Mobile - at the heart of the technology revolution
Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), chatbots, sharing economy, and augmented reality - in the interaction between technology and end user they all have one important denominator – Mobile!
There is already a whopping 5 billion mobile phone users in the world - and it is growing. Anywhere you go, you see people surgically attached to their mobiles, and more people are now using mobile instead of desktop computers for their internet activities. This provides a great business opportunity for companies who embrace this trend.
The technology revolution
Internet of Things is all about connecting devices, allowing data to be transferred between objects over a network without the requirement of human-to-human/human-to-computer interaction. The transferred data has a wide range of uses, but is often used to determine status of connected devices. Still, IoT can be used for collecting/transmitting all sort of data from the physical environment.
For example, beacons (“small Bluetooth radio transmitters”) can be used for transmitting unique ID number that tells a listening device (for instant a smartphone) which beacon it’s next to, this information can then be used for helping travellers to find their way to the gate.
From robots to virtual reality
Then, there are chatbots – computer software which holds a ‘conversation’ by audio or text with the user – and artificial intelligence (usually embedded in the chatbot so it can perform more complicated tasks). One day, interactive chatbots may replace hotel check-in queues and call waiting systems for booking or changing flights.
Chatbots are already taking off in Asia Pacific where mobile penetration and app usage is extremely high. Take China’s most popular chat platform, WeChat, as an example. It already has 100,000 brands signed up which are becoming ‘friends’ with users. China Southern Airlines uses WeChat right through the travel cycle – from the inspiration phase until the post-trip experience. Since 2013, the airline has also been handling flight check-ins through its WeChat platform. Expect to see much wider use of chatbots in the future. This is a particularly good way to communicate with millennials who prefer communicating through texts.
Last but not least, don’t forget virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) activities – such as the TimeLooper app where you can travel back in time - which are becoming more and more popular, and increasingly viewed on smart devices.
Think mobile first
Companies that are not thinking ‘mobile only’ – or even ‘mobile first’ design - are going to lose out. If a site is not mobile-friendly, travellers will move to another site and you will lose their business. Dissatisfied customers might complain about your site on social media, damaging your brand and reputation. At some point in the future, there will be no way around it. Companies that don't have a clear - and good - mobile strategy will vanish off the radar.
Short term pain for long term gain
Investing in a good mobile strategy and the technology to support it, will pay off in the long term. Why? First of all, because it will change the way travel retailers interact with travellers from the moment they book their trip until they return home. Secondly, it is easier to retain the loyalty of app users than desktop users, who tend to hop from one website to another. Mobile users tend to stay ‘faithful’ to a limited number of apps for their news, travel, music etc. Thirdly, mobile opens up new monetisation opportunities as you can push relevant notifications at the right time in the traveller’s journey to support cross-selling and up-selling.
Personalisation – giving people what they want, when they want it and how they want it – will be key to the success of any company’s mobile strategy. The company that cracks this, will be a winner.