Companies in the travel and hospitality industries know that in order to keep customers engaged with their brand, they must deliver simple, seamless experiences. Now more than ever, this is true in the digital space. When booking travel online, consumers value helpful and informative experiences — with an increasing focus on accessing services via mobile devices. So, how can brands deliver this type of mobile experience for today’s always-connected, on-the-go consumer?
It all starts with understanding what these consumers want, and how we can deliver it to them.
The Travel Consumer’s Approach
Travel requires relatively large purchases. Unlike everyday expenses — your morning coffee, a new t-shirt — customers are consistently shelling out large chunks of money to book things like flights and hotel stays. Naturally, consumers also tend to spend time researching travel options and prices across multiple brands — at least, more so than they would when deciding which color t-shirt to buy.
This means that a person looking for flights to, say, Aruba is likely visiting multiple airline and flight aggregator websites to find the option that best fits their preferences. Now more than ever, travel purchases are also occurring via mobile devices. Travel companies would be well-advised to take note of this shift in consumer behavior. Not only is it an opportunity to facilitate the purchasing process for their customers, but a chance to further complement the customer’s travel experience and build brand loyalty.
Less Adapting, More Re-Thinking
Many brands are working to translate the most relevant features from their digital travel experience onto mobile. For example, it’s common for airline brands to adapt flight search and display layouts from their website so that they fit more comfortably onto a mobile screen, such as a smartphone or tablet instead of a desktop computer.
But what about implementing features for mobile that might not come from the website, and might actually be most useful to have, quite literally, in your pocket? There’s a huge potential to give customers a great experience over mobile even after they’ve booked and paid for services, which helps to establish customer loyalty and build a devoted group of repeat shoppers. Hotel brands, for example, can utilize mobile devices to interact directly with their customers, offering insider tips about local attractions, like special show or concert tickets, or great restaurants close to the hotel they’re staying in. Across a slew of different scenarios, mobile platforms offer brands a huge advantage, giving them the opportunity to add value to their customers’ experiences before, during, and after their travel.
The Mobile Ecosystem
It is well worth-while for companies to continue to focus on optimizing travel websites (that is, after-all, where many of those “big purchases” happen), but the same care should be taken on mobile platforms as well. Even after a purchase is made, mobile devices allow brands to engage their customers and cement the strong experience they enjoyed while making their purchase.
Many brands are taking small steps to do this now. For example, it’s becoming more commonplace for airlines to grant customers access to their boarding passes through the airline’s mobile app.
Still, brands can benefit from bigger strides to establish customer loyalty. For instance, one of the most interesting mobile features I’ve seen is the credit card-free booking procedure. We’ve all experienced the hassle of entering our credit card information to make a purchase from our mobile phones. Tackling the problem head-on, one hotel brand decided to allow consumers booking via mobile to reserve hotel rooms without having to enter payment information until a later time. Obviously, it’s important to test the implications of such tactics, but features that cater to the mobile experience are a welcome surprise to the modern consumer.
The Bottom Line
It’s no secret that the travel industry is a competitive one. In order for brands to win over customers, they have to make sure they’re addressing customer needs on all platforms — especially mobile. To me, it’s clear what action those in the travel and hospitality industry need to take: go mobile, or go home.