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Mobile Travel Trends 2018

Mobile is at the heart of true customer engagement for travel brands, with apps leading the way. The latest Travelport research highlights what lies ahead…

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The digital landscape is shifting faster than it ever has before and so too are the needs of travelers. It took airlines 68 years to gain 50 million users, Super Mario Run passed 50 million users in just 8 days1 at the start of 2017 (on iOS only making it even more impressive!).

As we transition through this digital transformation the core challenge for travel brands in today’s fast-moving world is to gain the attention and loyalty of consumers.

Mobile is at the heart of true customer engagement for travel brands, with apps leading the way. While there has been much speculation about the decline in apps, the numbers speak for themselves; in 2017 the total number of app downloads was estimated to hit 197 billion versus 149 billion in 2016 and they are set to increase to over 352 billion in 20213. Furthermore, recent research by Travelport Digital found that 82% of travelers were downloading the same or more travel apps than the previous year.

Last year our experts highlighted the major mobile trends facing travel brands for 2017 – from the rise of intelligent travel assistants and chatbots to apps moving beyond the homescreen and UX being a strategic differentiator, it’s fair to say they were on the money, but what will 2018 bring?

As new technology unfolds the rate of change will accelerate even faster than it ever has before and travel brands need to assess what technology will enable them to connect with their customer at every step of their journey. Smart devices, the messaging explosion, deep personalization, frictionless technology, new mobile payments and voice technology are all shaping how consumers and travelers expect to engage with travel brands in 2018.

We used to think about travel in one place – where brands created a one-stop shop and a traveler’s experience could be catered for in one place. However, the future of travel will be one wherever the customer chooses it to be, using social, messaging, mobile and even their voice to communicate.

Retailers of any category have to go where their customers are, no matter what channel they’re using – because if they don’t, another competitor will.

As we move into next year travel brands need to think about things differently as there are now opportunities to engage at every step and through every platform, with this set to explode even further as new technologies emerge. It’s important to note that this is not about a potential future, it is the here and now – next is now. Travel brands that capture this space will continue to grow and expand, while others that don’t adapt will get left behind.

Throughout this report we reveal the mobile travel trends that the industry believes will be big in 2018, sharing opinions from Travelport Digital experts and drawing valuable insights from our Mobile Travel Trends surveys. So let’s take a look at our compilation of trends that are ready to be embraced by travel brands into 2018 and beyond.

Behavioral Trends

So with our 2018 mobile travel trends revealed, how does consumer behavior align to our predictions? We surveyed 955 end travelers to find out how they are using mobile for travel going into 2018.

We investigated what they use apps for, how often they use them and explored if they were ready or expected to use emerging technology including voice, chatbots and messaging apps.

 

Apps remain the ‘go to’ for traveler engagement

The ongoing growth of mobile has impacted how travelers are using apps on their phone for travel, with app usage stronger than ever. 64% of travelers currently have a travel app installed on their phone and 69% use those apps on a regular basis.

Furthermore, our research found that travelers are still installing multiple airline apps on their phone; 36% of the respondents currently have 2 or more apps installed, giving travel brands a prime opportunity to utilize apps as a marketing platform and drive engagement throughout the end to end travel lifecycle.

With travel brands now putting a key focus on great user experience it comes as no surprise that the primary reason travelers are turning to apps is to search and book a trip, with the added benefits of relevant and timely alerts and notifications making the pull even stronger.

The findings also revealed that app-specific functionality, (such as mobile boarding passes), great user experience, speed and personal preferences play a key part in why travelers prefer to use a travel app over mobile web.

While there is still space for mobile web travel brands, PWAs haven’t quite claimed the app space as of yet – with travelers still preferring to use travel apps over mobile web, especially for searching and booking for a flight as well as to check-in and generate a mobile boarding pass.

User experience plays a key role in brand loyalty

A brand’s reputation is defined by the experiences it delivers. If a user has a bad app experience – if it is difficult to navigate or frustrating to use travelers won’t hesitate to uninstall it, leading to customer churn. It’s imperative that travel brands get the user experience right, building a deep understanding of each of the customer touch points throughout the end-to-end travel lifecycle.

Travel brands who get the user experience right reap the rewards with 85% of travelers saying they would be more likely to book a trip with a brand that had a good user experience, conversely if they had a bad experience on their app 69% would be unlikely to book with that brand again.

Communication at every touchpoint

The power of push notifications is not waning, 52% of travelers find push notifications related to travel useful with trip status and flight search/booking notifications ranked the most important with discounts and offers following closely behind.

However, while push notifications still have their part to play, with the messaging explosion travel brands need to look at every touchpoint through which they can engage their customers, as travelers now expect to be communicated to through whichever channel they choose, primarily preferring apps and messaging platforms.

As we move into 2018, travel brands need to look at every touchpoint with which they can engage with their travelers. It’s no longer just about owning one stage in the journey, there is now an opportunity to own the customer across the entire travel lifecycle – pre, during and even post trip. Those that go to where the customer is, engaging them with relevant, contextual information through the channels the customers choose, will win in 2018.

Conclusion

With technology evolving and growing at such a rapid rate, especially in the mobile travel space, 2018 will bring a huge amount of opportunity for travel brands to engage with their customer throughout the entire end-to-end travel lifecycle. However, it is the consumer who will chose how and where they want to be communicated to.

2018 will bring an abundance of opportunities for travel brands to be clever about the way they engage with travelers in a way that suits them best. It’s no longer about just ‘apps’, travel brands need to also be on other mobile channels including chat, messenger and voice. With changing traveler needs, a ‘one size fits all’ approach will no longer work. Travel brands need to understand and embrace emerging technologies that leverage mobile to further enhance the customer experience, allowing travel brands to be clever about the way they engage with travelers in a way that suits them best.

Throughout this report we have looked at the eight trends that we believe will help travel brands address the challenges they face into 2018 and beyond. From data sharing, enhanced personalization and the elimination of friction points to make the customer journey as seamless as possible right through to the changing face of apps, voice and the messaging explosion bringing travel brands to where the customer is, next year will have it all.

There is so much opportunity and potential on the horizon for the next year, with mobile at it’s core. However, with so much to plan for, it’s important to remember that next year’s mobile strategy doesn’t need to incorporate all the trends, but travel brands need to keep them on the radar going into 2018 and beyond so they don’t get left behind.