Becoming more mobile

According to Yahoo!, people would rather give up chocolate, alcohol and haircuts than their mobile phone.

A little extreme perhaps, but there’s no doubt the ability to keep in touch on the go has almost become a human right.

This year was heralded as the year for mobile and travel and although the two seem to go hand in hand it hasn’t happened yet. A show of hands at last month’s Travolution Summit revealed about a fifth of companies had plans for mobile this year.

Those companies will be heartened to know that the demographic for UK mobile user is spreading out a little. They won’t have to worry so much about marketing holidays to nine-year-olds.

At another recent conference, mobile travel specialist Handy Group said four dynamic forces – connectivity, capability, content and cost – were converging to create the ‘perfect market conditions for mobile internet’.

The only one of those that is really missing is content. Some companies, including Cosmos, made their content available as early as 2006, but consumers weren’t ready for it.

The interim years have given travel companies time to observe what is happening with mobile in other industries and devise their own strategy.

Research from Yahoo! shows a gap in perception between what people think they would use mobile internet for – maps/directions, sports, news and travel information – and what they are actually using it for – social networking, search sites and adult/glamour information.

So, how will travel companies approach the medium? Experts say they shouldn’t just reproduce their PC website because consumers will hate it. What about as a promotional tool?

Only if it’s really targeted and of real value. How about just using it for what is was designed for – communication? It provides travel companies with the perfect opportunity to build loyalty by keeping in touch with customers once the booking has been made. And, there may be the odd subtle ancillary opportunity within that.

The jury is no longer out on the future of mobile travel but people need to be more realistic about when and how and try to tap into what it is being used for.

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