Travel Trends 2020: Mastering mobile is your mission
Julie O'Sullivan

Travel Trends 2020: Mastering mobile is your mission

February 10, 2020

More than ever, travelers expect information to be available on-demand and have their needs met at the swipe of a screen. 88% of travel professionals agree that a mobile strategy is ‘critical’ or ‘very important’ to the future success of their organization.

And, they are not wrong. Though desktop is still the main device for researching and booking travel, it is not unusual for some customer journeys to take place entirely on a mobile device – discover, research and purchase. The vast majority of travelers (~75% of leisure and ~80% of business) have booked and paid for travel on mobile at some stage.

To be successful in travel in 2020, you’ll need to have a comprehensive mobile strategy to back up your business goals.

Is your TMC ready for Gen Z?

When it comes to Gen Z (typically this describes those aged between 18-24), mobile has a higher adoption rate than older generations. Though they may not be the big spenders just yet, they are the future. If you think a sizable Instagram following, a YouTube channel, and a mobile app is enough of a mobile strategy to win over Gen Z…you need to think again. There are a few things everyone can agree on:

  • these consumers were born into a digital world
  • they have high expectations when it comes to connected experiences
  • they are the corporate decision-makers and travelers of the (not so distant) future

Gen Z has grown up in the age of data collection and they expect travel agencies to use this data to deliver exactly what they want in their communications. Using data to tailor content to fit their preferences will show your Gen Z consumers your travel brand views them as an individual and cares about what each one wants.

Personalized messaging is as important as ever to the newest generation with 68% of respondents to our survey saying they value real-time alerts throughout their journey. Multi-device, mobile technology, communications, and personalization are the key to building successful relationships with the newest business traveler. We live in an ever-evolving digital world in travel technology and soon Gen Z will be at the forefront of these changes.

Reimagining the business travel experience

BCD Travel is a great example of a travel brand that embraced mobile and created a winning strategy. While enjoying immense success with its existing Tripsource app, BCD Travel decided to undergo an intense re-imagining of the digital business travel experience. Despite being one of the highest-rated global TMC apps, and live in app stores for five years, BCD Travel wanted to be able to move faster.

In partnership with Travelport, the team conducted extensive interviews and usability testing with business travelers, investigating their habits, thought processes, and ultimately their needs.

Rebuilt from the ground up, the next generation TripSource 2.0 app went live in July 2019. The newly redesigned app is aimed at making the travelers’ experience more immersive, informative, and at it’s core, it enables self-service. The issues they were addressing included

  • 45% of travelers get frustrated when they are unable to access their booking information round-the-clock on mobile devices
  • 68% of business travelers book over half their trips using non-approved channels at every step of their journey.

TripSource users can overcome these issues as the app has self-service functionality with a steady feed of timely information. The traveler can ‘search, book and go’ within minutes. They will be informed in real-time of any changes to their existing travel plans with in-line notifications and timeline messages guiding them at every step of their journey.

TripSource was re-built in React Native. This allowed the Travelport development team to adapt and change quickly throughout the development lifecycle to deliver a world-class travel experience. It also added an element of futureproofing to the platform as React Native can adopt new features and updates seamlessly. BCD Travel put user experience at the heart of this re-imagining of TripSource and is extremely well placed to support further innovation and scaling.

BCD Travel’s four areas of focus in 2020 mobile distribution

BCD Travel is particularly well placed to talk about mobile strategy as it has successfully used its TripSource app to drive engagement with customers and grow the business.

“As a frame of reference, 52.2% of all website traffic worldwide was generated through mobile phones in 2018—and that increases to 63% in the U.S. While it’s important to build for an always-on-the-go traveler via a mobile-optimized website, our TripSource native app also drives higher engagement…”

Will Pinnell Vice President Digital & Product Strategy BCD Travel

Exactly how TripSource drives higher engagement is through the following.

1. Ease of use

Native development allows BCD Travel to drive an intuitive and engaging user experience in ways that a browser-based product cannot. Through customer research it found travelers are more likely to use an app—and return to an app—that’s easy, elegant, and gives them quick access to what they need.

2. Duty of care

In the travel business, mobile is instrumental in providing a duty of care for our travelers. TripSource can reach travelers with location-based risk alerts and emergency response ‘check-in’ during a crisis. Some companies still rely on email or a phone call to reach travelers in a crisis.

3. Connected services

The TripSource platform has evolved beyond just a web and mobile app to be accessible on voice platforms including Alexa and Google. This platform and other connected services allow BCD Travel to create a personal experience leveraging traveler profile data and corporate travel policy.

4. Identity and payment information

BCD Travel has invested in SAP’s customer data cloud to drive their next-generation traveler identity. Payment innovation combined with traveler identity —the idea that we must be able to offer almost everything, everywhere, at the right time, to the right person, that’s paid for in a variety of ways—is now available in TripSource.

Taking things even further: The super app

If you live in Europe or the US, you may have heard of super apps, but if you live in Asia you probably spend most of your ‘screen time’ using one.

Super app tech giants give their users a one-stop-shop to communicate, shop online, book travel, bank, find a date, get food delivery, and pay for anything within a single, unified smartphone app. What originated in China is now spreading throughout Southeast Asia and beyond.

WeChat is the original super app and has evolved into a quasi-operating system, dominating messaging and file sharing in China. It pioneered the idea of ‘apps within an app’ through the use of mini-programs (currently more than 1 million of them). It serves as a portal for its 1 billion monthly active users to the wider economy, with virtually every major brand having a presence.

Super apps and travel

Innovative airlines like KLM have fully integrated their mobile website into their WeChat account letting users book flights, search their flight status, or check-in all through the Chinese super app. Once a flight is booked, users receive reminders on the app when online check-in opens, can have their boarding pass sent to their WeChat account, and can contact KLM’s customer service through the app’s chat interface.

For business travelers, this consolidation of travel products and services all under the umbrella of one super app is certainly appealing. Travelport research found that business travelers use eight apps on average for researching, booking, and managing a trip.

Contenders from the west

To be eligible as a contender for super app status, a mobile app must have;

  • a very popular underlying service
  • with a large audience of frequent users
  • embedded payments.

The rise of super apps in Asia hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Western tech giants, prompting them to try to replicate the super app playbook. Some western contenders include Google Maps, Uber, and Facebook.

Like it or not, Asia is shaping the future of the mobile internet for consumers everywhere, and Western tech giants are trying to play catch-up. Travel brands that have already embraced this trend in Asia have done well—just look at KLM’s success in China with WeChat.

What’s next?

You can visit our Travel Trends hub here and view all our forecasts for the coming year.