Eight trends that should shape your mobile strategy in 2019

Travelport Digital has released its top predictions for mobile travel in 2019. The annual Mobile Travel Trends report helps travel brands plan for the year ahead and here, director for digital insights, Glenville Morris, gives a taster of what’s to come over the next 12 months.

The digital travel landscape is shifting faster than ever before and barely a week goes by where there’s not a new technology, app or trend that promises to revolutionize our industry. With this constant pace of change it can be difficult to keep on top of everything, and even harder to know which ones will sink into the trough of disillusionment and which will move into a plateau of productivity. And if you’re in charge of your travel brand’s mobile strategy, knowing the difference is absolutely vital!

That’s why for the last three years, Travelport Digital has been publishing the Mobile Travel Trends report, so that we can predict and advise travel brands on where they should make their digital investments in the coming year.

This year, we’ve expanded the scope of this report to include analyses from senior leaders who drive digital engagement in the airline and online travel agency space, as well as from experts across our own business. They look at eight of the biggest tech trends that will shape travel in 2019 and how your business can prepare.

To complement their insights, the report also gives a consolidated view from the travel market. We interviewed people from both sides: the industry professionals and the end travelers they serve.

We’re happy to say that this is our biggest piece of trends research yet, with insights from more than 100 professionals and 1,100 travelers across the world. In this article, we’ll give you a glimpse into what travel industry experts believe will be some of the key trends to watch in 2019. From voice and visual search, to AR and predictive analytics, the following insights will be essential in helping your business plan for the year ahead.

So let’s dive in...!

The rise of the ‘Phono sapien’

In the last few years we've moved from a mobile-first world to, in many regions, a mobile-only world. What we do, the way we communicate and every touchpoint with a brand, is now being driven by mobile. We’re witnessing the rise of a phone planet, populated by a new species, the Phono sapien and our first trend explores what this means for travel brands.

"Our human timeline began with Australopithecus afarensis, moved through Homo erectus and for the past 200K years we’ve all been Homo sapiens - but of course any evolutionary expert will tell you that we haven’t stopped there. We’re still evolving.

What those evolution geeks won’t tell you though, is the fact that it hasn’t taken another million years (or even 100,000 years) to evolve to the next stage of human: it’s taken eleven years! Just a little over a decade of the iPhone has turned us into a brand-new species, the Phono sapien.

Phono sapiens check their phone every twelve minutes. They expect travel brands to be on whatever platform they are on and they want a seamless and optimized experience across each and every one of those platforms.

They’re not prepared to pinch and zoom on numerous websites on their phone to book flights or get a boarding pass like the Homo sapiens of old. And they’re deleting the apps that aren’t offering them value. "

In our Mobile Travel Trends 2019 report, I explore this trend further, advising on how can you deliver a great customer experience for this new species.

The number of smartphone users globally is expected to top three billion by the end of 2018, by 2020 it will hit 3.8 billion, that's nearly 50% of the world’s population!

Looking and Booking: The Future of Search

With over 300,000 ratings and averaging 4.8 stars, the easyJet app is one of the most loved airline apps in the world. And if you take a quick look at its functionality, it’s not hard to see why.

Mobile boarding passes, real-time flight tracking, passport scanning, in-airport navigation, FLIO and Lucky Trip integrations—and now adding to that list of market-leading features, visual search.

With its new ‘Look&Book’ functionality, easyJet has tapped into Generation (I)nstagram who search, browse and get inspired for their next trip by looking at their friends’ holiday photos or by searching travel hashtags like #travelgram.

Dan Young, head of digital experience at easyJet, explains why visual search is a priority for the airline.

"Tech giants like Microsoft, Apple and Google have become smarter at understanding images, or what we’re pointing our phone at, over the past 20 years and now those same technological advances are available to us, the masses, because of mobile.

Phones have become so advanced that they’re starting to shift how society searches for the world’s information.

It’s this shift that inspired easyJet to develop Look&Book for their app.

With 43% of 19 to 28-year-olds using mobile devices to book holidays and 28% of people getting their travel inspiration from Facebook and Instagram , easyJet saw the huge potential in connecting the dots from someone seeing a photo and thinking ‘I want to go there!’ to actually booking the trip. The most obvious solution was visual search."

Get the free Mobile Travel Trends 2019 report to learn more about how easyJet are using visual search to drive bookings.

22% of web searches are now image searches.

Voice: Search and Actions

2018 was a landmark year for voice and nobody knows this better than Manish Amin, chief information officer and co-founder of Yatra.

The Indian online travel company has been experimenting with voice technology through its Universal Virtual Assistant, which allows customers to make bookings using either voice commands or text.

"Voice search was a trend that Travelport Digital predicted last year, however, in 2019 voice will become less about 'i want to know' and more about 'I want to do'. Over the last year, consumers were quick to adopt voice search, but now their expectations have moved on in terms of the responses they expect.

Users are not simply asking for information anymore, like 'find coffee shops near me' - instead they’re commanding 'order me a coffee'. 'Check my flight status' is turning into 'check me in' and so on.

In turn, as these search queries become more conversational, search engines are now beginning to understand meaning and intent behind a query, which will result in better, faster and more personalized results. "

Read the Mobile Travel Trends 2019 report to find out how voice is revolutionizing how people interact with travel brands.

45% of travel brands are investing in voice technology in 2019, but 22% feel it isn’t enough.

From Digitization to Datafication

Data was a hot topic in 2018, and not just for the travel industry. As customers continue to demand services tailored to their preferences, brands looked to data to create truly personalized experiences, all while conforming to legal and ethical data usage standards.

This focus on usage of data, perhaps even more so than on technological innovations, spells a move from digitization to datafication, says Sharon Doyle, global head of product at Travelport.

"Datafication is the term used to describe where every aspect of our digital lives is turned into valuable, computerized data that can be mined and used. This includes every search engine query we make, the locations we’re tagged and recorded at, our Instagram uploads, tweets, likes and swipes.

Since the 1950s when IBM and American Airlines created the first semi-automated Customer Reservation System (CRS), and into the 1980’s with the birth of Global Distribution Systems (GDS), the travel industry has worked to digitize everything: airfares, hotel and car rates, cruises, tours and so on.

We can now offer nearly every option possible to the end traveler, through different online and offline channels: from traditional travel agents through to websites, mobile messaging, social, and multi-purpose apps like WeChat.

It’s been an exciting ride to get us here, however the next step moves beyond the technology itself and brings the end traveler and their data into the mix."

Our Mobile Travel Trends 2019 report takes a closer look at how travel brands can use this date to deliver personalized experiences.

90% of all data that ever existed was generated in the last two years alone.

Preparing for 2019

Since 2016 and including this year’s report, we’ve highlighted over 20 key trends, with input from 22 industry experts and research from over 2000 travel professionals and end travelers. That’s a lot of insights, and our predictions haven’t been too bad either.

For example, in 2018 we called out the rise in demand for voice search capabilities. In a year that saw the arrival of Siri Shortcuts on iOS 12, the worldwide smart speaker market grow by 187%, Google Assistant appearing on over 500 million devices worldwide and the Amazon Echo Dot reportedly selling 1,000 every second on Cyber Monday , it’s safe to say that 2018 was indeed the year where voice truly took off.

This is just one of many examples of where the value of our travel trends predictions has really come into play, so why should 2019 be any different?

Read the full Mobile Travel Trends 2019 report to get a better understanding of the trends coming down the tracks, so your travel brand can make key strategic decisions of where to make digital investments in the next 12 months and beyond.