As Hotel Tech Report argued earlier this year, “the mobilization of everything” has reached the travel industry. Google’s analysis proves that mobile-first is now the preferred way to travel: 46% of leisure travelers and 61% of business travelers use a smartphone to check into their flight. Smartphone sales we’ve almost reached peak market saturation – meaning virtually every traveler will manage their hotel reservation, check-in for their flight, and book tours entirely using a mobile device.
Travel companies must keep up by hiring developers to build mobile-first solutions: from mobile-optimized booking, payment, and management solutions to customer-facing apps. Here’s what travel agencies and hotels need to know about the arrival of the mobile-first traveler.
Mobile pay is coming to hotels
Mobile pay solutions – including Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, PayPal, Venmo, Square Cash, Zelle, and many others – have caught on in countries like China and India. While the US lags behind in adopting mobile pay solutions, hotels are beginning to invest in mobile pay solutions in anticipation of this trend growing exponentially.
Research by McKinsey indicates that eventually, guests will expect to be able to pay however they wish. “Mobile commerce” is forecasted to reach 70% by 2022, meaning that expectations to use mobile payment will certainly infiltrate the hospitality industry. Current barriers to widespread adoption include variations in banking regulations globally, as well as an oversaturation of mobile payment options. “Apple, Google, and Samsung each have their own mobile payment tools, not to mention the dozens of smaller vendors that work with various restrictions depending on your location,” explains Hotel Tech Report.
The challenge for developers in the travel industry will be to create technology that allows hotels to accept any form of payment, securely, and without violating any banking regulations.
Apps are changing the hotel booking experience
The ability to book flights, hotels, and travel experiences via smartphone is changing how travelers plan and make reservations. “For US travelers, 72% of all mobile bookings made happen within a 48-hour window prior to the booking. Travelers want more flexibility, which mobile devices have delivered leading to a greater propensity to book last-minute,” writes one industry analyst.
The rise of mobile apps in the travel industry has turned many travel purchases into impulse buys. Apps like HotelTonight or Flight Out gamify aspects of the booking experience, increasing the numbers of last-minute bookings and creating new opportunities for travel companies. Find ways to integrate deals and last-minute discounts into your mobile experience to capture more customers and grow your business.
Texting and AI improve customer service
Travel companies can also use mobile to communicate with guests efficiently and resolve customer service issues with high user satisfaction. Texting has become one of the most popular ways for hotels to communicate with their guests – hotels that adopt guest message automation have seen an increase in their guest engagement by over 25%. Research shows that people want to engage with travel companies even when they aren’t traveling; offers and promotions sent via text are well-received, especially when a traveler gets access to a last-minute deal.
Likewise, hotels use SMS messaging to engage with guests before, during, and after their stay to improve guest satisfaction and provide a unique, tailored experience. Automated messaging tools like ALICE automate pre-arrival and post-arrival messages so the hotel can help a guest plan their trip and improve guest feedback.
Canadian airline WestJet also experimented with AI to streamline and improve their customer service. Juliet was an AI chatbot hosted on Facebook Messenger. The goal of Juliet was to supplement their traditional 24/7 social care customer service with an automated tool that could handle support requests and route more complicated asks to the correct agent team. “As time went on, Juliet eventually handled 50% of WestJet’s total enquiries on Messenger,” reports Facebook’s case study. The artificial intelligence and automation Juliet offered increased the airline’s net positive sentiment by 24% and increased the amount of total enquiries WestJet’s customer service team could support by five times.
Mobile-first travel means more flexible ways to pay, better customer service through new channels of communication, and an overall change in how travelers discover and book their journey.