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4-Star App Ratings - the Key to Increased Airline Revenue

What impact on downloads do you think it would make to have your airline app jump from a 4-star to a 5-star rating?

The answer might surprise you.

In fact, jumping from a healthy four stars to an impeccable 5 only increases the number of downloads by around 4%. The fact is, people don’t expect perfection. But they do expect their app to be very good. And to most people, that means scoring a solid “4”.

When you look at the stats, it’s clear that nudging up to a 4-star rating is incredibly effective for increasing your number of downloads. And going from a 2-star to a 4-star rating increases your conversions by a pretty spectacular 540%.

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Clearly, if your airline app is going to get serious traction, you’re going to have to hit that all-important 4-star plus rating.

When brand experience and mobile experience meet

There are some incredibly successful airline apps that do have very low ratings. At least one budget airline app has a lowly two stars - but they also serve millions of passengers every year. It could be that travellers are leaving negative reviews in response to dissatisfaction with other aspects of their trip, rather than the app itself. That’s not to say budget airlines should expect low overall ratings for their apps. easyJet currently boasts an aggregated 4.5 stars, from 20 million downloads - clearly their app and service do meet the needs and expectations of their users.

A sufficiently large travel company or airline, can rely on their travellers downloading their app out of necessity. It offers no solid evidence that they enjoyed their experience, or that they will choose to travel with you again. They just had to download it for the duration of their trip and if it’s a pain to use, they’ll probably delete it as soon as their device storage runs low. These non-intuitive apps may enjoy spikes in download rates, but uninstall rates will remain high. Ratings will be the opposite - consistently low as you would expect for an unpleasant app experience.

The competition is heating up

The truth is that airline apps are improving in general, offering greater functionality and an improved user experience. This means competition for the attention of travellers in the App Store is becoming even more fierce.

The customer experience is vital when soliciting positive ratings for your mobile app. The following tips will help you improve the user experience - and your app store ratings.

Start with the basics

At the heart of a great customer experience is an app that does the basics well. And more than simply making key functions available, they must be implemented in such a way that the process is simple, slick and enjoyable. Simply delivering the basics expected by your flyers is a great way to begin collecting positive app ratings.

Modern, tech-savvy travellers knows what is possible from mobile apps, and they expect yours to make good. Key functions like booking flights, accessing itinerary details and downloading boarding passes needs to be simple and intuitive - pay careful attention to the UX flows around these operations. Simplicity will drive revenue by making yours an app that people actually want to use.

Making travel personal again

The needs of the individual traveller are unique - and your app needs to reflect this truth. Allowing app users to save account details, settings and travel preferences customises this experience and the next. Storing preferences makes future travel purchases even quicker, further improving the app experience;

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You can further personalise the service by leveraging the built-in functionality of your users’ devices too. Offering mobile payment options such as Apple or Android Pay streamlines payments, and push notifications can be used to alert travellers to exclusive in-app discounts too. When connecting with your travellers via their mobile phones, you are meeting them where they spend much of their time.

If your app can bring those services together into a single interface, your app becomes more “sticky” instantly - and is far more likely to earn a decent star rating in the process. Your app is an opportunity to provide supporting information to flyers so that they don’t have to look elsewhere - like in your competitors’ own apps. If you can broaden the feature set to help solve pain points and delight your users they’ll be more likely to continue to turn to your app in the future. Some simple examples of what airlines are doing here is providing contextual information like traffic reports on the way to the airport, weather updates and guides for their destination, or simply inspiration for their next trip. All these personalised touches at various points in the journey will help surprise and delight customers along the way and ultimately help with your app rating.

Think mobile first

There are plenty of generic airline apps available that deliver the same information, in the same way to a disinterested user base. Unsurprisingly these apps attract low to mediocre ratings.

Leveraging the latest OS and hardware updates will be crucial to raising the profile of your own app. To become a market leader you will need to adopt a mobile-first strategy that is constantly looking at these innovations and how your team can use them to improve the experience of your app users. Tweaks like adding Touch ID/fingerprint authentication rather than a password improve security and help your customers - that’s one less password for them to remember for instance.

Boosting visibility in the App Store

Visibility in the App Store cannot be underestimated. Although word of mouth and social media recommendations remain the most common way for people to discover new apps, 40% of first time downloads are as a result of browsing the app store. And seeing as Google Play and the Apple App Store both rely on user ratings and reviews as a way to prioritise search results, improving yours will be key to making new users aware of what you offer. You should also devote significant effort to the app description - this is another powerful factor in raising visibility and driving downloads.

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When trying to increase visibility in the App Store, it is important that you make the most of the capabilities provided. The App Store allows you to provide a description detailing what your app does, and to provide photos and videos that show users exactly what to expect. You should use keyword optimisation techniques to help ensure that your app appears near the top of any search results for terms related to your service.

Lastly, don’t forget to ask for an app rating at the right time. Make sure you give them enough time to use your app, see how it works and, above all, don’t interrupt the user’s experience. Instead prompt a review when they’ve experienced the core value of your app or they’ve accomplished something within the app. For airlines this could be as simple as aligning your rating prompt to the completion of mobile check-in or booking.  

Better Ratings = Better revenue

Airline App Reviews Good Bad

Making these changes will help attract the star ratings your app needs. Higher App Store ratings are not simply a vanity metric - they are a key driver for your mobile revenue stream. Boosting your average star rating from 2 or 3 to a 4 has been shown to double downloads. As people download your app and realise the value it provides, the more revenue you can expect to realise from it.

More than simply increasing mobile bookings, an app allows you to capitalise on other revenue streams too. Whether at the time of checkout, or in the run-up to their departure, your app can be used to sell timely ancillary upsells, trip insurance, upgrades or priority boarding.

So there you have it...Better ratings make better business sense. And achieving a 4-star rating can be the catalyst for generating significant mobile revenues for airlines.

Want to learn more about building a great mobile strategy? Download the free framework on improving your airline app experience.


Brendan Bourke - Digital Consultant

Brendan has over 18 years digital and mobile experience working on both the client and agency side. Prior to joining Travelport Digital, Brendan worked at both Aer Lingus and Emirates. At Travelport Digital Brendan works with customers on their mobile strategies with a specific focus on mobile marketing and engagement.

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