The following is a guest contributed post from Eran Feinstein, the founder of 3G Direct Pay Gro.
People are now, more than ever before, hyperconnected to their mobile phones. As such, mobile devices have transformed nearly every aspect of daily life, and that includes the way travelers research and book their trips.
Companies like Delta Airlines and Hilton now have mobile-friendly sites, and even their own mobile apps, where users can easily book and pay for travel arrangements, among other actions. The percentage of mobile users booking trips online has surpassed that of desktop users, with an estimated 51.8% of travelers arranging their travel plans via mobile device in 2016.
One of the main forces that led to the adoption of mobile travel bookings, and thus the entire travel industry revolution, is the advancements in the mobile payments space. How has this helped to drive this revolution? Here are 5 ways:
1. Increased Bookings for Travel Operators
Multiple studies have shown that an increasing number of consumers are booking travel arrangements on their mobile phones – a number that has been increasing steadily for the past six quarters. The travel industry, specifically, boasts over 50% growth year-over-year in mobile.
Consequently, many travel operators, such as hotels and car rentals, have experienced a large increase in last-minute bookings and even same-day bookings. Research firm Phocuswright reveals that a full 72% of mobile hotel bookings through an online travel agency (OTA) were made within a day of the stay, and 30% were done through the hotel’s website. Additionally, nearly 90% of mobile hotel bookings were made within a week or less prior to the stay.
Consequently, had these operators enabled customers to book and pay for their travel arrangements only on desktop computers or over the phone, they would have lost over half of their bookings to their mobile-friendly competition.
1. Faster Decision-Making for the Consumer
The modern consumer has come to expect quick turnaround, both in terms of search results and bookings. Once a customer has selected his ideal vendor, mobile payments enable a simple booking process in just a couple of quick steps, allowing the consumer to complete the booking and continue with his day in a matter of seconds. From researching the trip all the way up through booking, the process is much faster and streamlined now that people can pay for their travel arrangements via mobile device, as opposed to waiting until they get to a computer, physically going to a travel agent’s office.
With integrated mobile payment options and a simple booking process, travelers are more likely to make faster decisions, leading to greater sales for travel operators. When people are given the convenience of quick and easy booking, they take less time to consider their options and are more likely to book immediately.
Mobile devices are like a Swiss Army knife – they can perform a wide variety of functions, making people’s lives easier, and booking travel arrangements on the go is no exception.
2. Efficient Upselling Abilities
By enabling rapid and efficient mobile payment and booking services, companies are able to sell more complimentary services to their customers. For example, someone who has booked a flight will, most likely, need to reserve accommodations. Likewise, a customer who has booked accommodations may also need a rental car. Consequently, travel companies can offer these supplementary services, either provided by their own companies or as affiliates, to customers, increasing both their own income and brand satisfaction among customers.
Online travel sites, like Orbitz and Expedia, do this, expertly, and continuously offer supplementary services during the booking process and immediately after its completion. Suggesting a car or hotel in addition to a flight reminds the consumer that he needs this additional service, as well, and provides a simple and streamlined way of booking and paying, immediately.
If the consumer already paid for travel arrangements on a travel mobile site or app in the past, or if he is paying via ewallet, the payment details are already stored, making booking extra services even easier. Mobile booking payments are often performed within 2-3 clicks, matching the customer’s need for speed, so instead of taking the time to research other services separately, they will prefer to book it all at once for convenience.
As many travelers are on the go, especially those performing last-minute bookings, the availability and ease of getting such ancillary services provide them with a simple solution for all of their travel needs, while increasing sales for the travel operator.
3. Personalized User Experience
As travel operators have noticed the spike in mobile bookings, they have increasingly upgraded their mobile sites to deliver the best user experience possible and maximize the chances of conversion.
Mobile sites are now more personalized than ever before, and they provide the consumer with relevant content by utilizing GPS capabilities and browser history. Travel apps can offer complementary information and content that relate to the traveler’s destination, such as weather reports and flight updates, but they can also use highly targeted marketing tactics to generate more conversions.
For example, an international hotel chain could offer a guest discounts on spa packages or coupons for museums based on travel destination, search queries, purchase history and personal interests. This, combined with integrated mobile payment options, have given travel operators leverage for significantly increasing sales.
Check out this video for an example of how mobile technologies can offer travel customers a personalized and enhanced experience:
These days, consumers expect a highly personalized customer experience. Employing methods like these helps customers enjoy using the app and develops customer loyalty and brand strength.
4. Improved Customer Experience
Mobile Point of Sale (mPOS) solutions have enabled restaurants and operators to provide better customer experience by reducing wait times for orders and inquiries, processing transactions quickly and digitally, and giving an overall seamless experience that matches the demands of today’s on-the-go consumer.
Additionally, the availability of mPOS devices enables agents to upsell additional products or services – customers can pay on the spot, without waiting. For example, a guide of an excursion can offer additional excursions to his passengers. If the passengers wish to sign up for an additional excursion, they can do so immediately. By having an mPOS device, the guide is able to accept payments, and the passengers do not need to return to the tour company offices to register for the excursion. The advantage for the travelers is clear: they are able to quickly book an additional tour without any effort on their end.
Achievement unlocked — Customer experience improved.
Travel operators are already experiencing a large increase in mobile bookings due to mobile payment capabilities. By offering a mobile payment system, travel merchants are not only enabling an easier and faster booking service for their customers, but ensuring they will not lose their customers to their competition. Consumers are no longer loyal to one service provider. Given a better, more personalized user experience, they will select the company that saves them time and considerable effort by offering mobile booking and payment options. Travel industry operators would be wise to accept that mobile payments are a requirement and design their mobile sites, apps, and offerings to match the changing needs of their customers.
Eran Feinstein is the founder of 3G Direct Pay Group, a global e-commerce and online payments solutions provider for the travel and related industries. With over 14 years of experience leading technology, sales, marketing and operation teams, Eran is an authority in the East African e-commerce and payments arena. He’s also an avid marathon runner.