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6 questions to ask when selecting your mobile travel partner

Mobile technology is indispensable to the travel industry - but the use of mobile travel services by end-travellers, and potential revenue gains, depend on choosing the right mobile partner for your airline or travel company.

It’s a complex but important decision: how do you go about selecting a mobile partner who not only responds to your business needs, but truly understands them?

The mobile partner you select must be capable of delivering both practical and innovative mobile solutions that address your business needs as well as traveller ‘pain points’; they should understand your industry and appreciate the value you place on engagement with your customers in order to offer meaningful mobile services, resulting in a better travel experience that is less stressful and more efficient.

Your mobile partner should know the travel journey just as well as you do. Before surveying the field for a mobile travel partner, it’s worth asking yourself some of these questions in order to get a clearer idea of which company best fits the bill.

1. Do they have expertise in the travel industry?

Travel industry mobile solutions are not static or self-contained; they have to talk to and integrate with third-parties and complex systems, such as Global Distribution Systems (GDS).

Developing a travel industry mobile solution is a highly complex task which requires specialist understanding of the processes that underpin distribution, consumer behaviour, ecommerce and mobile commerce in the travel industry. You should be confident in your mobile partner’s knowledge and understanding of your business from previous experience and in their ability to incorporate industry-specific tools - APIs, and integrations such as flight status, passenger tracking, payment and scanning solutions - into your mobile platform. The ultimate goal should be a mobile offering that manages technical integration while delivering a user experience that is exceptional (rather than merely functional).

Choosing a company who not only has the technical know-how, but can marry that with comprehensive knowledge of the travel industry, is paramount.

2. Do they have a reputation for delivering successful travel apps and mobile solutions?

Factors like travel industry specific experience, industry reputation, and app store ratings of previous work are important when selecting a mobile partner.

While star ratings may be subjective they’re an integral part of the ranking algorithm for app searches in both the App Store and on Google Play. It’s useful to check the star ratings of apps previously created by your prospective mobile partner in addition to other customer reviews and industry acclaim, such as awards won.

While star ratings speak to the overall quality or consistency of the user experience, reviews often point out kinks in the code and offer greater insight into the app’s failures and successes. As benchmarks of output quality, both star ratings and reviews are useful in determining the quality and ultimately, potential end-user adoption and reaction.

It is also useful to look at how your mobile partner is perceived by its industry peers. Have they won any awards of excellencefor their brilliant smartphone app? Scooped an international prize for mobile innovation? If your mobile partner is fast accumulating awards, it’s a good indicator of the quality and scope of mobile solution they can deliver.

3. Can they deliver, not just on app development, but also on design and UX, strategy?

Are you considering an agency with a world-class in-house team of strategists, designers and developers? Some technology businesses can’t offer the full spectrum of services required to create a highly successful mobile offering that includes User Experience Design/User Interface Design, coding, testing, launch, mobile marketing support, app store optimization guidance and marketing strategy.

Involvement of third parties will require a more complicated project management plan, leading to multiple support contracts, possible divergent quality assurance measures and ultimately, increased costs.

From the conceptualization and requirements stage, through to design, development, pre-launch testing and marketing, choosing a mobile partner that can meet all your requirements in-house will result in optimal synthesis and the end result being a faster pathway to market.

4. What level of support can you demand from your mobile partner?

Lack of support when things go wrong is a major pain point for digital consumers who have come to rely heavily on their personal devices for travel support and information. Expectations run high and for an impatient generation of smartphone and mobile technology users; tolerance is low for software products that don’t work first time, every time. They quickly grow tired of crashes, reboots and battery-draining monster apps, and they won’t be happy about a forced move to Plan B when a system glitch means they can’t download their boarding pass.

Does your mobile partner offer a 24-hour support resource to fix problems as and when they arise? Can they assist in implementing a damage control strategy before the complaints come flooding in on social media, apps are axed from iPhones and star ratings on the Google Play Store plummet? This commitment to safeguarding your product (and your reputation) should be considered before selecting a mobile partner for your business.

5. Can they deliver a great app within a strict timeframe?

Your mobile partner’s approach to delivering a great product within an agreed, often strict, timeframe is highly important. Can they work with you to build and develop a mobile offering consistent with the needs of your business and its goals, one that also differentiates you in the market place and keeps pace with changes in travel tech?

Speed to market is vital in order to keep on top of a rapidly changing mobile travel landscape and the best mobile partner will orientate your business’s mobile offering ahead of the competition. If you have a stringent deadline that you need to adhere to, you need a company that will deliver on your expectations within the required timeframe.

6. Can your mobile partner support app launch to drive downloads and usage?

Often, after all the complex work of design, coding, and testing is complete, some mobile developers are happy to rest on the laurels of that success. Your developer, however, should understand that the work of delivering a return on investment is only beginning at this point. Marketing is very often a neglected and underestimated component of app development and delivery timeline.

Your mobile partner should have a proven marketing strategy that will help launch your app, ensuring optimization techniques are in place for visibility in the app store. It is important to schedule periodic follow-up assessments of how the app is being used, taking into account numbers of downloads and how to increase these steadily over time.

When evaluating the best mobile partner for your airline or travel company, you should consider their travel industry knowledge, how their products are rated by both industry peers and customers, and the technical and marketing expertise of their team. They should also possess a demonstrable commitment to driving the success of the app long after the release to market date has been met. The end result should be an app which forms an essential part of your customer’s travel toolkit.

David MacHale - Digital Marketing Director

David is the Digital Marketing Director at Travelport Digital. He is a digital marketing specialist with almost 15 years experience working with B2B and B2C brands in the travel, retail and learning tech industries. David has been at the forefront of introducing next-generation product platforms such as Oculus Rift, 360 video, gaming and mobile apps. Today, he manages the marketing strategy, content and digital platforms for Travelport Digital as well as supporting new clients on their engagement journey.

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