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Mobilise Merchandising: New ways of distributing travel

The future will certainly reward travel brands who invest in a comprehensive and tightly integrated mobile-first strategy but what does this mean?

According to recent United Nations statistics[1], the world’s population has reached 7.4 billion and there are also nearly 7.4 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide. “Mobile mania is well underway and those not investing in their mobile infrastructure will be bypassed by a competitor who is”, warns Bobby Healy, CTO of CarTrawler. And although he believes the travel industry is “embarrassingly behind in the mobile race”, he’s confident that it’s catching up very quickly.

According to recent McKinsey research[2], 49% of companies they surveyed are focusing their investment on the digitisation of marketing and distribution channels. It’s a sensible strategy given the impact digitisation has already had on how companies interact with (and target) their customers. However, Healy is keen to stress the importance of companies looking beyond their existing customer touch-points already in use. Some travel brands are in danger of simply creating mobile versions of their desktop distribution platforms and that is not going to work.

According to recent Videc research[3] that examined 51 Android-based airline apps, 98% of APAC airline apps have an in-app search function that routes to an external browser – an experience that mimics the desktop purchase flow rather than capitalizes on the mobile interface. “Companies need to commit to fundamental change across their entire business model. It is crucially important for them to think about mobile very differently. CarTrawler treat mobile web and native apps as a totally separate architecture, use case and investment to our desktop products”, Healy explains.


Winning the New Retail Environment

“Markets vary widely and it’s important that travel brands adapt their mobile strategies to reflect the variety and differences between geographic regions”, says Healy. For example, mobile app development for smartphone platforms is a standard strategy for most North American, Asian and European carriers. In fact, Asia-Pacific leads the way in mobile payments with over half (53%) of connected consumers using their mobiles to pay for goods or services, followed closely by North America (33%) and Europe (35%).[4] In Africa, credit card penetration is low and a number of African airlines have responded to this by accepting advanced mobile money solutions as a form of payment[5]. Meanwhile in Latin America, tech-savvy millennials are driving the trend[6] of mobile payment adoption there.


Digital loyalty – keeping people engaged with relevant ancillary offers

At the centre of all this change is the digitisation of loyalty programmes. By its very nature, the mobile platform is a personalised device that is ideally placed to facilitate loyalty programmes. For starters,

apps are capable of providing a better user experience and have access to new features such as push notifications and location-based alerts. These aspects play into the functionality aspect – something that is of paramount importance to today’s customers who expect a seamless, multi-device service.

By linking ancillary services with the loyalty status of a customer, travel brands can more easily personalise ancillary products such as premium seating and a la carte dining menus and ultimately reward loyal customers. In order to do this, travel brands are increasingly leveraging their own customer data to develop ever more sophisticated means of serving and rewarding them.

“This becomes increasingly important to travel brands when their customers are on the move and open to purchasing relevant solutions and ancillary products”, explains Healy. With good artificial intelligence, a travel brand has the ability to understand customers better and offer a rich and rewarding tailored loyalty service – serving customer needs and keeping them engaged with the brand. Mobile consumers will naturally be more open to receiving targeted services or products at certain stages of their travel journey. “By adopting a data-led approach, travel brands can continuously uncover insights into customer location, behaviour and preferences, making the merchandising process so much easier”, he adds.


The attraction of the mobile app

According to recent Criteo research[7], mobile is key to catching last-minute high-yield bookings with apps accounting for 41% of last minute traffic. Most travel brands are offering the basics which include mobile check-in, digital boarding passes and itinerary management but “there’s huge scope for improvement”, says Healy.

Having a better understanding of what customers want helps travel brands to deliver personalised merchandising techniques and journey-centric interfaces.  “Success is being able to sell every single product the travelling customer may need on their unique retail journey. This includes the trip to the airport, an ancillary offering at the airport, and onward to the destination itself”, explains Healy.

“Location-based offers and loyalty programme rewards that can be redeemed with the click of a button have the power to surprise and delight customers. The convenience factor shouldn’t be overlooked. If you can foster behavioural change in customers that drives their engagement, you’re on to a winner”, says Healy.

Conversion challenges

Some mobile apps do have their limitations with conversion lagging behind mobile browsers. According to Monetate[8], add-to-cart rates are highest for personal computers with a global rate is 10.4%. This falls to 6.4% for smartphones. A variety of friction points are to fault – with screen size and security concerns topping the list. Customers also dislike the fact that mobile apps can take up storage space on their phones and don’t always provide enough access to everything they need.

The biggest risk is that customers will delete the app after making a booking. However, there are ways and means of ensuring the customer regularly interacts with the app. “It starts with making sure that you are offering customers the best, most comprehensive and relevant products for their needs”, says Healy. “In order to mitigate against this risk, you could ensure that the full booking and check-in flow (including any ancillary offerings) are available through your app. The more value a customer can extract from it, the less likely they are to delete it from their phone”, Healy adds.


CarTrawler have developed a way to turbo-charge your native app by offering an easy to implement, full mobility solution. Enhancing your customers app experience by enabling the following capabilities:

  • Rent a car
  • Pre-book a transfer
  • Hail an on-demand taxi


If you wish to find out more about the CarTrawler Native SDK, please contact cartrawlersales@cartrawler.com.



[1] Monetate eCommerce Quarterly Report, 3rd quarter 2016, reviewed at monetate.com

[2] “The case for digital reinvention”, by Jacques Bughin, Laura Laberge and Anette Mellbye. http://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/digital-mckinsey/our-insights/the-case-for-digital-reinvention#0

[3] https://www.phocuswire.com/APAC-app-study

[4] “Asia Pacific leads the world in mobile payments”, Kantar TNS: http://www.tnsglobal.com/asia-pacific/intelligence-applied/asia-pacific-leads-world-mobile-payments-latest-study-kantar-tns

[5] New system to modernise mobile money payments for 5 African airlines. – See more at: http://techsahara.com/new-system-to-modernise-mobile-money-payments-for-5-african-airlines/#sthash.wHvCGnfo.dpuf

[6] Inside Latin America’s Mobile Payment Explosion: http://paymentweek.com/2017-1-17-inside-latin-americas-mobile-payment-explosion/

[7]  Criteo, worldwide, Q4 2017: For travel advertisers who generate bookings on both mobile web and in-app.

[8] Ancillary Revenue Goes Mobile: The best Methods Used by the Top 25 Airlines https://www.cartrawler.com/ct/about/media-pr-centre/cartrawler-ancilliary-revenue-series/



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