Connecting with Mobile Travelers: Develop Your Travel Product Strategy
How did we travel some 5 years ago? We sat down at the PC and started surfing the Internet for the most convenient tickets, hotels, car rent, taxi or public transport and of course checked in advance how to get from A to B and then to C…Now a lot of travelers dart off on a trip spontaneously, book hotels in two clicks on their smartphones upon arrival, and use real-time navigation or taxi apps to quickly get from A to B. Needless to say, they can also quickly find a right place for a meal in 100-meter radius, as a lot of travel apps are “happy” to suggest you the list of eating spots for any taste and wallet.
The time of mobile trips has come. Nowadays around 67% leisure and 78% business travelers use smartphones at different stages of their trips – from idea to sharing photos and reviews in social networks.
International Google research, conducted in 2014, shows that not all companies in the travel and tourism industry provide a convenient and customer-oriented way to explore and use their services.
83% of leisure travelers report encountering travel sites that were not mobile-optimized or friendly.
If this figure is not weighty enough, you may wish to look at the possible outcomes of not having a mobile version of a travel website. Poor mobile experience might force travelers to move to another place and generally has a negative impact on the brand.
The research suggests that 20% users, or potential customers, switch to websites which have a responsive version for mobile devices. 13% share their negative impressions in the social media and 19% – offline. Thus, travel mobile app development means getting closer to your clients and ensuring they can find content which is not only relevant and up-to-date, but is also easy to read and interact with on smaller mobile screens.
Let’s look at the key areas of the travel industry, which involve the largest number of travelers, and thus might have a large need for tourism mobile app development.
Hotel and tickets booking websites
According to forecasts of World Travel Market Global Trends, mobile bookings will account for 35% of online bookings by 2018. The abovementioned Google study shows that 58% of contemporary users would rather make a reservation using a mobile device if this option is available. So travel booking app development is a matter of time, rather short time.
The revenue potential for mobile reservations is colossal; however, the demand is greater than the industry is currently keeping up with. As TripBarometer writes, only 45% of global hotels currently accept mobile bookings.
Moreover, search engines are also starting to give preference to the sites which already have a mobile-adapted version. For example, recently Google started to use an algorithm which favors mobile-friendly websites (ones with large text, easy-to-click links, and that resize to fit whatever screen they’re viewed on) and ranks them higher in the search. Websites that aren’t mobile-friendly have got demoted.
At the moment, the leader of the “multiplatform” online hotel reservation is Booking.com. The resource is optimized for all types of mobile devices. Travelers visit it on smartphones, tablets and desktops with the same frequency. Online travel agencies continue to dominate the ranking: Hotels.com took the second place, third and fourth places were taken by Late Rooms and Expedia.
The respondents appreciated features like push notifications with information about price changes in the destination of interest, as well as alerts about the approaching date of the booking, cancellations etc. Travelers also have a good impression from sites where it is easy to find contact information and phone number of support services. The most successful booking platforms put contact information and phone number of a specific hotel at a noticeable place of the site page, which is accessible from any device.
By the way, website load speed is critical – the research shows that users normally leave the site in case when the download takes more than 4 seconds.
If we talk about plane tickets booking, the research shows that 40% leisure and 53% business travelers use airline sites or apps. As more people use mobile devices to plan trips, less shopping is taking place on desktops. When the user moves to their PC, they already know exactly what to buy and might wish to use their desktop or laptop for checkout only.
The most visible trend in this area is that the most successful booking sites and apps include a huge number of services. Typically, multibrand bookings of hotels, tickets, car hire, offers for cruises and guided excursions. The most popular examples of “all-in-one” apps are mobile versions of TripAdvisor, Expedia, Kayak and Skyscanner.
Flight management also moves to mobile. In 2014, 25-40% of passengers, depending on the region, checked in to the flights on mobile devices. The good news is that many airlines have mobile-adapted check-in pages or apps, and even allow using mobile boarding passes without printing the paper version.
Making smart routes with your smartphone
The second major piece of content which travelers surf using mobile devices is navigation applications or maps. To create routes, set a course to the sights, find restaurants, gas stations, ATMs, Wi-Fi areas, etc. This type of information is needed immediately, so users most commonly get it from mobile devices.
All applications and navigation sites can be divided into categories by several criteria:
- Online and offline maps. For example, the use of GPS navigators such as Google maps and City Guide requires Internet connection, while City Maps, Navitel – can be used offline.
- Global and local apps. Apart from the well-known global apps, such as TripAdvisor, there are also a lot of local navigators that in fact can replace tour guides. For example, Spotted by Locals contains – guides to 41 cities in Europe, compiled by the local people.
- Indoor (e.g. airport navigation) and outdoor.
As for the local travel guides – this segment is not saturated enough, there is not much competition, yet the demand for such apps is high. However, for some countries such products are really well-crafted and comprehensive – the Be Iceland app includes even the less known sights such as tiny medieval villages in the middle of nowhere. It lists all the attractions in a certain radius from your current location, so the user’s route becomes more predictable.
One more category of local navigation apps is those dedicated to restaurant search. 44% users look for places to eat on smartphones or tablets. Needless to say, such information is also usually needed right now, because users get hungry or tired enough before they start searching.
Surveys have shown that the restaurants that have mobile versions of the websites are in the highest demand. Of course, delicious food, quick service and other features are always the key criteria for selection, but mobile website is an excellent way of collecting clients’ feedback and informing them about the news, discounts and upcoming events.
It is getting more popular now to use indoor navigation – in shopping malls, subways, airports, museums and other buildings. As we know, GPS signals are blocked by walls, and it is a critical problem of indoor navigation. A topical solution might be iBeacon – a small wireless sensor that uses Bluetooth Low Energy proximity sensing to transmit a unique identifier picked up by a compatible app or operating system. The identifier can be used to determine the device’s physical location or trigger a location-based action on the device such as a check-in on social media or a push notification.
For example, this technology can be used in a museum – you can just touch the screen and get information about the part of the exhibition you are passing by. Or if you come to a shop, the retailer’s app (assuming you have it installed) displays a special offer alert for you.
Mobile, portable, wearable…
Many travelers will in the future benefit from the new technology that allows finding the lost baggage. TrackR is a small, coin-sized device that can be placed in or attached to your valuable items. It uses GPS signals to inform the owner about its location via any cellular network available. Some bags manufacturers already announced that they will “integrate” such devices into their products.
Remote SIM Provisioning is another solution for travelers that do remote upload of SIM-card profiles to their smartphones. The technology allows using a virtual SIM-card installed in the smartphone instead of the physical SIM. Users will be able to save time and money for buying SIM-card, as well as have the opportunity to immediately change the tariffs or get additional services via a special application.
Wearable electronics is a new type of devices, and one person in the future will be using several devices at the same time, including a smartphone, tablet, watch…and…whatever will come next. This represents a challenge of building a flexible technological architecture to follow customers from one device to another.
To sum up, a travel website development or adaptation for mobile platforms is a must-do for all companies working in the travel and hospitality industry. In order to create a mobile-user-friendly booking website, utilize the best practices of mobile and tablet UI, do not forget to put hotel contacts at a noticeable place, and add such convenient features as push notifications and “click to call” button. And, of course, a minimalistic, easy-to-use checkout page is a great logical ending of a mobile booker’s travel throughout your website.
The interesting emerging niches for travel and related apps are comprehensive, secret-sharing local travel guides, indoor navigation programs which help find a way inside huge buildings such as malls and airports. Due to the growing popularity of hiking, some startups may consider creating apps that build safe routes in hiking locations such as forests, mountains or large national parks.
If you are looking to build a new solution for travelers or need assistance with updating an existing one, we would be happy to help. Our mobile travel apps developers have a lot of experience with web and mobile solutions. If you are facing troubles with the verification of your idea or with the already existing product or ongoing development, we can offer you a free technical workshop. During the workshop, together, we’ll organize your ideas and sort out your problems, turning them into technical specifications and recommendations. If you decide to move forward with your idea or product, we’ll be able to hold your hand at all stages of travel product development – from concept creation and verification to QA and bug-fixing.
Thanks for reading!