Cape Town - Have you ever been in a foreign or unfamiliar place and your mobile phone dies on you? Or perhaps you are dead in the water without network access or wifi connectivity?
These days it boils down to much more than being unable to dial up your near and dear when required.
It very often means not knowing where you’re going as you are without your online map app nor can social media updates and check-ins happen. But more and more, we’re storing essential travel information on our mobile phones as airlines issue mobile boarding passes and booking confirmations are sent directly to travel apps designed to collate all of this essential information into one convenient spot.
Information and messaging needs to be clearly understood
As mobile audiences show exceptional year on year growth, by as much as 100% in some instances, the clear message from the WTM Africa Millennials and Mobiles panel discussion is “Be clear rather than clever” with your mobile website.
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Chaired by Nick Hall of ThinkDigital.Travel with the panel made up of Revinate’s Alana Witte, VoiveMap’s Iain Manley and Velma Corcoran from Cape Town Tourism, studies into the use of mobile content show that it’s important to have a focused approach – taking into consideration the needs of the traveller on the go.
According to a ThinkDigital.Travel survey key requirements for mobile are short text, good visuals related to the experience or destination and maps. However while the study took into consideration the millennials age group, as in those born from 1981 to 1997, Corcoran said it’s obvious that these trends don’t only apply to the digital native.
And while it is no secret that Africa has been leading the pack when it comes to mobile technology development, the cost of data still remains a big issue.
Hall stated that airlines had managed to supersede hotels in the advancement of creating a seamless mobile experience for visitor and in this regard hotels are essentially missing out on fostering a targeted and more personal relationship with their guests.
Mobile bookings that are facilitated through a mobile exchange allows for the sharing of data related to frequency as well as the likes and dislikes of the traveller. This in turn allows travel companies to build and segment their databases accordingly, allowing for a more targeted service message for their guests.
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In creating this seamless mobile experience – hoteliers can tailor a rich experience for their guests that could lead to as much as a 20% to 25% increase in conversion rate, as well as build loyalty, said Witte.
“If a hotelier offered to make sure I had a mobile connection and sim card waiting for me in my room before I’ve even landed in the country they’re not only blowing me away, they’re also ensuring I can share my experience immediately,” said Witte.
The App vs the mobile-optimised website
While it is important to consider exactly what information the traveller is after when in a particular destination when it comes to mobile content, the same targeted approach applies to apps.
“When building for mobile be aware of what the majority of visitors are coming to your site for, rather than trying to be all things to everybody,” said Corcoran.
As Google starts to clamp down on websites that are no optimised for mobile, travel businesses should certainly scramble to stay abreast of the mobile arms race – but this does not mean just having an app just for the sake of it.
Rather than having an app version of the site, Corcoran said Cape Town Tourism is looking at building a series of different apps that talk to travellers for specific reasons and solve specific problems.
Travel apps that solve problems are accessed more regularly
“It’s important to ask the question ‘What problem does that app solve for users?’ and apply a focused and single purpose to your approach,” said Corcoran.
Corcoran highlighted three instances where she thought this approach was applied successfully, saying that a mobile hackathon was not that far off in relation to making great mobile ideas a reality in South Africa.
- The GoMetro app that crowd sources and aggregates Metrorail passenger experiences in real time allowing travellers to get on the ground info related to their route and destination.
- Snapscan allows small vendors to bypass the high charges related with card payments and increases their ability to sell their goods to tourists who don't want to carry cash.
- AppsAgainst Ebola lets those working in clinics in affected areas to access real-time stats, uploaded and aggregated directly thereby eliminating the need for sanitation of files or risk of contamination in the administrative process.
Ultimately the panel reinforced the view that the more freely available wifi is made to travellers, by those in the travel and tourism industry, the more original and unique stories can be shared.
The 2nd World Travel Market Africa Exhibition is taking place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre until Friday 17 April. Last year’s inaugural event attracted 3 000 travel professionals from over 60 countries.