Meeting The Needs Of The Connected Traveler (And The Bottom Line)

For airports, the connected world is fraught with challenges in keeping pace with travelers’ digital demands, but it also presents a host of branding and revenue opportunities for airport network operators ready to ride the mobile wave.

The new digital landscape has fundamentally changed how customers approach the travel experience. Today’s business travelers are early tech adopters and conspicuous consumers of data — sometimes via more than one device at a time. A recent study found that more than half of all business travelers bring three or four devices with them when they travel.

Travelers also want to be constantly connected, both to their mobile device and to the Web. In this era of increasing connectivity, reliable airport Wi-Fi becomes a consumer must-have, and a vehicle that enables advertisers to reach consumers via their mobile devices, all while generating new revenue streams for airports.

The Mobile-First Traveler

To better understand the consumer engagement opportunity for airports and advertisers, let’s first take a look at what devices consumers are toting in airports, what they’re doing with them, and how these behaviors have altered traveler expectations and airport business models.

  • Today’s mobile-first travelers are equal opportunity device lovers. In its managed and operated airport venues, Boingo Wireless found that laptops, mobile devices, and tablets are seeking Wi-Fi in increasing numbers. More than half of all devices actively seeking Wi-Fi access were mobile devices such as iPhones and Android smartphones.
  • So, what are these travelers doing with these devices? In addition to checking-in on email and social networking sites, Boingo data points to an increasing engagement in high-bandwidth activities like streaming video and audio (think Netflix, Hulu, Pandora and Spotify). These high-bandwidth activities have generated a 40 percent increase in mobile data consumption. A considerable portion of that growth is in the upstream direction, meaning travelers are uploading and sharing more photos, videos, and other self-generated content when they use public Wi-Fi.
  • Consumer data demand shows no signs of slowing. In fact, Cisco has projected an 18x increase in mobile data demand by 2016, a trend that is set to strain airport networks and require costly Wi-Fi and cellular infrastructure upgrades to meet demand, especially with the approach of Wi-Fi offload roll-out, which will allow carriers to move users from crowded cellular networks to more cost-effective Wi-Fi ones.
  • Travelers want Wi-Fi. A recent study from FlightView found that Wi-Fi access is a top priority for travelers, and the number one factor that improves the experience during a flight delay.

What does this change in consumer behavior mean for airports? Nothing less than a sea change in revenue generation and network maintenance.

Today’s travelers have become receptive to a value exchange. Recently, a study fielded in major U.S. airports within Boingo’s Cloud Nine media platform found that 80 percent of travelers don’t mind watching an ad in exchange for complimentary Wi-Fi access.

This powerful combination of customer demand, coupled with a traveler’s willingness to trade a small amount of time for access, creates an opportunity to generate airport revenue that sets the stage for a new value-laden branding opportunity: cost-per-engagement advertising.

Wi-Fi Triple Win

Cost-per-engagement (CPE) advertising is enjoying increased popularity in airports worldwide. CPE advertising puts the emphasis on engagement to keep customers and advertisers happy and keep the airport bottom line healthy.

Here’s what cost-per-engagement advertising means in terms of Wi-Fi sponsorship. If you’ve ever connected to free Wi-Fi in a public place, you’ve probably had to accept the network terms and conditions or complete some other simple steps before beginning your session. Wi-Fi sponsorship takes advantage of this user experience to create a captive audience that guarantees users spend 30-45 seconds interacting one-on-one with an advertiser’s message. This focused interaction has been shown to improve brand awareness, recall, and purchase intent.

The captive environment that is present at the start of a public Wi-Fi session is extremely rare on the Web at large, where users are often exposed to hundreds of ads during a typical 60-minute Internet session. The fast pace of Internet surfing means that on average, only 1/1000 people exposed to a banner ad will actually interact with it. Not so with Wi-Fi sponsorship, with click-through rates often exceeding 1/10 or even 1/5.

The higher level of performance driven by the CPE model translates to higher rates and more revenue for airports. Even better, airport patrons are able to connect quickly and easily, giving just 30 seconds of attention and avoiding a barrage of untargeted ads.

So what do Wi-Fi users do during this 30 seconds of time? Some advertisers prompt their audience to answer a survey, watch a short video, or explore an advertiser’s site before getting online. Advertisers are assured of a solid return on investment, since they pay only for engagement — or the users who complete the process.

One recent Wi-Fi sponsorship took unique advantage of this captive and highly-engaging advertising format. Last spring, Google launched its “Google a day” daily puzzle challenge and leveraged airport Wi-Fi sponsorship to educate the tech-savvy business traveler audience about the promotion. A short video explained the “Google a day” search-and-discover contest, then directed them to a branded landing page encouraging them to “play now.”

The “Google a day” advertising campaign saw 100 percent video completion by all participants, as well as a strong click-through-rate and hundreds of thousands of sponsored sessions delivered over the course of the summer promotion.

A Wi-Fi sponsorship in an airport is a win-win-win for all parties. Advertisers have the opportunity for a positive, sustained customer engagement in a brand-safe, captive setting, all while delivering the number one most-wanted amenity to travelers — Wi-Fi — through a brief exchange process that travelers do not perceive as intrusive.

Airports benefit through a guaranteed revenue share provided by their Wi-Fi partner that keeps Wi-Fi as a revenue concession instead of as an operating expense.

Through partnerships with multiple airports, advertising network operators like Boingo, using its Cloud Nine media platform, can deliver advertisers the scale that they require by creating a network of locations. This increases the opportunities for smaller airports to get a piece of the sponsorship pie and the best possible customer experience for their travelers.

Mobile devices are now travelers’ favorite companions. Through CPE advertising and careful network maintenance, airports can turn mobile devices into vehicles for customer loyalty, satisfaction, and new sources of revenue.