The next time you need to book a flight, will you log into your computer or use your phone? Mobile apps are getting smarter and more versatile, and we’re getting more confident about using our phones to carry out transactions. In fact, a Google study released on 17 July states that 87% of the travellers surveyed used a mobile phone to research their trips, and 66% booked a trip element on it.
This survey was carried out for Google by the French private research think tank Ipsos, which spoke to over 1,500 leisure travellers, 25- to 40-year-olds, across eight Indian metros. Of these 1,500 people, 80% owned smartphones, 25% had been on international trips, and 35% on business trips (both domestic and international).
According to the survey, 88% of the respondents also said one of the biggest triggers for holiday planning was looking at pictures online, on social networks, blogs or travel sites. Interestingly, travel websites like MakeMyTrip are also putting out apps that talk about travel destinations, instead of just tickets and bookings.
Amit Somani, chief product officer, MakeMyTrip, spoke to us before the survey results were announced and demonstrated the company’s Trip Ideas app to us—the app looks like an old-fashioned day calendar, so you can swipe up on your phone’s screen to change the “page”, getting a different idea. Each idea mentions the best time to visit, and has large pictures. It’s also easy to share these ideas on your social networks. Somani says the idea is to keep people interested in travel, not just make them book a ticket.
Android, BlackBerry and iOS, along with a touch-optimized mobile website. According to Somani, there are pros and cons to both the Web and app approaches, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that more and more people are turning to mobile devices to at least research their travel.
Google agrees. Its report states that smartphones and tablets are the first go-to devices for travel research even at home. It adds that in the planning and research phase, the survey respondents did not differentiate between their choice of Internet access device—users rated desktops, mobile phones and tablets all over 85%, indicative of multi-screen behaviour.
Vikas Agnihotri, director, travel and BFSI (banking, financial services and insurance), Google India, says: “We already know that smartphone users spend on average 76 minutes on the Internet through their mobile. The smartphone user base is set to explode, and touch 70 million by the end of this year.”
While the absolute number of transactions on mobile phones remains low, the report indicates the growing trend of bookings on mobile devices. Among the respondents, 66% of users said they had made some booking using a mobile phone, and 69% said they had booked a flight on a tablet. Just over a third, or 36% of users, booked flights on a mobile, 25% booked hotel rooms and 13% sent queries for holiday leads, to book vacation packages or tours.
Perhaps equally interesting is that many of the respondents would start researching on one device and book on another, using whatever was convenient at the moment instead of preferring one device over the other.
So while 87% of the respondents researched travel on mobile phones, 80% said they booked on a computer as well as their phones. Concerns around security were cited as the biggest barrier to booking on mobile phones.
Ashish Kashyap, CEO of the ibibo Group (which owns one of the major online travel portals in India), feels that mobile is an important piece of the ecosystem, and set to grow fast. “In 24-36 months, the transaction volume on mobile will surpass PC. Right now, despite challenges in payments, we’re already seeing 12-15% of completed transactions and payments take place on mobile devices,” he says.
According to Kashyap, the real challenge is going to be sorting out the issue of mobile payments. Many bank sites, which get the 3D secure password data to authorize a payment, are not mobile-optimized, which means that it can be hard to enter your password into the site. There’s also the additional problem of entering a 16-digit credit card number, and all the other payment details.
The travel segment is growing to include not just planes, but also trains and now buses. The ibibo Group recently acquired bus ticket booking service redBus.in, and Kashyap says the segment has tremendous growth potential. With bus tickets being significantly cheaper than other bookings in this category, it could well become a way to get people started on making bookings through phones.