If you're a member of Generation X, as I am, you probably remember making phonecalls from your hallway at home and only sending emails from the office. We read travel inspiration catalogues and reserved our trip on a Saturday morning trip to the local High Street. While it's easy to take for granted the devices almost all of us carry 24/7, the continued advancement of mobile connectivity in the last few years means more of us than ever are now being inspired, planning, booking and managing travel through our mobile phones.
With this in mind, we're looking at trends shaping mobile travel at the start of the new decade and the traveler behavior that's shaping how our industry works. Here are the findings of our current research and the 9 things you need to know about consumer-facing travel technology as we start the 2020s.
Researching your trip
Peer to peer recommendations remain the most influential source of information for consumers. The same behavior occurs in the travel industry with review sites (such as TripAdvisor) being the ‘go-to’ research resource for over 80% of travelers.
We’re also using our mobile devices to find new ways to research travel options, including voice search, which will increasingly be available within your favorite travel apps through the next decade:
- Voice search continues to gain traction as a research method with 40% of travelers using it, up from 23% in 2018
- Voice search is even more widely used by business travelers, with almost 60% using it in 2019
Booking on mobile
Booking travel is quite a fractured experience for the majority of travelers. Only 36% of respondents said they booked their whole trip through one website or mobile app. When you factor in research, the number of touchpoints grows. A clear trend we are seeing is a willingness to book on mobile if the content is right for the traveler.
- The vast majority of travelers (~75% of Leisure and ~80% of Business) have booked and paid for travel using mobile
- This trend is unlikely to change. Over the next 10 years, mobile will become increasingly prevalent as a travel booking method. Our research highlighted that the over 55s are the only age group that haven't embraced booking on mobile. As the population gradually gets older the majority of travelers will be the digital natives of today (current 18 to 40 year-olds) who are likely to continue their current behavior of booking via mobile
- 84% of Gen Z and Gen Y respondents have booked and paid for a trip on mobile (versus only 40% of the over 55s)
Communication creates connection
As we’ve shown, lots of travelers are already booking online and through their mobiles. What their travel agencies do after a person has made a booking will be the key to building loyalty with that customer. Offering a discount or sending special offers is the minimum consumers expect from any retailer. Added information and relevant, timely customer service are likely to take that relationship a lot further.
The biggest frustration travelers have is getting access to new information once their trip is booked. Our research shows many travelers are open to hearing about opportunities to enhancing their travel experience by adding ancillaries like in-flight wi-fi or checking an extra bag after making their original booking.
- 56% of travelers want to be able to choose their seats, look at the menu, check if wi-fi is available and confirm baggage allowance
- Over 80% of travelers using apps said an update on the trip status is the most important notification they could receive. However, push notifications can play a role in the sales process too
- 80% of app users want to receive push notifications about changes to the price of a flight they had been considering and want reminders about flights they had left abandoned in their carts. This shows travel brands that travelers are always open to relevant communication while they’re planning their trips, before and after booking
Time to get personal
We live in a world of big data. Our ability to understand huge data sets in order to gain insights about the people represented within them is growing thanks to AI and machine learning. Personalization as a trend will continue to grow in importance, whether it’s tailored offers or the ability to self-serve, travelers want more control over their trips.
- 82% of respondents said they were in favor of receiving a shortlist of branded offers. They also want to be able to purchase add-ons, and are happy to give airlines more access to their data to facilitate personalization
- 35% of travelers said they get annoyed if companies they use regularly do not remember their preferences
While a little over a third might not seem that significant, in an industry the size of ours that is a lot of people and these people are likely to be regular travelers. Think about CFOs who travel first class to regional offices every quarter, like staying in the same suite in the office-adjacent hotel, and prefer to drive themselves to and from the airport in 7-series BMW. These are high value travelers, people well worth remembering. If you can communicate with them before they come to you and let them know these preferred services have been booked and confirmed, you make their PAs' lives easier and their trips less stressful.
App, app and away
As you may expect, younger travelers are more likely to use apps. They use apps to cover all aspects of the trip including flights, accommodation, car bookings, and bleisure. Regardless of how the booking took place, approximately 40% of travelers want to be able to manage all aspects of their flight from an app.
- 9.87% of travelers have either the same number of travel apps, or have increased the number of travel apps, on their smartphones in 2019, a 5% increase on the previous year.
The internet is becoming increasingly ‘mobile-first’. The amount of traffic from mobile has overtaken that from desktops in recent years and smartphone sales have been a multiple of PC sales for a long time. In the eyes of Google, how your website looks on mobile is more important than how it looks on a desktop.
A lot of the stats uncovered in our research back up the move to mobile by consumers and particularly travelers. Creating a digital travel experience through mobile communication should be a priority for travel agencies in 2020.
This article was first published in Hospitality Technology.