Doing Something About The Weather - With Mobile

Weather has dominated the news over the last few weeks – and a good part of the coverage has involved travel – thousands stuck in airports, travelers not being able to get where they’re going for business or leisure. 

Not surprisingly, travelers looked to their mobile devices for help with cancellations, delays and other hassles. According to Usablenet, which provides mobile solutions for many companies including a large number in travel, there was an increase of 54% in visits and a 21% increase in average visit duration to mobile sites during two recent blasts of wild weather.

"The smartphone has become indispensable to travel experiences today,” said Carin van Vuuren, chief marketing officer of Usablenet. “Consumers want to feel in control over their travel experience, particularly during crises. It is important that travel brands support their customers with a great, next-gen mobile user experience that is simple, flexible, and — most important during times of hazardous travel conditions — dependable."



So how can a brand maximize its customer relationships through crises like bad weather? According to Van Vuuren, they had better do something because the brands that will win are not waiting but creating experiences now – including around crisis management. They are thinking about things like: What happens when the weather turns bad? What is the impact of that? How can we help?

Van Vuuren said that retail companies and utilities are ahead of the game in this. They know that when the power goes out, mobile becomes critical and the device becomes the go-to for help. Utility companies are aggregating large amounts of relevant and useful information on their mobile websites (usually not apps) to confront these issues. 

She believes that travel companies should think more about these issues beyond the alerts that have become commonplace – moving instead to a 360-degree perspective that creates an environment where consumers can find information and, importantly, solutions.

The top priority, according to Van Vuuren,  is to avoid the crisis – to find options like alternative flights. After that, the idea would be to find solutions – even if it’s helping find a hotel near an airport. If it’s a very long delay, and they can leave the airport, what is there to do nearby?

“It’s all about going beyond the transactional,” said Van Vuuren; “that’s what creates a sense of loyalty. You become not just some presence in the sky – but a brand that cares about the customer’s business.”

Visits to sites typically spike during any crisis and that’s normal, according to Van Vuuren. However, when page views spike tremendously that means travelers can’t find what they’re looking for – which is where a company can fill in the gaps of information and solutions.

During Hurricane Sandy, for example, there were tremendous spikes in mobile volume but page views were not spiking as dramatically because there were useful pages telling people what to do. 

The increase in traffic is one thing – having information and solutions for all those people is another.

This is the moment, according to Van Vuuren, “when a very good customer experience on mobile becomes a great brand experience on mobile – and that’s the precursor to the next transaction.”

It’s up to the brand to prioritize their mobile sites. They may have maximized bookings from a revenue perspective, but it’s the impact of small, considerate things that make things a little easier that will win loyalty. Loyalty is built on a thousand little interactions.

It’s almost Groundhog Day and there may still be a lot more winter – so time to start thinking about the weather and other potential crises – and doing something about it.

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