app montage
965 days ago
 

Technical issues slowing down the mobile explosion in travel

NB: This is a guest article by Alan Kersley, managing director of Appi Holidays.

With 94% of mobiles projected to be smartphones by 2014, handheld devices will rule the world for web access and travel research in the not-too-distant future.

Many travel companies have started “mobilising” their product, but still other parts of the industry are running the risk of falling behind in this technological evolution.

The fact is that the screen on a mobile device is starting, for some at least, to become the standard browsing window, especially around the home.

Furthermore, there is, supposedly an app for everything.

app montage

But add to this the fact that flight and hotel providers are already doing good business in mobile bookings and those not already in the game need to surrender to reality.

You may not want to believe that people will actually book their next trip on a mobile, but it’s just around the corner.

But here is where it gets interesting from a technology perspective. Booking flights or a hotel room are probably the simplest products to transfer to smartphones.

The data is fairly simple to handle and the booking technology is usually based on more recent and open systems.

So where does that leave package holidays or tours, cruises or even dynamic packaging?

And what about the “up-selling” of extras, such as car hire, insurance, or excursions? How do we make this product work for the consumer on the mobile?

These types of products are far more complex with plenty of legacy systems, product components, complex data structures, multiple APIs (or none!) and payment systems to deal with.

Multiply this by the increasing number of suppliers, add-ons and cross-selling that the online marketplace has driven the industry into, and you begin to wonder if it could ever be made to work on a mobile.

Those of us working in travel technology have largely dealt with making all this work online as transparently as possible – for both consumers and agents.

But we are still working to the legacy structures of data and forcing the consumer to choose very specific criteria to find any product – airports + destination + dates + PAX = limited number of results.

Will this translate to mobiles? I don’t think so.

I believe we have yet to face the biggest challenge: the simplification of travel purchasing, configured to match the simplicity of smartphone interface and app designs.

Expectations will be high and we can’t continue with the same old criteria. Customers demand more choice, more information, more options.

We need to think outside of the box and use ALL of the available data – inventory, pricing, rich content and user generated content – to streamline the product selection process in a way that fits the device and is tailored to each customer’s needs.

We then need to utilise the features of the smartphone – such as locations services, cameras, messaging – and then tie it all up with social media. And pronto!

The end result ought to be a simple, technology-transparent journey for the customer, giving them the ability to research, shortlist, book, purchase and share their holiday joy along the way.

And if they want to talk to an operator or agent, then hey, isn’t that what mobiles are for?

Travel companies used to say that the holiday experience begins with the brochure; next it was the telephone operator; ten years ago it was their homepage; today it’s the palm of the customers’ hand.

They just don’t know it yet.

NB: This is a guest article by Alan Kersley, managing director of Appi Holidays.

 
 
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About the Writer :: Special Nodes

Special Nodes is the byline under which Tnooz publishes articles by guest authors from around the industry.

 

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  1. CityBot

    Great thoughts! I believe Hipmunk is addressing some of the points that you highlighted, mainly simplification of experience while also giving the user more control over the results. I hope you will come and see CityBot present at PhocusWright Travel Innovation Summit, as we have something very cool to show that goes further in this direction on mobile.

     
  2. Alan Kersley

    Some great input here, thanks! I think the key point to take away from this is that the CRS (Reservation Systems) and current distribution systems (GDS etc) don’t have the capacity or ability to aggregate all the relevant data and simplify the booking journey for the mobile user.

    Inevitably, this will lead to companies aggregating all the available functions, content, data, media etc., and redesigning the flow and delivery for the consumer into an acceptable journey for the mobile environment.

    Our own solution, Appi Holidays, is one such step toward such a solution, but there is still plenty of work to be done to reach our own perception of the ultimate mobile booking solution. We are working on it!

    Rgds
    Alan Kersley
    http://www.appiholidays.com
    from Travel Affinity Ltd

     
  3. Allen Gibson

    I feel the technical challenge is only part, and perhaps the EASIER, part of the problem to be overcome, Alan.

    As a mar-comm specialist, much of the challenge of my work is getting clients to even begin to THINK about structuring content to meet the user’s needs, versus trying to broadcast content THEY want the user to have.

    The complex informational ecosystem you describe is likely to make matters worse, not better, for a good while. Getting mar-comm to catch up to the technology will be an ongoing challenge, one that is rarely met today. I’ve just been booking flights/rooms/cars for an upcoming trip to Kansas, and find the ‘going around in circles’ of booking/deal sites to be growing increasingly irritating, and of declining value.

    Too much info is never the solution to my problem.

    Cheers,
    Allen

     
  4. Gil

    Well written Adam. I also love the trail from Norm and Timothy… Technology will morph to allow metasearch alignment of UGC, supplier authorised content and social advertising and enable the user to make better decisions by having applicable information at their fingertips.

     
  5. Timothy O'Neil-Dunne

    I share the concern that the legacy structures of Travel are no longer capable of addressing the user access layer demands both in technology and process (oh yes and those pesky consumers).

    The piece on big data I wrote http://www.tnooz.com/2011/08/15/news/ten-reasons-why-big-data-will-change-the-travel-industry/ is relevant to this issue. I believe that both forces – advanced/broader technically more capable user devices and big data services will ultimately reform (revolutionize) the way travel processes are handled.

    So here is the critical question. If there is an inevitability from the technology side (user and supply side) then is there a corresponding inevitability from the commercial side?

    In my view the answer should be a natural consequence.

    I think that the Governments feel that this is a relevant issue. The European Commission for example closes today its request for input on a review of the current ECAC regulation 80/2009 on CRSs. This is attempting to review the regulatory structure of the infrastructure of travel via the most common form – IE the GDS based agency distribution systems.

    For input if you are so inclined: For any questions, please contact Jehan Leelananda on (d) +44 113 389 6383, (e) jehan.leelananda@sdgworld.net ;

    Cheers

     
  6. Norm Rose

    Alan,

    I agree with your premise that complex bookings will be difficult to implement on smartphones, but the entire planning and booking cycle is being disrupted by mobile technology. When Amazon releases a $250 Android tablet next month we will see an explosion of lower end tablets being embraced by consumers. When HP foolishly killed their WebOS tablet and dropped it to $99 it suddenly became a must have item causing them to do another round of production. The planning process is being un-tethered by smartphones and tablets and providing an integrated process where planning can be stored and then booked easily via a “book it now” button is the key to link un-tethered planning on tablets with location and contextually based purchasing on smartphones.

     
 
 

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