By Cristina Constandache, VP Business Partnerships, EMEA & Americas, Cheetah Ad Platform
Like pocket-sized tour guides, travel apps can have you luxuriating in a Swiss spa hotel or basking in the Seychelles sunshine in no time.
But few have experienced the success of the likes of the TripAdvisor app, used by millions of travellers across the globe, because many brands have yet to credibly monetise mobile by cleverly engaging smartphone users.
Some 71% of Britons now own a smartphone, so travel agents, hotels and airlines all need to kick-start their app strategy, or risk losing out in this saturated and competitive market.
The five following tips will help you shape your digital master plan and guide you through the highways and byways of mobile technology to ensure your travel app’s success.
Some of us will remember the days when you had to phone a travel agent or leaf through printed brochures before curating your perfect holiday.
Now we are far more likely to browse price comparison websites on the train or book flights directly on an airline’s mobile-optimised site.
90% of the time consumers spend on mobile is in-app, so don’t develop an app because your competitors have one. Rather than taking a “me too” approach, put it at the core of your business where it belongs.
Travel companies who only offer customer service by phone or do not optimise their app to complement the functionality of their mobile website will quickly frustrate and lose the connected consumers of today to a more digitally savvy competitor.
You need to transfer your site’s key functions to your app, while adapting its formats and controls to fit the smaller screen.
No one is going to browse endlessly through pictures of your hotel’s carpark on their mobile, but it will be worth your while making sure they can swipe easily through a few select photos of that unparalleled sea view.
Go for the long haul
You need to dedicate time and, obviously, money into making your app a true revenue driver.
That means allocating resources both pre- and post-launch, which is something we at Cheetah Ad Platform have noticed brands can be hesitant about.
One thing we do know is that it doesn’t pay to fall asleep at the wheel.
Develop your mobile offerings so they match or surpass all your online products and services, and bear in mind that an app is never finished.
It needs constant refinement and new, exciting features to keep consumers downloading it – and existing users from deleting it.
Try to innovate further than simply allowing your customers to check boarding times.
Your customer will stick to the web or look elsewhere if your app is a one trick pony, and you will fail to reap the rewards like boosting brand loyalty and selling lucrative in-app ads.
The good news is all your new features and functions can pivot entirely on the data you collect.
If you notice your customers leaving detailed reviews about the hotels they stay in, capitalise on this by offering a star ratings system and expand the review feature to include attractions, restaurants and services – and as a result, your customers will keep coming back.
Everyone likes an upgrade
From a customer’s anonymous individual mobile ID, you can find out that someone is going to fly to JFK from Heathrow Terminal 5 at 8am next Monday.
Make the most of this data by delivering a push notification when they arrive at the airport, asking whether they would like to upgrade to business class to make their long flight as comfortable as possible.
At the gate, you could offer them the chance to jump the queue. If a customer has made several journeys with your airline, delivering a personalised message to their phone to thank them for their loyalty is bound to be memorable.
Set up shop in Duty Free
Airline carriers can collaborate with local airport vendors across the globe to deliver the right ad to the right person in any airport.
By monetising their online inventory, airline companies offer these vendors the opportunity to target the exact consumers who will soon be passing by their store, which exponentially increases the chance of a sale.
There are third parties who will happily set up these deals on the company’s behalf to save them time and effort.
What’s more, the consumer can enjoy receiving these hyper-relevant offers directly on their smartphones, such as a discounted taxi to their hotel on landing or a free cocktail at the nearest restaurant while they wait to board.
Your passport to success
The sky is the limit with mobile technology, and you should be using all the information you can get.
Geo-location and beacon services allow you to reach out to customers who are passing a certain store or entering a given airport, by setting up a geo-fence – that is, an invisible perimeter used to target smartphone users within it.
You could even spot a match between two mobile IDs, tracked from different sources – for example, from a Wi-Fi login and the other from a beacon.
Once you have identified a single customer from different data sources, you can combine everything you know about them to build an accurate profile, which will help inform your next steps.
Fearless innovation, embracing technology, and a reasonable investment of time and money will pave the way for your travel app’s popularity.
In January this year, the number of transactions made via smartphones rose 96% so it is critical that you take advantage of everything mobile technology has to offer, and tailor your offerings to each individual customer’s needs, locations and preferences, using the abundance of data at your disposal.
Success is on the horizon – you just need to be savvy about securing it.