Online Travel Apps
Why the travel industry needs to wake up to mobile
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Sixty-one percent of online travel companies surveyed in a recent global EyeforTravel poll do not have a mobile-friendly website. Seventy-one percent do not have a mobile app.
There are many articles and presentations circling around at present detailing a multitude of mind-blowing statistics highlighting the growth of mobile and the importance of this key trend for the travel industry, but why is the travel industry not listening?
While it might seem easy to turn a blind eye and leave mobile on the back burner, the conclusions from EyeforTravel’s recent summit in London and soon-to-be released Social Media & Mobile report highlight that one thing is for sure – mobile is not going away and you need to act fast now!
It’s no longer just a handful of customers looking for your brand via mobile – it’s millions. Jeremy Copp, VP Mobile Europe, comScore, a speaker at the EyeforTravel Summit event in May, shared that in the EU5 countries (France, Germany, Spain, UK, Italy), 11.3 million consumers accessed travel services via mobile in February 2011 alone. Travel application access grew by 52% YoY.
Out of the EU5, 36% of the mobile market now use apps or their mobile browser. Interestingly, Spain is leading the way in terms of smartphone adoption (adopting at a higher rate than even the US), but EyeforTravel found that French travel companies were the heaviest investors in mobile followed by Germany.
For the travel companies that are investing in mobile, experiences have been largely positive. So how are such companies taking advantage of mobile and preparing for future growth in this area? Dan Craig, e-Commerce Director of Hotels.com, shared that they invested heavily in mobile in 2009 and 2010 and are now seeing the rewards. This year, they saw a 500% YoY increase in bookings via smartphones.
Craig found that investing heavily in native apps has been very beneficial, as native apps provide a superior user experience than the web and lead to higher customer engagement and loyalty. From Hotels.com’s experience, customers primarily want to use mobile for last-minute bookings and itinerary look up, so they have designed their app around these key features.
Craig emphasized a fact that is often not considered when deciding where to allocate app spend - tablets are rapidly replacing laptops and desktops in the home particularly for "fun" and "easy" tasks. As leisure travel surely falls into this category, designing an app for tablets might just be worth that added investment.
Another important consideration when developing your mobile strategy is the fact that travel consumers are likely to be experiencing your brand on various different devices (tablet, desktop, mobile) depending where they are and what’s quickest and easiest for them at that time. A cross-device experience for the customer should, therefore, be considered.
Nathan Clapton, VP Mobile Partnerships, Mobile, TripAdvisor shared that 6 million unique visitors now visit the TripAdvisor mobile site per month. He recommended launching new features quickly and acting fast to fix and improve user experience issues. In the rush to develop mobile apps, many forget to promote the app once it’s launched and in the following months. Clapton’s emphasized the key to TripAdvisor’s mobile success was their approach to "promote, promote, promote."
Clapton also shared that it’s worth considering whether your mobile app would be suitable to be featured as a pre-loaded app on a device. Pre-load is a powerful discovery channel (with many preferring apps with map features).
Mobile is only going to continue to grow. The rapid development of social networking sites and the consequent need to be constantly connected is fueling mobile growth. Japan’s social networking site, "Mixi" shows how social networking trends can encourage mobile access and overtake desktop access. Eighty-four percent of their page views are now via mobile (report by Morgan Stanley as cited by Dave Scheine, Director of European Operations, Yelp).
Many travel companies don’t want to hear that they need to invest money into yet another distribution and marketing channel, but quite simply, if your customer is searching for travel information online and your site is not optimized for mobile or you don’t have an app, then chances are they will find your competitors first.
Want to know more? Insightful case studies and discussions about how to improve your travel mobile strategies will be available at EyeforTravel’s upcoming target="_blank">Online Marketing & Social Media in Travel Summit Europe 2011, October 10-11, Amsterdam. Mobile speakers include Deutsche Bahn, Sixt, Hotels.com, Hipmunk, and more.