Mobile commerce in the UK travel industry: exclusive research

Mobile phonesTravolution joined digital research specialist eDigitalResearch to survey the development and use of mobile commerce among consumers and the trade. Director Michelle Fuller reports the findings

The UK leads France, Germany, Spain and Italy in the take-up of smart hand-held devices, accounting for almost 50% of new handsets. Consequently, people are increasingly using these devices for online research and purchase – not least of travel and holidays.

What are their habits and expectations, and is the travel trade responding accordingly? In October and November we conducted research for Travolution on the latest mobile web and apps usage trends. The study was the most comprehensive of its kind to date, as we polled both the trade and consumers.

We found the internet (via computer) is still by far the most widely used source of information by consumers when planning travel (used by 89% of those polled). But as expected, information gathering by mobile device is increasing – 14% via browsing and 6% via apps.

Mobile devices are gaining popularity in terms of purchasing travel and holidays, but the figure is far lower with just under 8% of users doing this. Comparing use of mobile websites and apps, mobile browsing accounts for a considerably higher percentage than apps when consumers research or book holidays and tickets, but apps are winning out when it comes to ancillary information such as weather forecasts, currency conversion and maps.

The most popular travel apps relate to rail (National Rail Enquiries and, the London Underground (Tube Map and London Tube Deluxe) and foreign language phrases (Lonely Planet Phrasebooks).

Are travel businesses stepping up to the plate when it comes to providing mobile-optimised websites and apps? Of those in the trade who responded, 40% had no experience of mobile commerce and only 16% said their organisation had a mobile-enabled website, so the answer seems to be: not quite.

Having said that, 57% said their company’s mobile commerce activity was generating revenue – between 1% and 25% of total income – and 78% predicted this figure would rise over the next year.

Similar figures were reported for travel apps. When asked why their company had developed a mobile-commerce presence, more than 50% of respondents cited one or more of the following: to improve features and usability, for customers, to improve customer service, to increase sales and to increase brand awareness.

More travel companies had developed mobile websites and apps in-house than had outsourced development. Both channels represented good value for money according to a majority of respondents, although many felt it was too early to judge the return on investment.

Clearly, the mobile revolution represents a substantial opportunity for both pure-play and multi-channel travel businesses. How they perform in this area
is likely to have a significant impact on their overall business performance.

More charts and stats

See the full version of this article in the digital edition of Travolution December 2010

Travolution December 2010 - Mobile app research

In brief

 > 16% of the 470 travel industry organisations surveyed have a mobile website and almost 17% a smart-device app

 > 43% have mobile websites with the same functionality as their website

 > 18% with a mobile website used the site for transactions

 > Mobile websites and/or apps were most-often developed to improve features and usability, increase brand awareness or increase sales

 > 56% felt developing a mobile website, and 47% felt developing an app, was good value for money

 > 50% felt it was too early to tell if mobile websites have delivered a return on investment

 > 70% expect to generate more revenue via mobile commerce over the next 12 months

 > 44% of travel apps include destination guides and information

 > Both apps and mobile websites were most often developed in-house

 > iPhone and iPad apps were the main focus for future app development

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