Do you remember the Nokia 3310? Ten years ago it was the biggest selling mobile phone in the world and Nokia was the undisputed king of mobile. In 2007 when the iPhone launched, the engineers famously dismissed it, because the screen cracked easily when the new-fangled device was dropped. A user would never adopt such a fragile device, they thought.
Today, there are millions of people walking around with iPhones with cracked screens (including me!). Nokia was bought by Microsoft and today, in revenue terms, the iPhone is larger than the whole of Microsoft. This is a stark parable about the pace and power of the shift to mobile, in only a few short years.
Mobile isn't a trend, it's a mind-set. The majority of us live our lives through mobile devices and apps so we expect the companies we purchase goods and services from to understand this and make our lives easier. Given the fact that travel is an industry reliant upon 'on the move' transactions, mobile technology and travel should be synonymous.
In a recent survey by CWT, travel managers said that mobile technology will have the highest impact on travel programmes over the next 12 months. An average business traveller checks their smartphone 34 times daily so there are plenty of opportunities out there for savvy corporate travel companies that wish to grab them.
Currently, traveller expectations are outweighing the reality of the situation that businesses offer in terms of mobile. The majority of business travellers expect their TMCs to offer mobile apps. CWT found that 61% of surveyed travellers said it was important for mobile to be part of the travel programme.
Additionally, our own research has shown travellers expect to be constantly connected while on the move, with a total of 90% expecting Wi-Fi availability in hotels and 86% expecting Wi-Fi at airports. Mobile is not a bubble or a 'fad' and is here to stay. So what does this mean for travel managers, corporate travel industry and TMCs?
The power of a mobile strategy
Customer service has been revolutionised in recent years as part of the move to digital forms of communication. We expect our issues to be addressed immediately through a variety of platforms including email, online chats and social media. Mobile can help build loyalty, or perhaps compliance, - never before have companies been able to interact with customers anywhere at any time and start a meaningful dialogue with them.
A great mobile strategy, however, is not just about mobile; it's a cohesive message between all touchpoints which encourages travellers and travel managers to interact more. To develop the best mobile strategy for your business, it's important to carefully consider the challenges you face. What processes do your employees follow that could do with updating? How could things improve by enhancing mobile technology?
Continued belowMobile payment and hotel check-in are just some of the growing mobile uses. ©iStock/poba
From challenges to opportunities
The main frustrations for travellers when it comes to mobile are around connectivity, usability and functionality. Mobile booking has grown in importance but has yet to overtake computer bookings due to some basic accessibility and ability issues. Currently, the biggest frustration is screen size — 45% of business travellers feel that their screen is too small to see pictures according to a PhoCusWright report. However, the growing use of tablets and the size of new smartphones should help alleviate this.
Connectivity is now also improving; Wi-Fi is becoming increasingly available on flights and is considered the most important hotel ancillary amongst business travellers. However, 34% still feel that mobile connection is still too slow. Functionality is another cause of frustration. Bearing this in mind, it comes as no great surprise that 30% of travellers currently believe that mobile apps aren't as useful as the ones on their computer.
Travel managers and TMCs that consider and address these issues are likely to reap the rewards. It's critical to get the basics right, especially when you consider that 27% of business travellers have changed their mind about a booking based on the ease of use when it comes to that brand's mobile presence. The next generation of mobile apps for corporate travel will need to be pro-active and hyper-personalised.
As time is precious for the busy business traveller, apps offering information and time saving services are the most sought after, with 64% of travellers wanting real time travel information by mobile. Apps which allow the traveller check in/out and queue jump will continue to be favoured.
Additionally, predictive apps that put the traveller's mind at ease about connections are also in demand. Detailed airport map apps that guide travellers towards useful services such as currency exchange, ATMs etc are also turning out to be increasingly popular. Another key opportunity is to integrate messages on policy within the booking experience, for example 'Hotel X offers a corporate rate'.
Achieving the perfect balance
Mobile for corporate travel is a real balancing act as travellers demand access and personalisation while travel managers focus on the element of control so they can track their travellers' whereabouts, safety and spend.
According to Mobile Travel Technologies (MTT), travellers are happy to be contacted and alerted if they believe the messages are relevant to them, help to make their journey smoother or offer them extras like an upgrade. Relevance and timing are essential in developing reliance and interaction.
Information-based push notifications top the list of importance for business travellers. Almost half of travellers rate upgrade offers highly while more than a third are interested in airport and in-flight offers, enabling them to maximise their business travel experience. Today's traveller operates in a world where messages and actions are succinct and immediate so travel policies need to reflect this by being concise and efficient.
Taking the right approach for the future
Today's business traveller requires information 'on demand', which has implications for the travel manager in terms of how they work together and communicate. Travellers are increasingly interacting on social media and may be in direct contact with travel providers, so it is important that travel managers take this into consideration and adopt a social approach if required. Additionally, engaging with travel providers and agencies that offer mobile solutions to help business travellers with their journeys and also encourage compliance and productivity can only be a positive.
Mobile is set to continue as the way of life for the majority of us, so those that fully embrace a mobile approach which addresses key challenges and is tailored to the needs of the business traveller should definitely see the benefits.
Even as we speak, the mobile space continues to evolve. WeChat, the Chinese mobile messaging service has 450 million users and 70 million outside of China. It features flight-search, payments and even the ability to order room service from WeChat-enabled hotels, all from one integrated app. Mobile strategies need to constantly evolve to reflect such change.