Last week EyeforTravel held its inaugural Mobile conference alongside its fifth annual Social Media conference, with over 300 people in attendance, including myself.
This was my first EyeforTravel event and I was lucky enough to have been selected as a judges for the Mobile Innovation in Travel awards.
But what were the key takeaways from the event?
I’m a sucker for stats. In setting up the impact that both mobile and social can have in the travel sector, ComScore’s Philip Grote gave a great presentation.
2. Off the fence
Geo-fencing might be the next big trend? There was quite a bit of talk about this at the conference. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, geo-fencing refers to creating virtual perimeters or boundaries based upon distance from a fixed point.
In this context, it means understanding where a traveler is and proactively sending out relevant alerts, offers or content.
The tracking of the traveler’s location is determined by their mobile device.
AT&T’s Ricky Heath provided several examples, such if I was heading to the airport as soon as I was ten minutes out from the airport, the airline would sense (track) my location and perhaps automatically send a mobile boarding pass, offer me an upgrade or if I was running late, automatically re-book me on the next available flight.
There is a slight creepy factor of brands (and the carriers) tracking your location at all times, but it’s just another version of location sharing – although this is passive and automatic, versus check-ins where the person makes an affirmative decision to share their location.
I’ll let others argue about the level of creepiness, privacy concerns (I have them), but social geo-fencing companies like Highlight and Glancee are the toast of SXSW right now. So apparently the digerati have determined this kind of sharing is fine ;)
3. To the next level
Next-gen mobile development showing big strides: A few companies demonstrated version 2.0 of their mobile initiatives and I’d say with great success.
So many companies are so focused on getting out a mobile app or optimized mobile web site that design and usability of these first generation attempts aren’t where they need to be.
The evolution and refinements that were demonstrated by Orbitz and Liftopia are major upgrades.
While the UX/UI improvements in Orbitz’s hotel-only app haven’t reached the main Orbitz app, the direction they’ve taken is a gargantuan improvement. I hope that they extend this to the other Orbitz apps and beyond iOS soon.
4. Traveler trends
Sabre shared a nice video regarding the future mobile traveler but I’m not holding my breath for that to arrive anytime soon.
They do know how to hire a very good production company. But while the Sabre Red desktop isn’t bad, the UX team can learn a thing or two from the interface in the video.
5. Ease of use
Simplicity and focus create great mobile experiences. Okay we already knew that, and if you weren’t sure, Hipmunk tells us all very often.
But Orbitz’s hotel only app was really slick and the stats shared by HotelTonight CEO Sam Shank on the efficiency of its mobile app (four clicks and seven seconds from start to booked) was awfully impressive and demonstrates why GigaOM called it one of its favorite apps of 2011.
6. Leading the way
The presentations from the contenders in the awards were good and nobody wilted in the face of (mostly) tough questions from the panel.
But winners have to be selected eventually, so Best App went to Worldmate, Best Mobile Website to Hotwire, and Best Mobile Strategy to InterContinental Hotels Group.
However, honorable mention goes out to Orbitz for a well-executed, focused app and to TripAdvisor who not only has a good city guide app (via the EveryTrail acquisition), but a very well thought out technology strategy supporting its mobile activities.
NB: Disclosure - EyeforTravel paid for my conference registration.