15 traveler insights every travel brand needs to see [New research]

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Over the last few weeks foldable devices became the trend to watch, so it goes without saying that the world of mobile can change quickly. If you’re in charge of your travel brand’s mobile strategy, it can be difficult to keep up with new trends and to distinguish the fads from the game-changers.

That’s why, at Travelport Digital, we’ve undertaken our biggest piece of primary research to date with both end travelers and travel professionals. We wanted to get the hard facts, to know how travelers are using mobile today, where the industry plans to invest, and how these two perspectives complement (or contradict) each other.

We hear a lot about emerging tech like voice, AR, and chatbots, but are travelers actually using them? Is the industry planning to invest in these areas, or do travel brands have other priorities? Are people still using apps to book travel, or is mobile web or social media taking the lead? These are just some of the questions we’ve addressed in our new report: How travelers are using mobile in 2019.

Here, we’ve pulled out 15 key insights from the report that will help you make important decisions when building a mobile strategy for your travel brand or refining an existing plan. However, these are just some highlights; you can download the full 38-page report for free for more detailed insights on traveler behaviors and industry priorities in 2019.

How travelers are using apps

85% of business travelers and 58% of leisure travelers use smartphone apps to book flights

We asked travelers to tell us how they prefer to search and book flights. Both smartphone apps and desktop came out on top as the channels of choice. While leisure travelers still tend to prefer desktop over mobile for booking, those who travel for business were as likely to use mobile as desktop to pay for a flight. This is a significant statistic, particularly as 2019 is predicted to be the year that m-commerce transactions overtake e-commerce—i.e. more people will buy on mobile than on desktop.

78% are downloading the same amount or more travel apps than last year

With so many emerging channels through which travelers can book and manage travel, such as voice, social media, and chatbots, there has been rumblings of apps losing their luster. Our research finds that this is not the case, with the vast majority of travelers downloading either the same number of apps, or more apps than they did last year.

More than one-fifth of business travelers use travel apps every day

While mobile usage across the board is on a constant incline, among business travelers it has become an indispensable travel assistant. From searching and booking, to day-of-travel support and in-destination activities, business travelers rely on their smartphones to complete almost every travel transaction.

Our survey respondents who travel primarily for business are truly mobile-first, with 21% saying that they use travel apps every day. A further 23% use them on a weekly basis. For those travel brands looking to target business travelers, it’s important to note that mobile is now providing an unparalleled opportunity to engage with this type of customer and drive revenue.

Seeing an entire trip itinerary in one place is an important app feature for 66% of travelers

Despite travelers now turning to various channels and using a wide range of apps and websites throughout the customer journey, they are still crying out for a consolidated, end-to-end travel management process. Being able to access their trip itinerary from one place is a key attraction for 66% of travelers.

Features deemed important to have in a travel app

 

33% of travelers downloaded their favorite travel app because of app store reviews

Word of mouth can make or break your app. One-third of end travelers said that a good app store rating is the primary driver for downloading an app, with ‘recommendations from friends/family’ coming in second.

Apps vs mobile web

59% of business travelers book flights using social media

Social media has long been a primary channel for marketing and engagement, but now travelers are moving past just seeking trip inspiration on social media, to actually completing bookings. The possibility to book flights through social messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger has seen a spike in business travelers using these channels to make transactions.

More than half of travelers prefer using apps over mobile websites for (almost) every travel-related activity

Travelers tell us they prefer to use smartphone apps over mobile web for almost every travel-related activity. For business travelers they have a clear preference for apps, while leisure travelers still choose mobile web for searching and booking in-destination activities.

When it comes to travel brands, however, the statistics are more disconnected from traveler behavior. Only 43% of travel brands (excluding airlines) have a native app, 41% have a responsive website and 39% have a mobile website. 16% have no mobile presence at all. While desktop is still a preferred channel for searching and booking travel, travel shoppers have become device hoppers, expecting to use multiple platforms and channels to manage their trips.

Ancillaries

57% would like the option to add extras to their booking on-the-go

Upping ancillary revenue is a key priority for any travel brand, and the good news is that travelers are crying out for functionality to buy ancillaries via mobile. More than half think that having the ability to book extras on-the-go is an important feature to have in a travel app.

More than half of business travelers buy ancillaries on mobile

Unsurprisingly, business travelers are more inclined to buy ancillaries on mobile than leisure travelers. The top ancillary products bought by business travelers are hotels and airport offers, while hotels and wi-fi top the list for leisure.

What travelers have bought on mobile

Traveler communication

There is a 10% increase in travelers having push notifications activated on their phones in the last year

Compared with our research last year, there has been a 10% increase in travelers having push notifications activated in travel apps. In addition, 22% more travelers said that they find push notifications useful. This increase shows how the popularity of push continues to grow, and for travel it is turning into a preferred communication channel for many key touchpoints.

More than half of travelers expect to receive a push notification during times of travel disruption

How your travel brand deals with travel disruption is an essential part of the quality of customer service you give. Travelers tell us that push notifications are the primary way they expect travel brands to communicate with them during times of disruption, with more than half of respondents expecting to be communicated to through this channel.

Email is still the preferred channel for travelers to get offers or promotions

When it comes to communicating offers, email is still the preferred channel for both business and leisure travelers, with push notifications coming in second. Unsurprisingly travelers are far less receptive to ads on websites or social media. The good news for travel brands is that only 3% of respondents said they don’t like being communicated to at all for offers or updates.

Traveler communication preferences

 

Voice and chatbots

81% of business travelers have used voice assistants while traveling

The majority of business travelers say they have used voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri while traveling, and as many as 77% say they use voice assistants more than once a day or at least once a week. Leisure travelers haven’t adopted this new tech to the same extent, although a significant 41% said they use voice assistants more than once a day or at least once a week.

67% of travelers would like to be able to check flight status using voice

When asked what kinds of queries they would like to ask if the voice functionality was available, the top answer was consistent among business and leisure travelers: check flight status, followed by check-in. This shows travelers’ desire to use voice technology to remove friction points in their journey and make core travel touchpoints as easy as possible.

It also speaks to a bigger trend in voice technology: as users, we’re moving from using voice to simply search for an answer, to asking voice assistants to complete an action for us—we don’t just want to know if our flight’s on time, we want assistants to check us in for it too. Our Mobile Travel Trends 2019 report explores this trend further.

66% of business travelers have researched or booked a trip using a chat platform

A significant number of our respondents who travel for business are using chat platforms to research and book trips. This shows once again that these conversational platforms are moving beyond simple ‘question and answer’ functionality, to allowing the traveler to complete a transaction. For travel brands, there is real revenue generating potential through these channels, so it’s important when devising your mobile strategy to think beyond just apps, and go to wherever your customer is on mobile.

The industry take

These are just some of the insights that show how travelers are using mobile during their travels (download the full research report for more insights). But this is just one side of the mobile travel story; we also wanted to see how travel brands are responding to customer behavior, so our report presents findings from our research with over 100 travel professionals in addition to our end traveler insights.

While 100% of industry respondents felt that having a mobile strategy was important to the future success of their organization, 38% of airlines and 72% of other travel brands also said that they felt they are not investing enough in mobile.

With travelers turning to mobile at every stage of their journey, this shows a significant disconnect between traveler behavior and industry investment. However, it’s one that brands are recognizing with the vast majority planning to increase their mobile investments in 2019.

Travel brand investments in mobile

It won’t come as a surprise that ‘revenue generation’ and ‘customer service’ top the list of mobile goals deemed important by both airlines and travel brands. However, what is surprising is that ‘being where the customer is’ is not seen as a priority by most brands across the board.

Research shows that travelers are now open to booking through multiple platforms including social media, voice and chatbots. They also expect to be able to converse with travel brands via chat messaging. This shows a contradiction between where traveler behavior is moving and where the industry is focused—and if revenue generation is a core mobile goal, then going to where the customer is on mobile should be a priority for both airlines and travel brands.

Using the data to inform your digital strategy

The last decade has seen an explosion in mobile culture, spearheaded by the iOS and Android app stores. In the last few years, we’ve seen ‘mobile first’ become ‘mobile only’ in many regions, and platforms like voice, social, and messaging have created new ways for travelers to engage with brands, on their own terms. And while travel apps are still as popular (if not more popular) than ever, users are also now breaking free from your app icon on their home screen.

In 2019, travelers will still use your travel app, but they’re also likely to want to message you through Facebook Messenger, or search for their flight status through Siri, or ask Amazon’s Alexa to check them in. It’s vital that your mobile strategy is ready—download the full report for all the insights on how travelers are using mobile in 2019

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