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The Travel Challenge - Enabling The User Experience

Two weeks ago key players in the travel industry gathered from around the world to discover, debate and capitalize on the latest trends and opportunities in travel at the PhocusWright Conference in Fort Lauderdale. One of the hottest topics on the agenda was how to improve the travelers' experience from booking to actually traveling - and how important mobile is to that process. While mobile devices generate 25 percent of the transactions for the travel industry, that actually lags behind other retail verticals for mobile device sales.

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Mobile spend in the travel vertical is $36 per $100 spend on desktop, compared to the fashion vertical where $86 is spent on mobile per $100 on desktop. There are two key factors to consider to explain why this is the case, the complexity of travel purchases and that many travel sites have yet to be optimized for mobile. Consider the complexity of booking a cruise, which requires more steps, and is considerably more expensive than buying a pair of jeans. And when the experience isn't tailored towards the user's device, pinching, zooming and performance issues can make simple tasks like browsing dates, comparing packages, and entering payment information far more frustrating for consumers. It's no wonder they are more comfortable on desktop.

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It's important to realize that even if travel consumers don't convert immediately on a mobile device, they use multiple devices to perform research and planning. By focusing on reducing friction across these devices, companies can help increase customer satisfaction. Consider that when switching devices, 34 percent of consumers send themselves a link and 39 percent start an entirely new search, according to an Ipsos/Google survey. This shows that travel companies not only need to provide a great user experience across devices, but also across data points by providing an easy way to save their progress when transitioning between devices. If 39 percent of users start an entirely new search, it can cost the travel company in a variety of ways, like having to pay for multiple PPC clicks or losing a sale because the user chooses a different website during the search process. 

However, once travel is actually booked, mobile is king. This drives innovation by industry leaders to identify and enable new ways to benefit travelers. For example, only a few short years ago you would have perhaps taken a cab to the airport, checked in (hoping that your flight has not been delayed or cancelled) and received a paper ticket. Now travelers are requesting an Uber from their mobile device, which is also used to identify if there are flight delays or cancellations, check into a flight, and receive a boarding pass. Upon arrival at your destination, travelers can check into their hotel to jumpstart that process.


Here are a few ways travel companies are improving the mobile experience for travelers:

  • United Airlines is currently testing beacons in Newark airport, which can be used to help travelers navigate to United Clubs, restaurants and their departure gates among other points of interests.
  • Marriott is putting the customer experience first by providing a responsive website and apps for mobile and the Apple watch. Through their app customers can book, check in and out and text chat directly with an on property concierge before and during their stay.

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After hearing from many different travel brands at PhocusWright, one of my key takeaways is that most find apps work great for loyalty based customers and that many apps were only usable if you had joined a loyalty program. This highlights the need for travel companies to have a responsive website that helps provide a seamless customer experience for infrequent travelers or those who haven't joined a loyalty program. When considering the ways travelers use technology, especially on the go on cellular networks or congested airport Wi-Fi, it's clear that a fast experience is no longer a luxury, but a requirement. That's why more industry leading travel brands take advantage of caching technology that's ensure content is closest to end users, so they will have a high-performing, seamless experience whether they are in Shanghai or LA.

Learn how Akamai helps the top global travel brands provide a great experience for their customers here.

1 Comment

great ux article for app optimization.