With increasing numbers of people using smartphones to assist in their travel planning, mobile apps for the travel industry are becoming more popular. To provide the best solution, developers should keep in mind three vital pieces of information. Minoo Patel, director of Travel Transportation & Logistics Projects at NIIT Technologies, explains.
There is no doubt that today’s airline travel industry is migrating ever more toward mobile applications. As reported in a recent article, the Ypartnership/Harrison Group 2010 Portrait of American Travellers, which surveyed travelers with an annual household income of $50,000 or more, found that 47 percent had navigated a destination using built-in smart-phone GPS functionality and 46 percent had searched for the latest information on flight schedules and delays on their smart phones.
So if mobile technologies are here to stay, how can IT solution providers ensure that you are doing what it takes to have the best solutions possible? The following are the top three ways you can create successful mobile technology solutions for the airline travel industry.
1. First, and most importantly, you must know your target audience.
For example, business travelers have different expectations and needs than leisure travelers. Business travelers tend to need more booking, cancelation and re-booking mobile tools as well as more options for affiliated travel services (i.e. car, hotel, airport lounges).
Moreover, business travelers are almost always members of an airline’s loyalty program, so any successful mobile app will want to integrate with such programs. Leisure travelers, on the other hand, tend to not have volatile itineraries, so they have less of a need for booking, cancellation and exchange tools. They typically are not loyalty program members but rather gravitate toward destination information and ancillary group or family product offerings from merchandise partners, which the airline might have.
2. Second, an IT company must identify the pros and cons of both native and Web-based apps and chose the type that is best suited for the challenge.
For example, native smartphone apps offer a richer user experience and are therefore more aesthetically satisfying to use than Web-based apps. Native apps enable a much more granular level of programming capabilities, providing better opportunities to visually differentiate your product. Moreover, native apps are easier to integrate with other apps on mobile devices like calendars, phonebooks, cameras and maps. Finally, native apps provide local storage capabilities, which allow for easier personalization. On the other hand, native apps operate with separate code development effort for each platform That necessitates more effort and thus more expense for development, testing and maintenance.
3. Third, an IT company must know the travel app’s purpose and how this purpose relates to your overall business brand.
Questions like the following must be asked: What do we expect this travel app to achieve for the user and for the business? Does the travel app have significant interaction-value? Does the app represent a revenue-generating channel or an information-generating channel?
Knowing answers to those questions helps to define the scope of functionality that will be offered throughout the travel app. When this scope is determined, a company can then manage cost, effort, time to market and, most importantly, expectations that surround the app, both internal to the company as well as with their customers.
Once IT solution providers understand these factors, they can also predict more accurately the travel app’s successes and failures and devise proper schemata for how such results can be measured. A mobile travel app must not confuse the IT solution provider's client's customers. It must relate to the client's core business in an understandable way that echoes the IT solution provider's customer's core message. The app must not look and feel like it is an afterthought, disconnected from business strengths.
If an app has solely been developed as a quick fix, with the intent of “getting-something-out-there” for market-share or image sake, the app runs a high risk of failure and thus negative customer feedback. In short, an app that aligns customer-need with the best-suited technology and the brand’s key strengths, messaging and aesthetics — is a mobile travel app that will not fail.