Travel in 2014? There’s an app for that!
MOBILE applications (“apps”) are big business these days. It seems that not a week goes by without one of my clients being approached by a mobile app developer with the latest app that will help them to grow their business or engage their customers. Prices for app development have dropped over the past year and there seems to be a lot of (peer) pressure when it comes to companies and mobile apps – if you’re not on the apps bandwagon already, you had better join today and get a mobile app out.
Let’s think about apps for a second or two. There’s little doubt that they can be very beneficial and convenient for organisations and consumers. Dubai’s Road and Transport Authority app lets me look up metro routes and times, recharge my NOL card, pay for parking and tools, and provide a lot of other useful functionality and information. Airline apps let me check-in for my flight from my phone and obtain my boarding pass while I’m in the taxi to the airport. Marriott’s mobile app even lets me check-in to my hotel before arrival or helps me control the technology in the hotels’ meeting rooms.
On the other hand, apps, much like Facebook pages or any other digital platform or technology, can also be a gigantic waste of time and resources for companies. The question isn’t what kind of mobile app your company needs; it’s whether it needs one at all.
Do not let yourself be pressured into launching a mobile app solely for the sake of launching an app. Rather, ask yourself whether you need a mobile app at all. Does it add value to your customers? Does it add value to your operations? If your answer is yes, fine, go ahead; else spend your marketing dollars on something that makes more sense.
Cost-wise, it’s entirely feasible for small and medium travel business to introduce mobile apps. The benefits can be considerable – you’re gaining access to customer data, you can benefit from an additional communication channel with your top customers, and you can put your company literally in the palm of the hands of your customers. Although development costs have decreased, it’s worth spending money on creating a really good rather than just average mobile app.
A good mobile app shouldn’t just be a copy of your website. It should provide your customers with functionality that makes their lives easier and turns them into loyal users of your products or services. A great example of a genuinely useful travel app is TripIt (www.tripit.com) – it makes organising travel plans a breeze and saves a lot of time and efforts during travels. If you’re not using it already, try it out today (it’s free, although there is a premium version available, too). TripIt should be your benchmark when it comes to deploying mobile apps. Today’s customers probably have a multitude of apps on their devices, but they will only use yours if it adds value to their daily lives. If they don’t use your app, you’re not getting any return – not money-wise and not customer data-wise.
The next time an app developer calls, ask them to put themselves in your customers shoes and come up with an app idea that adds value to all users, including yourself. Perhaps most importantly, also ask them about app distribution and updating – uploading your shiny new mobile app to one of the many online app stores is one thing, but marketing it, so that your customers know about it, download it, and start using it, is an entirely different thing. An app that isn’t downloaded and used is a waste of time and money. Equally, if it’s difficult to update the contents of the app or access the data it generates, you might find that a cheap app deal turns considerably more costly later on.
By Martin Kubler