August is at its half-way point and the sober return of September is nearly upon us. Hopefully, you were able to see a nice part of the world, caught a little sunshine and feel well rested.
Good. Because there is still a lot of work to do on mobile, and this fall is as good a time as any.
A cross-section of travel industry technology experts gave us their insight on where the mobile opportunity gaps might exist.
Feed the need
Mobile isn’t just a side-dish anymore. That’s why travel companies need to make it a priority.
Nigel Pickford, director of marketing operations and market insight at SITA, explains:
“That companies can communicate effectively with their passengers is fundamental. Passengers are very much driven to consume through mobile technology. The customer is hungry for more: more services and more information in order to make their journey less stressful.”
“Airport operators or airlines could offer content based on location, or based on timing - the length of dwell time in the airport before the flight or the length of the flight - conditions that exist at the destination - bad weather, or limited hotel availability due to local events - for example.”
“Special promotions are clearly a good idea but the offer needs to be timely.”
“Think of the travel journey as a series of ‘moments’ - each of which represents a limited opportunity for a service provider to place a tempting offer in front of the right type of person.”
Understand the Travel Context
It’s important for travel companies to ensure that the information passengers can access and get as they’re rushing from point A to point B is useful and relevant to their journey. Mobile must transition from a complementary technology to a vital problem-solving tool.
Angelo Contreras, senior manager of global product marketing at Sabre, explains:
“Focusing on mobile-first or mobile-only will bring airlines much closer to their customers and enable them to be able to service them throughout the entire customer journey; essentially providing a true customer centric travel experience from inspiration to baggage claim.”
“Soon, airlines will provide a custom, contextual, experience that is configurable by the traveler to fit his or her journey preferences. Technology such as biometric identity management, token based authentication, and RFID, digital way finding will enhance the traveler’s experience throughout the journey.”
“In order to achieve this level of transformation, airports, airlines, border authorities, retail partners, and governments will work together in a collaborative ecosystem where the process of the airport journey at both origin and destination are focused on the customer.”
“High touch, technology enabled, service will enhance the customer experience at arrival by providing travellers with relevant destination information and services.”
Rise up and be there
Moving to mobile is quickly becoming a survival priority for companies, as search engines favour sites which have working mobile platforms, but it’s also a more natural platform to communicate with customers. Companies only need the basics to reach those customers. The rest is about rising above.
As Michael Bayle, head of mobile at Amadeus, explains:
“The majority of queries are derived through mobile devices. Invariably Google takes that lead globally. Google penalises you as an entity - whether you're a hotel, travel agent or airline - if you don't have a mobile optimised website.”
“But even without a mobile site, there's means through which one can communicate on existing mobile platforms that passengers are using, first and foremost via text. Companies often use email still very reliably to communicate with travellers, but don't really ask for mobile phone numbers.
But if one has that, it opens up platforms (WhatsApp, WeChat or others) creating a mechanism for companies to communicate with travellers.”
“Don’t push messages which might be interpreted as spam, but use it as a vehicle for interactions.”
“Studies suggest that millennials are comfortable and have an expectation - at least 41% - for mobile interaction with their brand. That's not just travel, that's any brand with which they interact.”
Recognise, surprise, delight
A strong mobile platform will let companies travel with their customers, and by being there for them creates many opportunities to surprise and delight.
Fergal Kelly, chief commercial officer of MTT and former chief of staff and head of commercial strategy at Travelport explains:
“You go to where the customers are. Be ready and able to serve the with whatever they want to do.”
“Mobile is an interconnected, diverse and constantly interacting point of contact and companies need to be able track and manage all of those interactions.”
“There is no end to the opportunities that can arise for any travel brand to surprise and delight the customer. It starts with being able to demonstrate true mobile touchpoint, that you are aware of all of the content and all of the history and all of the trends that affect the customer's travel itinerary.”
“There's always the examples of when something goes wrong. Mobile can offer perfect opportunities to address that..to offer some kind of upgrade or ancillary.”
“There's also the very frequent traveller, your high points person. So if one is travelling in economy with family members, make sure that their family members have free drinks in Economy. There are many opportunities through the various mobile touch points to reinforce your brand and reward their loyalty to that brand.”
Keep it Simple
Sometimes projects which can seem too big to handle are delayed, but mobile platforms aren’t just vital - they are agile and lean. The goal is to keep it simple and get it going. Just finding a quick way to get your website mobile-ready and responsive is enough to make a big difference in your relevance.
And maybe worry less about Google and more about your connection to the customer.
Seth Cassel, president of EveryMundo, explains:
“Now is the time to be investing in better mobile infrastructure and a mobile-first strategy. But the rate at which [a company] can iterate and evolve and develop the necessary technology is not keeping pace with the consumer adoption of mobile for more and more of its travel-oriented web usage.”
“As you move to the smaller screen it becomes more important to rank high. At the same time, everything gets simplified, the user experience gets simplified because it's gone mobile. Mobile is by definition a leaner, simpler user experience.”
“Google is certainly taking active in a role in travel, but Google isn't particularly interested in the transactional business. Google is not looking to be a retailer. Google's business is data and advertising. Google is simply trying to improve user experience and drive more travel oriented traffic to Google's properties, so that Google can collect the data and have a highly targeted advertising platform around the travel space.”
“Google Adwords is the vast majority of Google's revenue as a company. We don't see any likelihood that they're trying to decrease that revenue. They wouldn't cannibalise that real-estate and affect their overall revenue in the space.”
Just Get On With It
Don’t make mobile the big scary thing. Don’t try to avoid it because you’ll never match whatever the next guy (or the big guys at your even bigger your competitor) are doing. Don’t make mobile about yourself or your organisational issues - make it about your customers - join them in the journey and address their needs.
Just get on with it already! There’s a whole world out there waiting to be served and “mobile” means that it’s moving...fast.
Developing the right mobile strategy will bring rich rewards for your business.
As an added bonus, better mobile could make your next vacation—and everybody else’s—much more enjoyable.
NB Image by ymgerman/BigStock.com