MasterCard’s Updated Travel Concierge App Improves Customer Experience

During Tuesday’s Loyalty360 webinar, “Best Practices for Reaching the Connected Traveler,” which was hosted by Aspire Lifestyles, MasterCard, and R/GA, the focus was on today’s connected consumer turning to digital devices to solve travel challenges that used to be the primary domain of customer service staff.

Anne Valentzas VP, U.S. Marketing, MasterCard told webinar attendees that her company just released an updated version of MasterCard’s Travel Concierge application, which helps users book services and experiences such as shopping trips and dining reservations through their mobile devices.

Rather than relying on multiple websites and other travel resources, customers can receive exclusive recommendations right on their smartphones. MasterCard cardholders of the World and World Elite status can use the app to phone or email a concierge for help with travel plans and receive exclusive offers.

Full concierge service at the touch of a button on a digital device?

That’s what MasterCard started marketing about a week ago.

Valentzas showed a short video about The Travel Concierge App, which is promoted as having a “personal assistant right in the palm of your hand.”

The MasterCard Concierge Mobile App includes more than 1,500 premier offers and national discounts on items such as fine wine, golf equipment, flower delivery, and event tickets.

“We want to enhance our customer engagement and, at the end of the day, make more money,” Valentzas said. “We wanted to make this concierge service more accessible.”

Jason Chan Group Director, Social Media, R/GA told attendees that for any company that has a physical experience, “there’s nothing like having a contextually relevant message.”

Chan touted the rise of beacons as apps can be used for an extensive amount of loyalty-related issues. Technology is providing new tools to help satisfy consumer needs. The brands that understand the needs of the travel consumer are finding ways to utilize technology to provide the best experiences in the travel category.

iBeacon alerts deliver individualized updates to travelers. Chan explained some examples in this category:

Cincinnati’s regional airport is now testing out the use of iBeacon to help identify congested areas swiftly and display wait times for the security checkpoint. iBeacon will also be pushing content from the airport’s retailers to consumers.   The system, which is similar in concept to Apple’s iBeacon location technology, detects the presence of a gadget via its embedded Wi-Fi and Bluetooth signals. Even though it doesn’t gather data to identify a device’s owner or other personal information, some European airports notify travelers that the technology is in use. Cincinnati airport officials don’t plan to notify travelers, however, saying the system poses no privacy issues.

About half of airport passengers carry a Wi-Fi-enabled device such as a smartphone or laptop, and that number is only expected to rise. Over time, BlipTrack’s wireless signal tracking will allow the airport to analyze passengers’ movements more closely and collect data on how people use retail and restaurant options.

American Airlines is using similar technology to “help passengers move seamlessly across airports to board flights on time,” according to AINonline.

Virgin Atlantic is using Apple’s iBeacon technology to deliver individualized updates to its passengers passing through the London Heathrow Airport. The system is now being used to inform passengers using Passbook of information and geotargeted offers, such as offers from retail partners as they pass by the physical storefront. Additional levels of service are under development, including notification of Upper Class passengers when appointments in Clubhouse Spas are approaching. The initiative helps travelers make the most of their travel time in the airport, connecting them to airport services in new and relevant ways.

easyJet is testing the use of beacon technology across Europe, sending out automatic notifications “as passengers approach bag drop and security—prompting them to open their boarding pass at the right time so it is ready to be scanned and advising when passports need to be presented. Air France has also experimented with beacon tech at check-in.

Chan said there is a new emphasis in the travel industry on ‘moments’ and ‘experiences.’

Four Seasons is compiling top experiences from properties around the world for its new “Extraordinary Experiences Collection” series, he explained. The hotelier has set up a website for prospective guests to browse the collection of experiences. Vignettes, images, and videos illuminate the different possibilities.

The brand’s “Into the Heart of Africa” online immersive tour permits guests to learn about Serengeti National Park via videos and photos. Prior to arriving at the resort it is now possible to have both a personal virtual tour of the safari, the lodge and the wildlife and gain valuable knowledge about the region.

One of the poll questions during the webinar asked: Does your customer loyalty program have a mobile app?

40% Yes

33% No

20% Currently have one in development

Chan also touched on the following items:

Socially curated itineraries:  By leveraging personal data and connections alongside social platforms, new services are helping inspire destinations and suggest activities for the perfect vacation or business trip.

Virtually exploring destinations: New virtual technology helps travelers plan, pack, and prepare for vacations.

Streamline booking & check-in: Brands help eliminate travel stress by simplifying the research, payment and planning processes.

Connected environments: Airports, hotels and travel destinations help manage logistics, checking in and tracking luggage through connected environments.

Likeminded local experiences: Recommending activities are based on matching personal preferences with current time and location.

Personalized service: Travelers are tapping into new digital services like wearable technology, predictive intelligence, and on-demand assistance. 

Chan explained some examples of socially curated itineraries.

Pinterest has introduced Place Pins, a new feature that lets users create boards to show their travel plans on a visual map or collaborate with friends’ maps. To launch the new feature, Pinterest teamed up with travel bloggers, hotel chains, AirBNB, and tourist boards to include useful and inspiring geographical data, travel information, maps, and imagery in the new Place Pins. Users can add this information to existing pins and boards, or create new travel boards for planning vacations and trips.

Four Seasons is taking an interesting approach to trip planning with the unveiling of a service on Pinterest. The luxury hotel brand is claiming a first with Pin.Pack.Go, which enables users to receive and share travel recommendations. 

Four Seasons is looking to engage with its potential guests early on in their trip planning by providing them with advice and recommendations on where to go and what to see. Users create a Pin.Pack.Go board for their destination as well as leaving a comment on the Four Seasons Pin.Pack.Go pin so that the hotel can respond. The hotel then follows the user on Pinterest and can pin ideas and suggestions on their board.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines wants to help globetrotters out with its new social media campaign, ‘Must See Maps — made by friends’ by letting them create their own maps, which are printed with sites suggested by friends.

Desti is a personal travel-planning assistant powered by voice software developed by SRI International, the originators of Siri. When a traveler opens Desti, they can start a chat window where they tell the app what they’re looking for, such as “pinot wineries in Napa.” Desti then pulls data and content from around the web to provide a list of pinot wineries in Napa.

What’s more, Vodafone recommends destinations based on what hashtags are trending, Chan said.

“It’s a way to get real-time hot spot information and give people advice on what they want to do at that particular moment,” he said.

Also, travelers can leverage their social media clout to earn custom vacations.

Hotelied is changing the travel game, by linking travelers with personalized luxury travel offers based on their social media clout and travel rewards programs. Once travelers create a profile and add their social networks, Hotelied pairs them with hotel discounts and vacation packages that match their profiles.

“They want to attract folks with large social followings to come and stay at their properties,” Chan added.

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