Thursday, September 11, 2008

Customer service drives mobile adoption

Guest blog post from Gerry Samuels from Mobile Travel Technologies

With over 500¹ million mobile internet users worldwide, and this figure expected to triple by 2013², the mobile web is growing at a phenomenal rate. Whilst travel suppliers need to keep pace with new developments, they also need to ensure they match the provision of services to customer acceptance of this relatively new channel.

Mobile web sites can offer the full functionality of the traditional web plus additional mobile-specific features, however, what customers want to access on a mobile is different to what they want to access on a PC. When travel suppliers and intermediaries embrace this they find mobile to be an ideal means to deliver certain services that fit the context and provide a layer of differentiation over their competitors.

For example, combining online and mobile services means a customer can book on the web then push the booking to their mobile device. Hotel guests can then retrieve their booking on mobile and see directions and maps to help them find their hotel. They can also amend bookings on-the-go, should their plans change. Airline customers can check flight status, purchase additional services, select their on–board seat from graphical seat maps and even check-in.

From the mobile travel services MTT has already developed for travel clients, we are already seeing up to 10% of the number of unique users on the regular web site accessing the site on mobile. In the US, large carriers have over 100,000 unique accesses per month, a trend which is growing by up to 20% per month.

Geographic location and differing costs to access the mobile internet will of course affect to what extent this medium is used. In markets where there is a low cost to access the mobile internet, for example the UK (1p per mobile screen accessed), there is high mobile internet access of up to 30% of mobile phone subscribers. In other markets, where access costs can be 3-4 times that cost, access is lower.

Similarly, in some developing markets such as India and China, where mobile internet is ‘the’ internet for many people, we are seeing the development of mobile commerce, i.e. people making reservations on mobiles, perhaps in advance of other parts of the world.

Whilst mobile services are currently being used mainly as a positive customer innovation, they also offer travel suppliers the potential to reduce costs – for example where a traveller can self-modify a booking rather than having to contact a call centre, and also have the potential to deliver incremental ancillary revenues.

Looking ahead, e-Marketer recently highlighted a report by Neilson Mobile, which anticipates the growth of m-commerce. Similar to the introduction of e-commerce, consumers have initial concerns over security, and are unsure of airtime costs:

"As more mobile commerce services become available and consumers develop a greater trust for phone-based transactions, we expect commerce to be an increasingly important part of the mobile experience next year and beyond," said Nic Covey, director of insights at Nielsen Mobile recently.

¹ Source – emarketer, April 2007

² Source – Juniper Research, June 2008

Gerry Samuels, founder and executive director of MTT

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