Digital already changed the way we travel and now mobile is going to change it again.
It’s that last part that spooks me. Maybe it’s because I grew up watching Twilight Zone where technology almost always turned on its human operator. I’m not technophobe, on the contrary, I love new tech, but I still get a little lightheaded thinking about where we go from here.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We still have a long way to go to perfect mobile before we start worrying about virtual reality and checking in to hotels with just a nod of your head.
Factoid: From 2013 to 2017, mobile hotel-bookings worldwide will triple, from $20 billion to $60 billion, while nonmobile online reservations will rise only 4 percent annually, from $142 billion to $167 billion, according to Deutsche Bank Securities
People want to handle the details while they’re on the go. Imagine the peace of mind you’d have if you could check into your hotel room while you’re still waiting for your plane to taxi. And it’s not just a boon for impatient travelers. Let’s take the case of the mom who is traveling with several children in tow. She needs a crib for the room and a rollaway bed and a special meal for her highly allergic son. Do you think she wants to stand at the hotel desk while the guy who just came on the shift tries to figure out if her needs have been met? No. She wants to go from plane, to transpo to room with as few steps as possible in between each stage. That’s where mobile comes in. She can order the car and check the hotel details while the kids are watching the in-flight movie.
Of course, none of that can happen if she doesn’t have a smartphone, if the plane doesn’t have Wi-Fi, if the hotel and car services don’t have apps or mobile friendly websites. On average, we’re more than halfway there but there’s still plenty of room for failure.
Where We’re Getting it Right
TripAdvisor’s mobile app has been downloaded 100 million times; Expedia’s app, more than 25 million times in more than 220 countries and territories. Mobile usage accounted for almost two-thirds of searches and almost half of local ad revenues at Yelp in the third quarter of 2013.
But downloading a single-use app isn’t a no-brainer for many people. Every app asks you to create a new profile and if they don’t use social logins that process can be a nightmare. I’ve even been on apps that require me to sign up at the website FIRST, then go to the app and login with my credentials. If I’m only going to visit a hotel once this year, I don’t want to spend 20 mins signing up, confirming by email, logging in, confirming settings . . .etc. You get the point.
People delete apps all the time. If yours isn’t user friendly, it’s gone.
BCG points out that innovations such as ads with app install and direct link ads that take you to a room booking page are helping bridge the gap between the PC and the mobile device. So, it’s all good on that front.
Where Do We Go From Here
Personalization and learning to use the data apps collect is the next step on the travel biz train.
Consider a hotel’s ability to greet a returning high-value guest with a vase of her favorite flowers or a glass of his favorite beverage. Or an airline that lets passengers choose their in-flight entertainment from a selection of top movies and TV shows when they book their flights. Or a rental car company that preloads directions to the driver’s destination on the car’s navigation system.
This is what we need to work out before we start working on retina scans for airplane boarding.
If you are in the travel biz, take a few minutes to read this free report from BCG. It may not offer up much you didn’t already know but it will give you a kick in the pants if you’re still using a website that breaks when viewed on an iPad.