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Delta converts 39pc of desktop customers to app users: report

Marketers such as Delta Airlines and Marriott International have stepped up the functionality of their mobile apps to better prepare them for a new era in which mobile platforms will come to dominate the travel industry. The report, which was prepared in partnership with Facebook, concluded that within three to five years mobile platforms will be at parity with or will supplant desktop platforms for all phases of the travel experience.

“Mobile is another round of disruption in the travel industry,” said Stephen Kremser, a BCG partner and co-author of the research. “While online penetration in travel is quite high, it is actually quite low in terms of mobile.

“Mobile seems to be providing an opportunity to reset the landscape.”

The rapid pace of change in mobile app functionality and appearance means that apps that were seen as advanced just a year ago may already be outdated, Mr. Kremser said.

Ahead in mobile
In addition, the increasing functionality and ubiquity of mobile-travel apps is creating new opportunities for marketers to make a fresh statement in the space.

Some marketers have taken the lead in mobile services for their customers. Delta, for example, had first-mover status on app features such as seat selection and upgrade functionality, Mr. Kremser said.

0623Deltamobile400While Delta had far fewer unique visitors to its desktop Web site than Southwest Airlines in February — 4.3 million versus 6.8 million — Delta’s app use was much greater. The BCG report, citing CommScore Mobile Metrix data, said Delta had 1.7 million unique mobile visitors in February, compared with 1.4 million for Southwest.

Another example of effective use of a travel app is from Marriott. The hotel giant is rolling out a feature on its mobile app that allows its loyalty-program members to check in and out without visiting the front desk. Its meeting services app also has added a feature that enables meeting organizers to make real-time requests for hotel services while their meeting is in progress, according to the BCG report.

Working with gatekeepers
The report also noted that the three main “gatekeepers” for travel apps — Facebook, Google and Apple — together account for 49 percent of all mobile-app usage minutes in the U.S. Facebook is the leader with 22 percent of usage, followed by Google with 16 percent and Apple with 11 percent.

“They are pushing travel apps to you, based on adoption, and who they think you are,” Mr. Kremser said. “The drive to be that number-one app in an individual gatekeeper is high.”

Among the potential future gatekeepers of travel apps are gaming companies and entertainment apps such as YouTube, the BCG report said. The report recommended that travel companies seeking to reach consumers by marketing their apps through such gatekeepers should experiment with multiple channels.

Intermediaries and smaller brands need to work closely with the gatekeepers, and could benefit from new partnerships with others in the travel space or with device makers or service providers to gain visibility.

“This is a race that is in the early innings, and it is a chance for some players to hit ‘reset’,” said Mr. Kremser. “There is a window of opportunity here for travel companies in mobile.”

Final Take
Mark Hamstra is content director at Mobile Commerce Daily, New York. Reach him at [email protected]