The mobile internet has come a long way from the days of text-only WAP sites with ultra-long loading times. A ComScore survey in 2010 showed that almost 20% of cell phone users in the USA had a smartphone, and with new models being introduced all the time it is safe to say that this figure will only increase. If you’re not already thinking about your travel brand’s mobile strategy, now is the time to start.
How should you do it?
There are several things to consider when you look at taking your brand mobile, but the first thing is to look at what you want to achieve from your efforts. Are you looking on this as a way to make things easier for your existing customers, or
as an acquisition tool? How do you want your customers to use your mobile offering – for information on the move, for booking or for some other purpose? What would success on a mobile platform look like for your brand?
Once you have established what you want your mobile offering to achieve for your business, you need to look at the best way for you to get started. There are two main ways to develop your mobile offering: creating an app or making a mobile-friendly site, both of which are possible using EAN’s flexible APIs.
The key difference between these two options is that an app is downloaded to the user’s smartphone, whereas a mobile-friendly site should be viewable to anyone using the internet on their mobile device.
All About Apps!
Developing a travel booking app could be great for your business, but it is important to consider the pros and cons first.
Here are some of the great things about apps:
- Once a customer has downloaded your app, your brand has a presence on their mobile device. This gives you a great way to contact your most engaged customers directly by publishing updates to the app.
- Developing an innovative and unique app can be a great way to create buzz around your brand.
- Creating an app will involve an upfront development cost – use this opportunity to make an interface which is easy to update and you can minimise ongoing running costs.
And some drawbacks and words of warning:
- You will need to devote both development and marketing resource to your app to make it successful – no matter how well you have handled your site’s SEO strategy, you need to start from scratch to get your app well ranked in an app store if you want your app to be popular and to attract new customers.
- You need to consider which platforms you want to develop for – iOS and Android are two of the most popular and they are very different platforms to work with and to maximise your app’s reach you may want to develop for both. You will also need to consider developing for platforms like Windows 7 Mobile, BlackBerry and Simbian, all of which will require additional development resource.
- Your app will need a lot of attention to keep it ranking well and making you money. An app without regular updates and useful content will go the same way as a website without regular updates and useful content – forgotten and ignored!
The decision to build an app could revolutionise your business, or it could be wasted investment. You need to truthfully assess how much money, time and effort you are able to devote to its creation, marketing and upkeep before taking the leap.
If you are creating your EAN affiliate site from scratch, making sure it is mobile-friendly is something you should consider anyway. The mobile segment is not going to decline, and people are coming to expect to be able to access any site using their mobile devices.
With so many mobile devices on the market, from smartphones to tablets, it can seem a daunting task to create your site in a mobile-friendly way, but using techniques to create a ‘responsive’ website will ensure your site displays not just correctly, but in a way tailored to the user’s screen size.
If you have an established site, a full re-write may be out of the question in the short term, but in many cases it is possible to use mobile-specific stylesheets to repurpose your existing content for mobile devices and smaller screens. This could be a relatively quick way to make your EAN XML site viewable to mobile users.
Creating a fully-functional mobile site could also help you with future app development – creating a hybrid app whereby your site is bundled into an app “skin” could be a nice way to hit the mobile segment from all angles as part of the same development cycle.
All this said, one last point on this opportunity needs to be made: if you want to go mobile, do it well! The mobile segment is only going to increase in competitiveness and quality – and if you don’t have the expertise (or the money to buy the expertise!) to create a great quality app or a fully-functioning mobile site using our APIs, then this may be a project you need to put a hold on until you can devote the time and attention to it that will be needed to make your mobile offering a profitable success.