This is a guest post from Geoff Galat, CMO of Tealeaf
Barely a day goes by on Travolution without the mention of an exciting new mobile play. But for me, the key thing about mobile is not flashy features but the importance of customer experience in defining strategy.
The truth is consumers don't care how companies deliver their mobile strategy so long as it works. Travel operators hoping to grab a slice of the multi-billion-dollar m-commerce pie need to wake up to the fact that customer expectations for mobile experience are sky high.
Online bookers are an unforgiving bunch, even in a developing area like mobile. A recent Harris Interactive survey, commissioned by Tealeaf, showed that 75% of UK consumers believe there is no excuse for mobile transactions failing to complete on first attempt.
So, what does this mean for the mobile web versus mobile app argument? Here are five considerations seen from a customer's standpoint:
1) Take all devices into consideration
While desktop web browsers each have their individual quirks, they all function in largely the same way. Not so in the mobile world. A mobile-optimised website could be seen as an easy solution to the problem, but does it provide the best experience?
Often an app that has been specifically created for the device in question will be easier to use - but will you develop an innovative new travel app for the iPhone now but leave your Android customers waiting a further six months? Will the app be free, or will there be a charge for less popular platforms?
2) Make the most of improved functionality
Mobile devices are obviously much smaller than laptops and desktops, but they also use a wider variety of input mechanisms, such as touchscreens. So optimising your site or app for touchscreens or making sure users don't have to scroll too much when searching for information on a small screen is vital.
This isn't just about matching the experience customers will receive on a desktop though; it's about enhancing it.
3) Think about location
An airline customer might not book an entire holiday on a mobile device, but they might want to use it on the way to the airport to check in or change flight details. Or a customer may use an app to compare prices and deals on the high street before making a booking in a travel agent. Location can therefore be a major driver in altering customer expectations.
4) Multi device, multi platform, multi channel
The majority of us have multiple internet-enabled devices that we use on a daily basis. And that is a challenge for travel operators.
While we might browse holiday destinations on a tablet or a mobile phone, we might feel more comfortable waiting to actually book at home on a desktop computer, through a contact centre or a representative in a high street travel agent.
The mobile experience must therefore take into account the fact that an online shopper may access the same site or brand on a number of different devices, mobile and otherwise.
It is essential that, once the mobile strategy is up and running, travel operators have visibility into what their customers are doing on mobile devices so the site or app can be optimised on an ongoing basis.
Rather than seeing mobile as a threat to sales through other channels, travel companies need to gain insight into how mobile fits into the overall customer experience.
The best way to achieve this is by understanding how online bookers actually use the channel - and that means getting a good analytics package can track your mobile properties as well as your standard web ones.