Sales and traffic stats from MakeMyTrip's week-long app-only promotion show Indian consumers are not only interested in a deal but also comfortable booking via an app.
The OTAs "Great Indian Getaway" promotion ran from 27 October to 2 November and arguably the most relevant takeaway is that MakeMyTrip's app was downloaded nearly a million times during the week.
This resonates with previous statements from MakeMyTrip and other OTAs in the Indian market about the importance of apps for generating loyalty - the idea that once someone has downloaded the app they are more likely to convert using the app than via the mobile web or desktop.
It also sits nicely with MakeMyTrip's approach to concentrate on building market share and transaction growth over the next few quarters, even if this focus will hit its revenues.
Another line of note is that "more than half of the visitors during the promotion came from non-metro areas". Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore generated the most traffic but the highest growth came from Pennagaram in Tamil Nadu, Pardi in Gujarat and Burdwan in West Bengal.
Increasing reach into non-metro areas is another area of focus for Indian OTAs. The argument is that as mobile connectivity improves across tier-2 and tier-3 cities as well as rural areas, smartphone ownership will increase and these new customers will go straight to the mobile web or apps. In larger cities the emphasis has been on managing the shift from desktop/fixed line access to mobile.
Hotels are also front-of-mind for India's OTAs, as evidenced by the rise of the online branded budget accommodation aggregators. However, this rise became a stumble last week when some big OTAs - including MakeMyTrip - decided to stop selling brands such as OYO and Zo Rooms.
MakeMyTrip's decision to drop the budget brands was first reported around the time that its app-only sale launched, which may or may not be co-incidental. One thing is for sure and that is that the budget brands missed out during a blockbuster week for hotel bookings - during the promotion 90% of all of MakeMyTrip's domestic bookings came through the app, compared with 50% in the week before. Domestic hotel bookings were eight times higher than in the same week last year.
The booking window also shifted during the promotion - 41% of hotels were booked for travel more than 15 days away, a big shift from the usual timeframe where the majority of stays booked via the app were within three days.
But the campaign also appears to have boosted MakeMyTrip's mobile and desktop business too, particularly for flights. "Domestic flight bookings across all devices increased by nearly 110% annually, while international bookings across all devices increased by 74%...More than 50% of flight bookings made during [the promotion] occurred on mobile devices, up from 14% in the same period last year and up from 30% in the week prior to the sale," it said.
Conversations around the interplay between apps and mobile web are louder in India than most other markets, but the takeaways from MakeMyTrip's app-only sale show that targetted promotions can result in not only downloads but also actual money-in-the-bank bookings.
But the ultimate success of the Great Indian Getaway will be judged by how many of the million people downloading the app use it to buy something in the following weeks and months when there isn't a sale on. MakeMyTrip will argue that it's a lot easier to sell to them now they have the app than before.