Chatbot Ads: What They Are & Why Travel Companies Should Care

The Intersection of AI and Travel
Screenshot of traveling website

In 2015, Expedia reported that travelers visited 38 websites before booking a trip. In 2016, Google said that travelers were researching in (sometimes hundreds of) micro-moments, short snippets of time spent on a variety of mediums. In 2017, a Sojern report noted that, though travelers are planning across many devices and sites, 60% of leisure travelers and 55% of business travelers still use search engines to plan their trips. This means search engine marketing continues to be essential.

But there’s a problem. In the U.S. alone, ad blocking has grown to 30.1%, with poor user experience being one of the main reasons for user rejection of digital ads. Not only that, 50% of online adults actively avoid ads on websites. Further, most digital ad spend is wasted — only 40% is actually seen — and that fact combined with the prevailing use of ad blockers indicates the “impending downfall of digital advertising.”

Hotels are in a “what’s next” situation when it comes to reaching travelers in the planning process, especially as they try to keep guests from migrating to OTAs for booking.

What’s Next? Chatbot Ads

Chatbot ads use the power of artificial intelligence to create a personalized search experience on travel websites and applications. Travelers can seamlessly search and chat with the platform using natural language (rather than keywords), and the chatbot ads understand context and intent.

Once a guest has asked a question, the chatbot ad can then recommend the best destinations and products for that user, including packages, hotels, vacation rentals, tours, and more. It is dynamic merchandising that also allows hotels to do more of the legwork for the guest — giving them something before they’ve even arrived — because all those hundreds of search micro-moments take up a lot of time.

Chatbot ads might at first appear to be a digital ad, but with interactive and conversational programming, the ads act as something of a digital travel assistant, engaging with travelers in the upper funnel of planning in a way that digital ads don’t. Even better, users don’t have to leave the webpage or change their browsing journey to interact with the chatbot.

Why Chatbot Ads Work: Personalization the Way Travelers Want It

Thirty-three percent (33%) of online adults actively use digital assistants like Siri and Alexa, while 41% of Millennials report they are most satisfied when they connect with brands via messaging. Chatbot ads put the reins in the hands of the traveler — and then offer them more than they were getting before. When a user submits a question, chatbot ads use natural language processing (similar to a digital assistant) to return relevant, personalized results. Chatbots consider “who, what, why, when, where” for each traveler and align that information with destination intelligence, for a first-of-its-kind personalized travel planning process. This optimized customer experience drives richer engagement with the brand. In fact, in a recent branding campaign for Emirates Vacations, WayBlazer chatbot ads delivered an 87% boost in engagement compared to standard display ads, and a 45% decrease in the effective cost of their campaign.

Consider this the ideal evolution of travel personalization. With the promise of increased engagement, reduced cost, and greater efficiency, chatbot ads serve up what hotels need in digital marketing. More importantly, they also improve the guest experience from the very beginning.

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