With 2019 almost upon us, the question on everybody’s lips is: What's going to be the next big thing in the world of mobile travel next year?
We've interviewed more than 100 industry professionals and 1,100 travelers to get the travel market’s view on the emerging areas to watch and you can read about those findings and insights here.
One thing travelers have made clear is that they expect a continuity of experience, wherever and whenever they engage with a travel brand, whether through apps, bots, voice or messaging. And mobile is central to these experiences.
Now we're going one step further for our trend prediction series by getting the opinions of recognized thought leaders and industry influencers all around the world. We asked them a deceptively simple question, “What will be the most important trend in mobile travel for 2019?“
Here is the goldmine of responses we received…
Here comes the Super App!
Dennis Schaal - Executive Editor and Founding Editor, Skift
Dennis is a business and consumer editor, columnist and reporter covering online, mobile, social travel and technology. He is specialist in all things travel with a business to business twist.
"The most important trend is the so-called Super-App. The Grab app in Southeast Asia enables users to book a ride, get food delivery, and recently, through a Booking.com strategic partnership, book hotels. It's a similar story for Meituan in China. Uber has rides, UberEats for restaurants and a host of services for businesses. Food, restaurants, ride-sharing, and hotels—that's an important trend for 2019."
It’s a win-win: Mobile is making air travel better for everyone
Robert W. Mann Jr - President & CEO, RWMann
Bob founded and has operated as Principal of his airline and travel industry analysis and consulting firm, specializing in the identification, development and implementation of structural improvements to productivity, operations, process and distribution efficiency, and enterprise profitability.
“Mobile travel technology—in use by airlines, airports, vendors, and customers—will move airlines from 'self-service' hell, towards 'proactively-served' satisfaction. As airlines begin to use real-time mobile data capture, AI and machine learning to optimize day-of-flight operations, they will push updated flight, gate, seating, and service information to mobile-enabled customers according to their resident profiles, to support and customer-facing employees for improved service delivery, and to airports for display.
"Airlines will develop tighter scheduling, to optimize network revenue potential, reduce buffer costs, while day-of operations will become more deterministic, producing better on-time performance and Net Promoter Scores, reducing interrupted trip expense, and producing far greater utility for customers and the communities airlines serve, reducing delays and their multi-billion dollar drag on local and national economies.
"Service changes and re-accommodation (passengers, checked baggage, and cargo), when needed, will be seamless, with exceptions noted, in order to modify expressed customer preferences. Mobile technology produces a rare, 'all win' outcome for airlines, customers, employees, investors, and communities served."
How do you create a great customer experience? Keep it simple
John Strickland - Director, JLS Consulting
John advises on strategies for airlines, airports, investors and industry partners that maximize opportunity and reduce risk in challenging and volatile market conditions.
"More airlines are seeing the value of a smooth and simple digital experience for their customers and will invest more in ensuring this is the case."
Customers want instant updates at every step of the journey
Muhammad Ali Albakri - Regional Vice President Africa and the Middle East, IATA
Currently working as Regional Vice President Africa and the Middle East at International Air Transport Association (IATA), Muhammad has close to 28 years of hands-on experience in Information & Communication Technology and also in Aviation Finance.
“One of the most important trends in mobile travel for 2019 is real-time access to journey information. Based on IATA’s 2018 Global Passenger Survey, passengers want to be kept informed throughout their journey, preferably via their personal device. Receiving information on flight status (82%), baggage (49%) and waiting time at security/immigration (46%) were identified as passengers’ top three priorities after booking a flight. Passengers’ preferred option for receiving information on their baggage and other travel elements was via their personal device. Receiving information via SMS or smartphone app was preferred by 73% of passengers.”
It’s not just about mobile, you know…
Norm Rose - President & Founder, Travel Tech Consulting
A 35 year travel industry veteran with experience in all sectors of the industry, Norm is President and founder of Travel Tech Consulting, Inc. (TTCI) and is a recognized leader on how emerging technologies impact the global travel industry.
"Despite the clear impact of mobile on the entire travel cycle, many travel companies continue to treat mobile as a customer touchpoint rather than a unique platform. Travel companies need to evaluate every aspect of their business—search, shop, buy, experience and share—in order to maximize the process for the mobile platform. In a true omni-channel approach, travelers need to be able to seamlessly start the process on one device and continue the process on any other platform.
"Mobile provides location and ultimately context to the process which can dramatically change the focus. For example, searching/booking a hotel on a mobile device is dramatically different than a simple online search."
The travel industry is getting serious about AR in 2019
Michael Romilly – CEO, Mozenix
Michael is passionate about agile and data-driven AR development, and helps businesses to explore the commercial potential of AR in his company Mozenix.
“Over the past 12 months we’ve seen emerging technologies such as AR and VR starting to impact multiple industry verticals and the travel sector is no exception. One great example of this is the AR application ‘B Currency’ recently launched by Clydesdale Bank (developed by Waracle and Mozenix) which uses AR and OCR (optical character recognition) to enable travellers to convert currency in real-time using the smartphone camera.
"Another great example of this is Kayak’s AR application which enables travelers to measure the volume of their luggage to establish if it’s the correct size for overhead compartments prior to boarding. The next 12 months will continue see the travel industry exploring the capabilities of emerging tech to understand how they impact software delivery, business operations and commercial ROI."
Watch out app stores, bad search UX won’t be tolerated much longer…
Timothy O'Neil Dunne - Co Founder Consultant, Air Black Box
Timothy is a Managing Partner at T2Impact Ltd. He is also co-Founder of VaultPAD Ventures, an accelerator exclusively focused on the aviation travel tourism and leisure sectors. Timothy has over 30 years of experience in the travel and distribution technology industry.
"The Super-App is coming are you ready? The emergence in China and spreading widely across APAC of the “Super-App” will finally land on Western shores. The interesting thing is how it will be manifest. Cast your mind back to the days of MSN, Compuserve and AOL when they were the portals to the then new universe of the internet. We are headed right back there. However the players are different and the numbers are outstanding. Plus ca change you might say!
"The driver of the move to Super-Apps from Mobile can be pinpointed to one element: search. I.e. it has been the lack of an easy search in the environment. Allow me to be specific. The plethora of apps, the terrible app stores and their search functions are the clear culprits. But it gets worse. Both Google-Android and Apple share the responsibility for making it so awful. Apple’s atrocious “Spotlight” search engine has not been fixed in years. Across all platforms of our masters in Cupertino, “Spotlight” has failed to be anything approaching a utility.
"And Google—really you can do SO MUCH BETTER—yet you let this very poor excuse for the search UX to exist on Android phones. Shame on you. There is just no excuse for it. Thus to me it is a natural progression. But whose Super-App will win on western phones? Watch out here comes Amazon. But the Chinese are making inroads. 2019 will be very interesting."
Airlines are upping their ancillary game
Jay Sorensen - President, IdeaWorks
Jay is an experienced management professional with 34 years' experience in product, partnership and marketing development. Currently Jay is the President of the IdeaWorksCompany. His consulting firm specializes in developing marketing programs in the travel industry.
"My contribution for this mobile topic will naturally focus on my specialty, which is airline ancillary revenue. There is vast opportunity for airlines to boost their game in the delivery of branded fare, a la carte, and commission-based travel options. The manner in which most apps and mobile websites present ancillary revenue services is primitive and fails to engage consumers to spend more. Savvy airlines will spend the next year removing friction from the ancillary revenue booking path with more inviting graphics, dynamic a la carte pricing, and product details optimized for mobile screens."
AR will let us explore new worlds in 2019
Byron Calmonson - Director Sales and Business Development, The Resourcing Hub
As the director of technology recruitment business, the Resourcing Hub, Byron has 20 years’ experience of partnering travel and aviation tech organizations. Byron predicts that 2019 will be the year when the industry sees massive advancements in Augmented Reality (AR) utilization.
"The Mobile Travel Trends 2018 report referred to mobile AR applications that help travelers and airlines: checking luggage size requirements and looking into aircrafts. This is a really exciting area that offers an immense amount of potential. The many possible mobile uses include 3D views of hotel rooms, resorts or airports, AR entertainment as well as augmented environments for staff training or aircraft maintenance."
Travel brands, it’s time to make every touchpoint mobile-friendly
Iztok Franko - Founder, Diggintravel
Iztok is a specialist in applying smart, data-driven eCommerce and digital marketing in the travel industry. His focus is on the airline booking funnel, conversion optimization and advanced analytics.
“Mobile is not a trend or a buzzword anymore, it’s a reality. I see share of traffic for my airline and travel clients grow above 50%, so mobile is the most important channel. The trend will continue in 2019 as tablet traffic is almost non-existent. However travel companies should not focus on mobile for transactions only. Your customer interaction does not end with the booking! It’s just the beginning of their (mobile) journey. Remember, customers are in control because technology is in their hands (literally with mobile phones).
"Your customers are more autonomous than ever, they want to do things themselves, but you need to make it easy for them. Mobile is the key, so use it strategically to enhance the customer experience along the whole customer journey. Think of the key touchpoints and tasks your customers need to do and make them mobile friendly. This will result in better engagement and customer satisfaction."
Let customers choose the channel to engage with your travel brand
Raymond Kollau - Founder, Airline Trends
Raymond is the founder of Airline Trends and he is a specialist in consumer trends/behavior, innovation, industry analysis, competitive analysis, business plan development, business concepts assessment, presenting, moderating/facilitating.
“Next in the evolution of mobile airline apps into travel concierges, are increasingly smart applications that use new smartphone features such as augmented reality, voice recognition and image recognition to make the customer journey more seamless. Examples of AR and AI features are virtual measurement of carry-on luggage (KLM, Latam), Siri Shortcuts (airlines such as easyJet, Lufthansa) and Gol’s ‘selfie check-in’ which uses biometrics.
"Another development is that airlines should accept that the majority of passengers won’t use their app, but want to self-manage their journeys on the mobile platforms they use every day, be it Facebook Messenger or WeChat. Airlines like Finnair and KLM realize they should be digitally omni-present and be where their customers are by rolling out advanced functionality in Facebook Messenger or Mini Programs on WeChat.”
Enabling mobile journeys: Think outside the phone
Addison Schonland - Founder & Partner, Airinsight
Addison has broad experience in the travel and tourism industries including 20+ years in market research and consulting for large and small clients, from the US Dept. of Commerce and airlines, and aerospace OEMs.
"The continuing growth in capabilities of mobile devices is remarkable. Look back only five years and realize how far we have come. You can almost do anything with a mobile device. For a traveler, a mobile phone is not only neat, it is a basic tool. Mobile phones keep you up to date on gate changes and flight schedules. They can handle foreign currencies and make payments. They provide maps for walking or driving. They handle messages—and you can even speak on them! All remarkable, right?
"One ongoing weakness is that all the apps drain a phone battery faster than ever. It is critical for airlines to offer at seat charging because small phones simply cannot have big batteries. Also, it is quite shocking that many airlines still don’t offer Wi-Fi. Providing phone charging will encourage travelers to spend money in Internet access—feed the need and ancillary revenues will magically grow."
The battle for the Phono sapien is on—is your travel brand ready?
Glenville Morris - Director, Consulting & Digital Insight, Travelport Digital
Prior to joining Travelport Digital, Glenville worked at easyJet across analytics and mobile marketing and was the product owner for easyJet mobile. Glenville strives to make travel better and to enable airlines and other travel companies to shape new and superior travel experiences with innovative, personalized mobile and digital offerings.
"Prepare for War!” is an odd way to introduce a prediction for 2019, but don’t worry it’s not a 4-minute warning, I’m just echoing what Caesar said in ‘Planet of the Apes’. Now whilst he was obviously talking about a battle for an ape planet, I’m forecasting a different fight next year: the battle for the Phono sapien.
"A Phono sapien is a new mobile-only species of human that has emerged in the last few years, and they are on target to be the most powerful race on earth in 2019. But with this new species of customer has come a new set of expectations of the travel industry. The Homo sapien of old (timeline minus 200,000 years up until 2017) was quite happy to seek out airlines or travel brands by going to an App Store to download an app, or pinch and zoom numerous websites on their phone to book hotels or get their boarding pass. The Phono sapien of today however expects the travel industry to be wherever they are, on whatever platform they are on, and they demand a seamless and optimized experience across each one.
"In this war many battles have been fought already—remember the great app fatigue fight of 2017, or the uprising of bots in 2018? And I’m in no doubt that many more will be fought next year across the battlefields of voice and AR, but one device will still lead the charge into the war for the Phono sapien and that’s mobile. Mobile was and still is THE best weapon in your arsenal."
So what can we take from our industry influencer roundup? One thing that's for sure is that mobile will continue to outperform all other channels. As Phono sapiens take over the world and demand continuity across every touchpoint, brands will need to continue to deliver seamless, mobile-first customer experiences.
To discover more insights and predictions on what next year has in store, download our Travel Trends 2019 Report here.