With new travel-related apps launching every day, and social “check-ins” on location-based apps such as Foursquare becoming more mainstream, how big is the opportunity to engage travelers while they’re on the go? Probably the biggest thing that has ever happened to the industry…
Mobile usage is taking off & the mobile world is coming:
- In 5 years more people will connect to the internet on mobile devices than on PCs.
- Over 60 million tablets will be in circulation by this time next year.
- Over 40% of iPhone users access the web more often on their iPhone than the PC.
- Over 60% of mobile users own a device less than 12 months old.
Need proof that mobile is being taken seriously by the big players?
During is keynote at the PhoCusWright Conference, Expedia Inc CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi was very enthusiastic about the opportunities on mobile. He announced that the company had just acquired Mobiata, the brains behind FlightTrack and other popular travel apps. During his keynote he said, “We are 12-24 months away from mobile booking.”. “Traffic will get there in 12 months….transactions will follow.” “The growth will be explosive.”
Priceline CEO, Jeff Boyd said that the combination of “smart phones, mobile and the strength of developer community are the most exciting things to happen to travel industry.”
Rich Barton, Chairman of TravelPost, Founder of Expedia and Zillow said, “Facebook and smart phones have created a renaissance in the travel industry.”
Steve Hafner, CEO of Kayak said that they are have more people and resources dedicated to developing for mobile than for the website. With more than 4 million downloads, the Kayak app is off to a great start.
Brian Sharples, CEO of the vacation rentals site, HomeAway said they are investing in mobile technology for the ipad. Their research shows that the iPhone is not the place for checking out your next vacation home, but the iPad provides a better user experience. He predicted mobile sales will “go through the roof”.
Mark Mahaney, Analyst at Citigroup: “Travel needs to be more aggressive in mobile.”
But it’s not simply the swift growth and widespread in usage of mobile that we need to think about – At The PhoCusWright Conference this message came through loud and clear:
“Companies need to accelerate their mobile strategy and not just repurpose their websites,” said Philip Wolf, PhoCusWright CEO. “Mobile social IS the most powerful tool in history.”
Mobile social is a marketer’s dream. Whether you are creating apps for travelers to use, or reaching them through existing apps, what this means for marketers is the ability to target by location or category and provides access to the consumer in the moment of a decision. This clearly works for the consumer as they can connect directly with brands, have fun by winning mayorships and rewards, and share their experiences with their friends. In its most simplified way, mobile social is about sharing experiences on the go, connecting with others and having fun – and it means a higher level of engagement with your brand.
A mobile social strategy should be at the top of your To Do list.
One of the hottest things to happen in the past few years is location-based apps. These quickly becoming mainstream.
Here are the location-based apps you need to know:
Foursquare: Has over 4 million users, and one million of them joined in the last 7 weeks. The popularity comes through becoming mayor of a location and telling your friends where you are. Anyone can be a mayor with enough “check ins”. Merchants, destinations or locations have the opportunity to shower customers with rewards
Facebook Places: Similar model to Foursquare but also incorporates Facebook Deals. Facebook has the opportunity to own this space with access to 600 million users on their social network.
Loopt: A location-based social mapping service. This month announced 3 million registered users. Enables Facebook users to see where their friends are on a map and will alert users when friends are nearby.
SCVNGR: A location-based game that has 500,000 users, and estimated 1 million users by the end of the year. After a user “checks in” to a location on SCVNGR they can participate in challenges and will be rewarded by the merchant. Destinations can curate experiences that they want visitors to have through SCVNGR Treks.
Side note: These applications can be a compliment to a promotion that brings in new customers, such as group-buying sites; Marketers can use location based mobile apps to drive engagement and loyalty with customers and keep them coming back. These can also be a great source of customer feedback.
What’s next? The mobile wallet is coming
Imagine a phone that replaces the need for your wallet. You can research, book and buy anything with it within seconds. Your credit card information will be safely stored and purchases are just one click away.
If you’re a Zipster, you’ll know that ZipCar is already pioneering the way to mobile. With the ZipCar app you can book your car, find locations, find the car, unlock the car, turn it on, buy extra time and get hold of customer service. If you lose the car don’t worry, the app will tell you where it is.
Consumer tolerance is low for load times:
To be successful on mobile, and provide a good user experience, the internet needs to load in 3 seconds otherwise 40% of users will drop off. Consumers expect this experience to be just like their home desktop and their level of tolerance is getting shorter. 58% of consumers expect mobile to be as fast or faster than website.
So here’s my advice to marketers:
Start working on your short term and long term mobile social strategies. The future is right around the corner – in many cases it is here. Connect with these hyper-tech users now and you will see your brand take off with influencers and others will soon catch on. There is also a lot to be learned from the data that mobile apps can provide. Sharing and mobile unleashes the wisdom of crowds, friends, and empowers consumers to search, shop, buy and share like never before.