The peak summer travel months are upon us and the most successful travel brands will be the ones who excel at engaging their customers not just online, but also on mobile. The online travel industry is booming with more people turning to the Internet to plan their trips than ever before; Unique Visitors (UVs) to online travel agencies (like Expedia and Priceline) grew 13.7% year-over-year (YOY) in May. Not only are more people booking travel online, but they are increasingly using mobile on their paths to purchase for hotels, flights, cruises, car rentals, trains and buses.
A third of online travel shoppers are using mobile in the purchase process.
Mobile travel shoppers are often booking last minute trips—an excellent opportunity for brands. An easy and enjoyable mobile experience helps seal the deal. Travel shoppers are using both mobile sites and apps. A Compete survey in January revealed 43% of smartphone users have travel apps, 2-3 on average. Travel brands must provide a seamless experience across devices, especially if they want to cash in on summer travelers who haven’t yet booked.
Trains and buses had the largest mobile growth in 2012.
Traffic to bus and train websites only grew 2% YOY with 7.6 million UVs in May—but, their desktop traffic may be slow growing as more people are engaging through mobile sites and apps. 21% of people researching or booking train trips reported using mobile applications more in 2012 than in 2011. Similarly, 20% of bus travel shoppers said they used mobile apps more frequently in 2012. It makes sense that mobile engagement increased for modes of transportation that are less expensive and service shorter distances. Bus and train travelers are generally more flexible than, say, airline travelers, often purchasing tickets at the last minute—especially with the increasingly prevalent mobile tickets.
Airlines have the most room to grow with mobile apps.
Of people searching for flights online, 71% use the desktop site only, the lowest mobile penetration in the travel industry. How can airlines increase customer engagement on mobile devices? Focus on customers’ in-airport experience and offer perks for loyal customers. For example, JetBlue offers its loyalty customers access to an expedited security line and has had rave reviews. A Compete survey revealed 38% of fliers would pay money to clear the airport security line faster. An all-encompassing mobile app with tickets, flight details, airport map, and the option to purchase a pass to the front security line could be widely successful. Or, airlines could offer exclusive deals, like cutting the security line, for customers who purchase or check-in on mobile; Expedia already offers exclusive mobile deals.
Carro is excited to join the Compete team as the Digital Marketing Co-op for Compete.com, with a focus on all things social media. A third-year student at Northeastern University, Carro is pursuing a major in Communication Studies and a minor in Political Science. She has a passion for digital media. Follow her on Twitter @carrohalpin or connect on Google+