesses, he said that brands will need to re-orient themselves in order to change the consumer experience, given the context of a hyper-connected online world today, where 70% of the internet traffic in India engages in video.

Watch the video here or read the edited excerpts below:

Why should a travel brand use Facebook advertising for a frictionless consumer experience?

Travel is a high investment category both monetarily and emotionally. With India getting more smartphone savvy, it has dislodged plenty of traditional mediums in a consumer journey from the stage of awareness to purchase. In this journey we believe advocacy plays a critical role to influence a customer’s decision. There are two clear vectors as to how travel is bought on Facebook, one being the element of personalisation and the other regarding its relevance.

When brands partner with us for advertising, they can very well figure out which part of the traffic came from Facebook and that which opted out. They can then choose to re-target those users who dropped out using our platform and encourage them to re-engage. So brands are able to see huge reach through the medium of Facebook.

How is Facebook looking at creating a highly personalised booking experience for consumers so that travel brands too benefit out of it?

Travel is getting more mobile dependent and Facebook as an app is heavily used by consumers on their mobile phones. Hence, we are able to offer significant reach to businesses and brands. We are a people-based marketing company, which helps our users stay updated about relevant products in the market through this very medium. As per our Global Web Index report, 2/5 users on Facebook actually discover a new product through mobile ads. Thirdly, Facebook’s travel intent signals helps it to categorise users into different cohorts, thereby making it a meaningful and engaging platform for its users. Lastly, consumers can also personalise and sequentialise a message on Facebook. It is important for businesses to engage with users in the pre-trip stage, during the trip and post trip-stage and this engagement is carried out in a sequence on Facebook.

With Facebook's association, how can brands start getting hotels to even the playing field between desktop and mobile, enabling travellers get access to competitive rates earlier in the search process compared to aggregator sites?

The install base of desktop is 60 million in India, which isn’t growing at a high rate. 75% of all online commerce happening in India is on mobile and a major part of it is through mobile apps. ASPs of what people are buying on mobile vs purchase being made on desktops is in equilibrium today. However, with the consumer journey being very fragmented, users can have various touch points.

When brands deploy an ad on Facebook, our team wants to help them measure the RoI Vs every single dollar spent on the ad. For example, while working with MakeMyTrip, we witnessed 50% lower cost per booking on mobile app than any other channel, which is very meaningful to brands. In our mobile optimised campaign on Facebook we also saw a 5x increase in app installs for GoIbibo.

How is Facebook helping brands/travel companies organise themselves for digital success?

Firstly, through projects under our Zero Friction Future programme, we want to stimulate the industry to think of mobile and digital adoption. Mobile is at the centre of influencing so many billion dollars of revenue and the biggest disparity today is between the percentage of time spent on mobile Vs the percentage of money spent on mobile. Our spends on mobile be it ad or otherwise in building assets on cell phones is minuscule, hence the need of a mobile-centric strategy, which further adds to the digital success of brands. We want to help businesses by leveraging the reach of Facebook, such that brands build the right creative strategy for our platform. The biggest friction here is caused by offline media where ads are static and not interactive and immersive enough. Facebook can help brands adopt a creative strategy which is engaging enough as users consume video or content on a 5 inch screen very differently from that of a 42 inch screen. We want to work closely with marketers to help them improvise.

Concerning hotels, how do you think brands should plug the trust issues to prevent dropouts of aware consumers?

Unlike airlines, for hotels one doesn’t have a single uniform brand experience to connect with. In this case, to increase the trust factor in our consumers we adapt ourselves to sequential messaging. Based on the positioning of the user within the funnel we sequentialise our message and accordingly make a pitch. For e.g. If I know there’s a trust factor associated with low cost hotels in India, I will treat this as a category building challenge and convince users with the most trusted best-in-class experience for this particular price. On the other hand if one drops out of the funnel, a powerful way is to re-engage or re-target users.

Coming to air travel, what is the best way to engage young consumers (18-24 years), given their short attention span?

62% of consumers who buy travel on Facebook are millennials who can’t be ignored. Some of the insights narrate that millennials do not pay attention to ads. Now, this means traditional medium is not the right way to catch their attention. As they spend more time on digital, the right way to go about this is to improvise on the creative assets that a brand has. While TV might have its own role to play, there are brands who have built several dollars without any participation of this traditional medium. We believe there’s every opportunity to start building a brand right here vs a TV-only brand. 70% of internet traffic in India is actually video. We believe, as we speak to millennials, that there’s every opportunity to start building a brand right here vs a TV.

How can Facebook offer a frictionless consumer experience to those living in tier 2-3 cities, given that their behaviour is different?

The tier 2-3 cities are also embracing smartphones now. Their first screen on the internet is a smartphone, however the behaviour is different as they need more hand-holding to make the final purchase. They need to be told that it is a brand that they can trust. They also need hand-holding when it comes to various payment options at the intent or purchase stage. As per industry reports, the spend per household by 2020 on hotels will get close to about Rs. 1300 crore which thereby means that a lot of tier-2 consumers will resort to booking online and hence move away from traditional travel agents in the near future. Hence, we are emphasising on creating a seamless mobile experience starting with developing the mobile UX.

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