By Andrea Dunlop, chief executive of acquiring & card solutions, Paysafe Group
In the digital era, it has never been faster, cheaper, or more convenient to book travel arrangements. The rise of smartphones in particular has resulted in an uplift in last minute bookings, and with the younger generation driving the digital shift, travel operators should prioritise the deployment of mobile-first experiences, or run the risk of being left behind.
Several studies demonstrate the increasing role smartphones are playing in the travel industry. In the UK, 76% of people booked their holiday online last year according to Abta, with tablets accounting for 23% of bookings and mobile phones accounting for 13%.
Interestingly, of the 13% who used a mobile for their booking, 56% said the process was difficult compared to booking on a desktop PC. Yet, further research indicates the influence of mobile will only continue to increase, with Mediahawk estimating that bookings from mobile devices will account for 40% of total UK travel sales by 2019.
For all the opportunities associated with a mobile-connected world, this environment also comes with certain expectations – for consumers, booking a holiday via a mobile device should be as quick and convenient as ordering a pizza. This starts with a great browsing experience, and ends with a secure and seamless checkout process, that allows the consumer to complete the transaction using their preferred payment method.
The full mobile experience
From the get-go, travel operators should offer users a mobile optimised site or mobile app that has been designed with UX (user experience) at its core. There should be clear navigation, large buttons, and a simple way of refining search options. The site should be fully responsive to different mobile screens and the display should scale across all devices to avoid cutting off important visual components.
By delivering an efficient mobile experience leading up to the checkout process, upselling becomes easier, as consumers who breeze through the initial steps are likely to want to continue the same seamless experience – meaning that rental cars, transfers, and insurance can all be added with a single click, further increasing revenue for the operator. Ultimately, the smoother the process, the more likely it is that users will make faster decisions, leading to greater sales for travel operators.
The checkout is often a place where the entire mobile payments chain breaks down. With older, less mobile-savvy users reluctant to complete purchases on a mobile device due to security concerns, it is paramount that travel operators make it clear that the transaction will be conducted in a secure environment. Other major barriers that result in mobile abandonment are a lack of payment options, and lengthy forms that make it difficult to input payment information.
For operators based outside of the user’s territory, localisation can be a huge issue too. Delivering pricing in the local currency for the user so that they can calculate exactly how much the booking will cost them, as well as providing payment options that are available in their home country adds a touch of personalisation to the checkout process, while helping to alleviate fears over price and whether or not a payment will be processed successfully.
The above covers the basics that all online travel operators should be delivering as part of a mobile experience, but for the ‘cherry on top’, they should also consider providing users with the option to save their preferred payment options, so that future transactions can be completed in a single click.
Overall, mobile should be at the forefront of all travel businesses payments strategy. As the world becomes more mobile-connected and holiday makers become more geographically mobile, consumer expectation to be able to make purchases across borders via their smartphones/devices will only increase.
Much like online retailers, who have had to embrace a mobile-first strategy to survive in an extremely competitive mobile-led market, travel operators that do not embrace these changes risk losing out to competitors as the industry continues its shift to mobile. Going forward, travel operators need to begin prioritising their mobile offering today, to remain competitive in tomorrow’s market.