Mobile Still is Much More a Retention Tool Than a Transaction Channel
How Do You Devise a Plan for Mobile Travel Applications?
“All companies active in the travel business should have a mobile roadmap,” says Koen Bavinck, sales manager, Sound of Data, a provider of multi-channel customer interaction solutions.
“We have to understand though that in some cases there is not a direct positive business case, but there is always a clear business reason to get your feet wet and start setting up a mobile roadmap for the coming months and years,” added Bavinck, who is scheduled to speak at EyeforTravel’s Travel Distribution Summit North America 2009 to be held in Chicago (September 16-17) this year.
Bavinck says some main considerations are:
- Understand the business reason
- Take it step by step, you will not sell complete trips through a mobile phone from day one
- Consider the retention possibilities once you are capable of creating a two-way respected relationship with your traveller
- Test, pilot and evaluate the steps you make on the mobile road map (what works, what converts, what is useful)
- Understand that mobile web will not replace PC Internet
Bavinck, in an interview with EyeforTravel’s Ritesh Gupta, spoke about the possibilities. Excerpts:
Where do you think current opportunities lie considering consumer touch points or travel planning/ booking process?
The opportunities will lie in providing the traveller (corporate or leisure) with additional information at the relevant moment during travel process. Some examples:
- Travel planning phase, mobile search. This can be accomplished by “triggering” your customer with a last minute deal or special promotion.
- Travel planning phase, mobile search. The customer can search the mobile web reviews from others travellers a-like. Where have they been, what have they visited, what has been recommended?
- Travel planning phase, mobile search. The customer can compare pricing for different trips.
- Travel booking phase, booking and service. With regard to mobile booking; there will be lookers, but very few bookers. The mobile web can be used to offer the traveler additional services; ability for e-ticket, online check-in, pre seating, insurance, parking, flight notifications services, travel books, weather updates and local restaurant / event information.
- Travel phase, during this phase the traveller can be informed through email / text push notifications. In these notifications, a mobile web link can be sent which will trigger the traveller. The mobile web will provide all relevant information for that specific traveler (trip, airport, gate, car rental, taxi, hotel, events, weather, local news, maps, recommendations, currency converter, local doing business tips). The mobile web experience can be increased for the traveller if location based services are used.
How do you assess the current utility of this tool from travel planning perspective?
In the short term, the mobile device will make it possible to travel “paper free”. There will be no more need for the traveller to print all documents (e-ticket, hotel address / voucher, car rental form, alarm numbers, map of city). All this information will be sent to the traveller through email, SMS or a personal mobile web page.
With this tool (mobile device) a direct canal is in place to communicate with the traveller and to provide the traveller with useful and relevant information in the right context. If a plane is delayed, you can directly inform the customer, or if a flight is cancelled a different flight can be arranged. To generate up sell, a discount can be sent for a local attraction, event or restaurant.
The traveller can be informed automatically and very pro-actively. This will increase the service experience for the traveller and decrease the work load in the internal processes (e.g. inbound and outbound call centre activity).
What do you think are still the issues which need to be addressed in order to optimise the use of mobile phones from travel industry? Which travel products do you think can be easily aligned to selling via mobile phones?
To optimise the use of mobile phones, the following will have to be achieved: International flat fee mobile Internet rate; Implementation of mobile channel in travel processes; Focus on traveller usability and relevance; Location-based services.
According to several sources, the traveller is most interested in the below travel offers or communications during their trip:
- Discounts to local restaurants
- Local weather and traffic alerts
- Mapping / route planning
- Mobile check-in (airline, hotel)
- Discounts for hotel
- Discount for local attraction
- Local news
- Taxi (click to call)
- Directory assistance
The main travel products that can be sold through the mobile phone are: restaurant reservations, hotels and local attractions.
What’s your opinion regarding mobile screen vs PC debate? What do you think are pros and cons at this stage which one needs to consider to ensure mobile-related efforts get optimal results?
The PC vs. mobile screen debate is similar to television vs. cinema debate. Same content used in a different environment. But it is also incomparable in many ways.
Travel companies ‘getting it’ realise that in designing mobile experiences one should think of the context of the user (on the go, in a hurry, waiting, etc.) We think mobile is not to be viewed as a direct commerce channel (yet). Of course, there are examples in which it will work but do not build your business case on the amount of bookings via mobile.
Mobile still is much more a retention than a transaction channel.
How can one customise information for mobile phone screens?
There has to be minimum, but highly relevant, information that should be made available through mobile web. The information has to clear to the traveller and has to be “loaded” on the mobile phone as quick as possible to keep the attention of the traveller. One has to focus on relevance. The screen is smaller than on a PC, so minimise the amount of information. Make it logical, easy to browse. It’s better to have too little information, than too much information. Realise that mobile Internet will not replace PC Internet.
Mobile Strategies for Travel (co-located with the Travel Distribution Summit N. America 2009)
Koen Bavinck is scheduled to speak at EyeforTravel’s Mobile Strategies for Travel Conference to be held in Chicago (September 16-17) this year.
For more information, click here:http://events.eyefortravel.com/tdsusa/conference/
VP North America
Phone: +44 207 375 7582