Mobile is having a huge impact on the travel industry, and that shouldn’t come as such a surprise. Travel is the ultimate mobile activity.
While mobile travel booking still lags research, mobile is expected to account for more than 25% of total U.S. online travel bookings by 2015, or $US40 billion in revenues, according to PhoCusWright.
Travel was one of the earliest industries to be revolutionised by the Internet, as airlines, hotels, and travel agents were suddenly forced to compete with online travel agencies like Expedia and Priceline. Those legacy businesses that didn’t adapt qu icky sputtered.
This time around, travel companies are trying to get out front on mobile.
In a new report from BI Intelligence, we look at how mobile is beginning to rewrite the multitrillion travel industry, and pay special attention to Internet companies that are revamping their strategies and products for mobile.
Here are some of the key ways businesses like Airbnb and TripAdvisor are adapting to mobile:
- Near-Instant Communication: Both the desktop and mobile interface on Airbnb enable regular communications between guest and hosts, but the company claims that response times are three times faster via the mobile app. Outside of the app, users can also elect to receive messages and communicate via SMS. The goal is to expedite communication. This is important in helping guests and hosts coordinate meeting times, key exchanges, changed plans, etc.
Low-Friction Payments: Airbnb partnered with payments company Braintree (now owned by PayPal) to enable customers to pay easily after filling in their payment details once. The intent here is to make the transaction process and authorization as painless as possible, whether on desktop or in the app.
- Continuous App Design Improvements: Airbnb released a redesigned app in November 2013 that improved the experience for both host and guest. While the previous build was sufficiently capable, the new one provides prospective guests with larger photos to improve the discovery process, and gives hosts every tool they need to take a reservation on mobile. In this version, the mobile experience is meant to be every bit as good as the desktop counterpart.
- Location Services: “Mobile is an absolutely critical piece of our strategy. Long term, it’s the center of everything we’re doing,” says Joost Schreve, TripAdvisor’s vice president of mobile, in an exclusive interview with BI Intelligence. For example, TripAdvisor employs a multi-dimensional algorithm when users are in the mobile app’s “Near me now” mode. TripAdvisor’s algorithm combines the user’s location with ratings and reviews from members of the user’s community to rank results.
- Offline Services: Many online travel companies have turned to developing offline services, apps that are useful even when the phone isn’t connected to Wi-Fi or a cell connection. TripAdvisor has developed city guides for 82 cities that may be downloaded and used entirely offline.
- Augmented Reality And Wearables: These represent the next iteration in mobile. So far, augmented reality has not seen widespread adoption. TripAdvisor has an augmented reality feature, but it has been deemphasized and does not appear readily available within the app. But once wearables become more widely adopted it’s easy to see how a hands-free augmented reality app could be extremely useful to a traveller trying to figure out where they are, and what to eat next.
In full, the report:
- Looks at how big the travel market is, and why mobile will continue to take a larger slice of online travel bookings
- Examines which mobile-centric features are going to be most important to travellers, and how businesses are beginning to incorporate these features into their mobile travel services
- Describes how Airbnb and TripAdvisor specifically are gearing up for, and even encouraging, travellers’ transition to mobile devices
- Discusses the pain points that are still holding back mobile usage among travellers, particularly when it comes to making bookings
- Considers what will be next in mobile travel, especially as wearables see much greater uptake and travel apps become a major part of the wearables app ecosystem