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KLM highlights 3D design in first iPad booking app

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has released its first iPad booking application, featuring a three-dimensional design that takes a new approach to searching and booking flights.

The app features searching, booking, seat selection check-in and in-app boarding passes, but it does so on a 3D spinning globe. The app also integrates a social aspect that lets users see where on the globe their friends live.

“KLM’s new app puts the visual elements of travel on display, allowing customers to browse new destinations and get inspired,” said Li-at Karpel Gurwicz, vice president of marketing at Conduit Mobile, New York. “It’s a creative element that incorporates content and attempts to make travel booking a leisurely, personalized experience rather than a chore.

“As the screens on our mobile devices have gotten bigger and sharper, images and video are becoming a large focus for brands and consumers, and KLM has leveraged that in its iPad app,” she said. “The 3D Facebook globe feature adds another ingredient to the travel search, incorporating a user’s social circle and locations of friends and family to potentially influence travel decisions.

“That said, most consumers don’t typically think of an airline website as a place to find their favorite travel location, so there will be a learning curve. If KLM is successful, it could pull in an entirely new user base as customers browse and then ultimately buy plane tickets to their chosen destination, all within the app.”

Ms. Karpel Gurwicz is not affiliated with KLM. She commented based on her expertise on the subject.

KLM could not meet press deadline.

3D app
The new app is specifically designed for the iPad and was developed with the help of both travel and design experts as well as a group of KLM social media followers. KLM had noticed that more people were visiting the KLM Web site via tablets, so they decided to create a unique experience for the device.

Twenty-five percent of visitors to come from a tablet, 90 percent of which comes from iPads.

Consumers can search flights based on criteria such as personal budget, temperature, flight time or theme, including nightlife, culinary, wellness and family. They can also find KLM Pack & Go super deals.

The 3D globe lets consumers see where their friends live and click on it to immediately book a trip to visit them.

The app also syncs with a KLM or Flying Blue account to help consumers manage their plans.

The app is available in eleven different languages: Brazilian Portuguese, traditional and modern Chinese, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Spanish. It is available for free in Apple’s App Store.

KLM plans to roll out an Android tablet app later this year.

iPad booking
Marketers have been having a tough time creating valuable experiences with iPad apps.

CVS experimented with a similar 3D design in their iPad app. The app is a 3D rendering of an actual store, and to access different features in the app, consumers have to browse the virtual store and click on red plus signs (see story).

Victoria’s Secret took a slightly different approach with its iPad app, blending branded content with shopping to drive repeat app traffic (see story).

However, marketers have to balance aesthetics with consumers’ desire to book or purchase quickly and easily.

Some consumers may not want to browse through virtual aisles or spin a globe. They might want to open an app and immediately transact without the bells and whistles.

Experts advise focusing on visual storytelling with iPad apps to cater to customers’ excitement and desire to explore on iPads (see story).

“Overall, apps like this for airlines mostly have the set of table stakes features that users expect at this point,” said Scott Michaels, executive vice president and partner at Atimi Software, Vancouver, Canada.

Mr. Michaels is not affiliated with KLM. He commented based on his expertise on the subject.

“Many like KLM are looking to extend that experience with the goal of getting the end user to spend more time in the application than the quick actions of find, book and buy,” he said. “This version of the KLM app is an example of that velocity to drive longer engagement.

“KLM understands the difference between the iPad and the iPhone in terms of experience. However they miss out on the utility and conversion aspects being integrated into the experience app that was created. Again, this is a step in the right direction, and I look forward to seeing the next steps.”

Final Take
Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York