Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion says for every action there’s an equal or opposite reaction - essentially, each action has two component parts that not only rely upon each other but can also counteract or combat each other’s characteristics. But what does Newton’s Third Law of Motion have to do with the travel industry?
Well, when it comes to travel apps and how these platforms provide value added for travel companies and their customers, the issue is not necessarily a matter of black and white. Instead, much like Newton’s Third Law, each action - or component of a travel app - has distinct benefits and liabilities - actions and reactions - that travel companies should consider before implementing a mobile app strategy or solution.
While it’s fair to say the travel industry at-large has more or less fully-embraced mobile concepts and functionality during the last few years, smaller travel companies or new start-ups are faced with a myriad of decisions and value propositions when it comes to creating and propagating a mobile platform.
With thousands of travel apps to look to for inspiration or as models, it can be daunting for these companies to discern the good from the bad in terms of how their app should function, how customers should interact with it, and how it fits into their overall business model and digital strategy.
With that in mind, let’s look at 3 pros and cons sorted by topic of mobile travel apps, and how companies can leverage the benefits of these traits while shedding the drawbacks.
The advent and proliferation of Big Data has allowed travel companies to gather more information than ever before on the purchasing habits, interests, needs, and preferences of their customers - a development that has allowed travel companies to more specifically position products and services that cater to the desires and trends of their customers. The process of converting this data into action and tailoring to a customer’s needs is called personalization, and it’s revolutionized the way travel companies manage customer relations by creating the unique, personalized travel research and booking experience many of today’s travelers crave. A mobile app with the capability to highlight potential bookings based on a traveler’s past interests - a morning flight, a boutique hotel, eclectic tours or activities, and local dining options - is key in driving a company’s digital platform, but it can also be a detriment to a travel company’s online reputation management and growth if not operated properly.
Too high a degree of personalized can leave the customer feeling boxed-in or claustrophobic in terms of the packages being offered, which can result in customers abandoning bookings in their virtual shopping cart if they can’t view and research what they want when they want. In addition, misusing personalization in a way that makes a customer feel more like a number rather than a person can also result in customers avoiding a company’s mobile travel app, especially if they feel they’re being pigeon-holed into one specific camp or type of traveler. Utilizing personalization within a mobile app requires walking a fine line between data and human interaction or touch, and travel companies need to be aware of this delicate balance in creating their mobile presence.
The wealth of advancements in mobile technology during the last few years has significantly driven down the cost of creating a sophisticated mobile app with the capacity to interact with customers across a number of devices while utilizing responsive design elements for easy use; in fact, creating a mobile travel app is so cost-effective that industry analysts project there are at least 100,000 available mobile travel apps currently on the market, with thousands of more currently in development. The development and launch of a mobile travel app can be a relatively inexpensive proposition compared to other digital and technology expenses and the value companies recoup from these apps can far exceed that initial cost - a more visible, robust online presence, growth in revenue, and a greater foothold in today’s competitive market.
But what many travel companies fail to anticipate is the cost of maintaining, updating, and modernizing their mobile application as the technology and functional requirements change or are altered over the course of time. Take your smartphone, for example, of which a new model or operating system is rolled out almost annually in today’s market. In order to keep pace with the advancements and modifications in mobile tech, travel companies must account for the costs in updating and reconfiguring their travel apps to keep pace - in fact, industry analysts argue nearly 70 percent of a travel company’s budget for a mobile app should be reserved for updates and maintenance after development and roll-out been completed. This can be an expensive and time-intensive process if not properly managed, and it can also severely damage a company’s digital personality if not taken seriously.
It’s no secret mobile apps are an effective method for travel companies to manage their customer engagement efforts and forge intimate relationships with new and existing customers - the mere attachment customers have to their bank of apps by virtue of the fact they carry them in their pocket on small devices creates a personal connection other forms of digital can’t replicate. Plus, as we discussed earlier, use of Big Data and personalization has the potential to forge even stronger bonds by storing and utilizing customer preferences for easy navigation and use, but also as a method of promoting special packages, products, or services to certain customers based on these personalizations - for example, a customer with an interest in certain destination and food culture could receive special offers via the app for travel and dining packages.
Sounds great, right? But the risk travel companies can run with the ease of this brand of engagement is oversaturating their user with personalized promotions or packages to their point where these customer relations points become white noise. The best-case scenario in this example is the customer simply tunes out these offers or ignores future customer engagement attempts, with the worst-case scenario being the customer ceases to find the app useful and disengages entirely, opting for a competitor’s travel app or some other digital platform.
Each of the value points for mobile travel apps requires care, consideration, and subtlety in their execution. While it’s clear mobile apps are a strong and viable path forward for travel companies looking to leverage digital tech as a way of remaining competitive and relevant in today’s complex marketplace, travel apps demand a light touch in implementation and operation to truly be a value added service.