Top 10 mobile in travel issues you need to master to order to grow in 2011 -
"300% growth in 2010'; that's how much lastminute's mobile browsing grew in 2010.
Mobile is making savvy travel companies lots of cash and enabling them to steal a significant market share. If you want to join them, you need to master these 10 key issues:1 Mobile Search, SEO, and PPC
A year ago Google predicted that over half of search would come from mobile devices. Unrealistic? Perhaps not. Mobile searches for hotels have grown by almost 3000% in three short years.
This browsing behaviour is now beginning to induce real sales. You need to position your products so they are easily accessible for mobile search and so it hits the customer through the right platforms; you need to be submitting your mobile sites to the mobile search engines. You should be thinking carefully about the consumer mind-set and how to catch someone browsing on mobile with your very best deals in order to capture their business.
Its about adopting your site to be found when people use fewer words and more badly spelt search terms as they type with clumsy fingers. It's not just technology- it's marketing, it's revenue management, it's every person involved in your online environment. Finally, as Google makes more mobile search suggestions, its increasingly going to be about how you target travellers whilst they are already on-trip:- looking for hotels, restaurants and entertainment. 2 Mobile Content
A simple statement- a mobile phone screen is small. This means many restrictions and limitations but also great opportunities for a new online environment: location based maps and augmented reality may be the new key to the marketing of your core and ancillary products. Guides are already a proven way to fill your hotel or attraction.
Mobile guides that are location aware such as lastminute's Topsee just makes the guidebook a hands-on experience; more so, an opportunity for lastminute.com to upsell and drive audiences into partnership hotels/restaurants/theatres in the local vicinity.
However, the stumbling block with progressive mobile content boils down to "Who will pay for all this magical content?" the customer is seeking free knowledge, the publisher is seeking advertising, the travel companies are seeking commission- who will come out on top? 3 Mobile web vs. Apps
Where to Put Your Money? Do you put your limited mobile budget into apps or mobile web, or both? To know the answer you have simply got to know where mobile is now, but also 18 months or even 2 years from now. Google bets on search and web, whilst Apple, Blackberry, Android, Windows Palm all seem to be channelling spend into top notch apps for now.
What makes it even harder to compete in this space are the multitudes of device types, operating systems, and different screen sizes. As one senior travel executive said to me last week, "it's all a bit of a mess!"4 Don't forget SMS!
Just like email marketing, the use of SMS is still vital. A text message can reach your audience when they have their online data turned off abroad. It is, therefore, a valuable customer relationship tool and statistics show it is currently still the dominant form of mobile interaction.
Ok, it's not being talked about on Mashable or Wired, but let's not forget our tried and tested methods that the consumer knows and trusts. eMarketer projects that the growth of the global market for mobile messaging will reach nearly $12 billion in 2011, up from about $1.5 billion in 2006. If you have your customer's trust to receive both texts and emails to mobile devices whilst on holiday you have a valuable resource. Guard it, and use it well!5 Mobile Partnerships–Choose Carefully.
The huge battle to be the mobile travel agent engine is on! Mobile friendly, simple travel products such as last-minute hotels, rail travel or car parking are the top-sellers on the market as things stand. However, there is a tendency at the moment to bypass mobile payment in favour of payment on arrival at the hotel front desk.
So, who do you choose to showcase your product for your online? Getting your property high on location-focused booking mobile engines (like lastminute.com) is THE vital key to capitalize from mobile. 6 Mobile for Social
For some reason (way beyond this 40 year old!) more and more people access their Facebook account last thing before they fall asleep at night and then first thing when they wake up- both times via their phone. Mobile is also enabling some incredible crisis management capabilities.
Take Eurostar's reaction to the ash cloud disaster for example. Both these trends are huge opportunities for the travel industry to use mobile to communicate right through the supply chain; from the "dream" stage of searching for holidays, right through until feedback 6 months after their trip.
Mobile and social media go hand in hand. If you don't believe us, just look at how the different airlines faired during the seemingly constant 2010 year of disasters. How they communicated to their customers, often via Twitter or Facebook had a phenomenal impact on how the consumers perceived them at the time, and may impact how they choose to book in the future. 7 Mobile Location
The development of location-centric mobile travel apps and web sites such as Facebook Places, Foursquare Gowalla, Yelp, and SCVNGR are a growing hit both with advertisers and users.
For the travel industry more than any other, location based services could be, (and most likely will be) imperative to the future of personalized marketing. On the other side of things, key players such as lastminute, are pushing location search for products from pubs to hotels to theatres and attractions. How it will compete with megalithic Facebook and its new deals initiative will be interesting.
Historically the battle between suppliers and intermediaries for inventory and also for marketing rights has been a cat fight. Integrating your product with Google maps, or building on-trip advertising through location based platforms are both hugely lucrative opportunities just waiting for innovation and ripe for the picking.8 Mobile Ancillary
Over the last decade the drive to unbundle and to build ancillary revenues has revolutionised the online travel industry. It will continue to do so but there is a huge flaw that no one seems to be willing to address. Mobile browsing will only keep growing yet it still remains impossible to buy an air ticket from an ancillary-heavy website on a smart phone.
We are allowing our customers to browse on their mobile, check out the options, but wait until they are back at their desk to book and it is at that point that you lose the sale. However, on the upside, mobile has the capacity to drive huge "on-trip/in-hotel" ancillaries. 9 Mobile Payments
This is where the buck stops. How do you securely take payment so the customer feels safe? Whilst payments for low value games, apps and ring tones flow back and forth via mobile users, the large purchases seem to hit a stumbling block.
All the experts say it's just a matter of time till this is sorted but for now we can only look at solution providers for the answers.10 International Browsing Costs
What can we say? Everyone agrees that international browsing costs are a complete disgrace. However, it means free wifi in hotels is a new key selling point. It is predicted that the European Union will soon be involved in international browsing and we're all waiting for some concrete legislation
So, to conclude. We are all trying to sell our products via mobile in the midst of an all mighty battle to channel the elusive mobile consumer. What makes this worse is the lack of vital information on this core subject. It is comparable to the early days of the web in the same way that it's unfortunately a "trial and error" market right now.
The new mobile travel distributors that solve the issues will have a long run of profitability before them. We are the only organisation to have run focused conferences on mobile in travel and published the industry changing Mobile in Travel Report.
This year mobile takes centre stage at the Travel Distribution Summit, the largest meeting of online travel and distribution executives in the world. Over 1000 attendees will attend the 2 day event to learn how to reduce costs and simply sell more travel.
This year the following organisation will be commenting or speaking about mobile and the above issues at the Travel Distribution Summit on 10-11 May in London. Check out the agendas at www.eyefortravel.com/tds