How many times at a travel conference or seminar has a mobile provider or company been asked whether it is best to stick with the mobile version of a site or develop an app?
Far too many...
The answer is often one of the following:
- It depends on your user base (demographic, types of devices they own).
- It depends on your product range (hotels, flights, in-destination services).
- It depends on what you want to achieve (interaction, search, content, bookings).
This is obviously wise advice given that an airline, which might want to give passengers the opportunity to check-in, manage their booking via their mobile, would probably have different requirements to, say, a metasearch site that just sends people away to the supplier site.
Travel content providers might find the mobile app a better way of organising its content, plus would allow the user to browse it offline, rather than on a mobile websites (often incurring eye-watering data roaming charges).
And then, the argument goes, there are also platform considerations - there is not much point in building an iPhone app if the majority of users are actually Android fans, for example.
One school of thought suggests quite rightly that before creating a strategy and undertaking any kind of development work in the mobile the brand MUST talk to its audience, find out what users want from a service, how they might interact with it, are they willing to pay, etc.
At a recent EyeforTravel conference in London, TripAdvisor vice president of mobile partnerships, Nathan Clapton, put forward a far simpler method to determine which side of the app versus mobile web battle brands should side with.
If an online travel brand has users coming to its mobile website five or more times a year, then it is probably worth creating an application.
Of course the other elements are no doubt taken into consideration, but at a basic "yes" or "no" level this is the simple question that TripAdvisor asks.
And the strategy appears to have worked so far.
NB:Killer app image via Shutterstock.