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Can Apps Help Streamline Mobile Travel Sales?

Mobile travel apps preferred over companies' mobile sites

Smartphone purchases are on the rise in the travel industry: eMarketer forecasts that nearly 26 million US consumers will book travel via such a device this year.

The convenience of smartphones, coupled with mobile-only discounts, is driving significant growth in last-minute hotel sales. With smartphone spending on hotels surging, industry marketers are trying to crack the code on how best to streamline the mobile purchase path, according to a new eMarketer report, “Travel Purchases on the Go: Mobile Hotel Booking Surges, but Other Transactions Lag.”

Travel marketers say mobile apps can help streamline mobile sales. “Companies that are serious about commerce and trying to get people to buy—whether it’s hotel or rooms or flights or anything in between—are investing in mobile applications,” said Will Pinnell, director of mobile strategy and traveler solutions at Sabre Holdings.

March 2013 polling by JiWire (now called Ninth Decimal) found that travelers preferred app experiences over the mobile web. In the survey, US mobile Wi-Fi users overwhelmingly listed apps designed by travel aggregators, airlines and hotels as more important than those same companies’ mobile websites.

Apps offer several benefits over mobile websites for smartphone users looking to make a purchase. Most importantly, apps are designed with the “native” feature set of the device in mind, leading to more user-friendly experiences.

One native feature of travel apps is the ability to save personal details like credit card information, loyalty program numbers or favorite hotels. Experts say their most frequent customers gravitate to apps instead of the mobile web because of this personalization.

Native apps also utilize smartphone location features to customize searches for nearby hotels. A traveler looking for a hotel can see relevant properties based on his or her phone’s location without providing any additional details. While this experience is possible on the mobile web, it is often more effectively deployed within a mobile app. In April 2013, Hospitality Technology found that 38% of hospitality executives polled worldwide had mobile apps that allowed property searches using mobile GPS functionality, and that number is expected to grow as brands and travelers get more comfortable with the technology.

Get more on this topic with the full eMarketer report, “Travel Purchases on the Go: Mobile Hotel Booking Surges, but Other Transactions Lag.”

This report answers these key questions:

  • Why are travelers gravitating to smartphone purchases of hotels more than other travel services?
  • How should other travel marketers streamline the mobile purchase path to capture more on-the-go purchases?
  • What types of travel services have potential for future growth among travelers who buy with their smartphones?

eMarketer releases over 200 analyst reports per year, which are only available to eMarketer corporate subscribers.

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