Travel technology on mobile: What are Consumers looking for?
Inspired by our MD’s recent comment on the emerging importance of mobile technology, we decided to take a look at some of the ways the travel industry is using mobile technology to help the customer through every stage of their journey. We identified 4 stages of the user journey where the travel industry is stepping in to help through mobile.
Most trips start with some type of research. It may be heading down to the local travel agent to chat to a consultant, but more often people will drift online to ask friends, look for deals and start to map out their trip. Travel inspiration and research can be a more casual process which can be carried out on a mobile device as well as a home computer. From a June 2011 study from TripAdvisor revealed that 27% of participants had researched destinations on their mobile, with 29% using it for research and booking accommodation.
One of the most venerable names in travel is Lonely Planet with a huge range of highly regarded guidebooks. For those that don’t want to carry around a heavy guidebook, the Lonely Planet mobile app not only allows the user to download any of their guidebooks to their phone but even provides free ‘lite’ versions of their most popular guide books. Apps like these allow users to casually check out destinations, helping them judge if it’s the place for them.
Once a user has chosen and booked their holidays, then comes the time to start planning activities and travel. There is plenty to organise when preparing for a trip away and apps that allow users to put all their arrangements in one place are immensely useful. An itinerary app such as TripIt helps a user condense the many processes and information produced in holiday booking on to one app on their phone. Instead of the laborious process of copy and pasting information, TripIt allows the user to build up their itinerary by forwarding confirmation emails which automatically are added to their list.
But TripIt has competition in the itinerary market with the Worldmate Mobile Itinerary app. This app appears to be geared towards the need of the business traveller, comprising of an automatically synchronising itinerary app that pulls together flights, hotel and car hire information and builds it into an itinerary. On top of this, the app also lists meetings and allows the user to share plans with colleagues.
The day of travel
By the time the user reaches the airport, everything should be in place but for those times when a user needs to navigate a large airport quickly and efficiently, apps like GateGuru come in useful. An airport specific location app, GateGuru allows users to check out and rate amenities (restaurants, shops) discover what facilities are near their terminal and even discover the average waiting time their gate. Location used to enhance one of the most stressful periods of a user’s travel journey.
For those times when flights are cancelled or delays, some applications help the user find alternative travel. FlightTrack Pro allows the user to track a number of flights, keep on top of gate changes and delays and even find an alternative flight if flights are cancelled.
Even further along the journey, the user may want to contact their accommodation for directions. Mobile allows them to check the details through email or web, call the accommodation and work out a route through the many available mapping/GPS apps. For those times when a user is genuinely lost, the TomTom application can be downloaded to turn a smartphone into a sat nav appliance.
For longer trips, some users wish to book accommodation whilst travelling. Even for short trips, there’s always the chance of something going wrong and a need appearing to book alternative accommodation, and fast. Several hotels and travel websites offer applications that allow users to book on the move, reducing the stress of finding alternative accommodation by offering price comparison and location based services.
For younger travellers, the European hostel chain, Generator Hostels, offers a mobile app which allows users to book on their phone, perfect for backpackers and similar travellers who have changeable itineraries. For more formal travellers, HotelTonight offers big discounts on unsold hotel rooms, right at the last minute. A useful revenue streams for hotels wishing to pack out their last new spaces and a potential lifesaver for inconvenienced travellers wishing to quickly find accommodation.
For travellers struggling with the language barrier whilst aboard, Jibbigo offers a vocal-based translation app, translating the user’s chosen language from their mother tongue to the language of their current location.
There’s a wide spread of information that a traveller may need access to when on their holiday. Most smartphones will have some type of built in location based weather app, allowing the user to plan for bad weather or surprise changes in temperatures. But most crucially, pinpointing places of interest appears to be a common activity amongst mobile travellers, with 62% of travellers using mobile to discover restaurant locations and 36.1% checking ‘shopping information’.
And finally, for those who want to check in with friends at home, Lonely Planet have developed a whole new spin on the traditional postcard, with their Lonely Planet Postcards App.This app allows users to create a physical postcard from a photo taken on their phone and will ship anywhere in the world for $1.99.
The customer journey doesn’t stop after the holiday ends. After the trip is the perfect time to gather feedback, whether it’s a positive review or a complaint that can be turned around into a great example of customer service. From TripAdvisor’s mobile application to mobile sites with reviews built into the system, there are several ways for brands to continue to engage the customer, providing a good enough experience for the customer to either consider repeating booking or to recommend to friends. And with an audience of 6 million per month for the TripAdvisor mobile site, there are many opportunities for your brand to make an impression.
It’s clear that there is a multitude of ways that the travel industry can reach and help users through mobile, whether it’s altruistic (a useful travel app for free) or a way of developing revenue (filling out empty rooms by developing a mobile booking app)
What can we take away from this?
- Travellers are displaying an increasing hunger for mobile
- Users are increasingly likely to research and book travel on mobile
- Applications that help users perform a certain action are popular
- Travel review sites are experiencing continued rises in mobile traffic
- Travel brands that are not considering their mobile audiences are missing out on big opportunities.
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