Guest Post: Invest in your app or risk being left behind

Guest Post: Invest in your app or risk being left behind

'In this dynamic landscape, travel apps have become a powerful catalyst for business growth', says Richard Wheaton, Fifty-Five London MD

In the ever-changing digital landscape, apps hold the potential to be transformative for travel firms that embrace them. 

However, many still underappreciate this powerful tool. Past experiences of lacklustre app performance have left companies disillusioned, with users downloading apps only to abandon them shortly after.

We now stand at the threshold of a new era, where those who persevered and invested in app development are reaping the rewards. 

Today, advanced app strategies have evolved into a smart, long-term marketing investment, providing a seamless and highly effective way to tailor services and connect with customers.

While developing travel apps may come with a price tag and technical challenges, they have become indispensable in the age of mobile-first communication. Travel apps have become crucial touchpoints, serving as invaluable channels for engaging with customers.

Leading players in the industry have recognised the significance of travel apps. Expedia, for example, has reported an all-time high in app usage, with quarterly active app users increasing nearly 40% in Q3 2022 compared to the same period in 2019.

Companies such as Easy Jet and TUI have integrated innovative functionalities within their apps, ranging from real-time flight updates and gate information to personalised trip boards, recent search history, exclusive app deals, and tailored holiday suggestions based on individual preferences.

The need for an app strategy has become more urgent in a privacy-first internet era with the demise of third party cookies and the ability to target new customers in the same way as before. Apps can present a permission-based solution with leveraging first-party data a core pillar of any successful app strategy.

Once users create an account and register within the app, travel companies can establish a more personalised and trusted relationship with customers, offering real value in their interactions. Brands must manage customers' journeys across both the website and the app as customers expect a seamless experience that recognizes their individuality. One of the most difficult strategies to master.

To future-proof your travel app, focus on three core areas:

1) Develop an omni-channel data strategy and win trust

Firstly you need to develop a clear omni-channel data strategy that encompasses your app. Transparently communicate how customer information will be used, showcasing the enhanced experience they will receive by creating an in-app account and signing in.

For example, while the customer is on holiday, a smartly programmed app will be able to send tailored notifications with attractions and/or entertainment deals in the vicinity of the accommodation they booked. When done well, this can be a great way of building customer loyalty with the brand.

2) Embrace measurement and analytics expertise

To ensure effective performance and accurate measurement in app development, expertise in measurement and analytics is crucial. While each client may have their app development team, it is essential to incorporate specialists who understand the measurement ecosystem alongside the developers writing the code.

Apps, being complex software, require a well-designed measurement architecture to enable desired use cases while adhering to technical and regulatory limitations. An example of this complexity is attribution in the app world, which is more challenging than on the web due to stricter user data privacy enforcement, like iOS's intelligent tracking prevention.

Analytics experts are well-versed in existing tools, such as Mobile Measurement Partners, which help mitigate traffic source data loss. Additionally, they stay up-to-date with evolving data governance practices to adapt the proposed architecture for long-term viability. Having such expertise in measurement and analytics ensures the success of app development projects.

3) Drive year-round engagement through data-driven digital marketing

Finally, enhance regular app usage and engagement through a robust digital marketing strategy. Use tools like Web to App Connect to seamlessly direct customers to compelling in-app content, boosting conversion rates. Targeted digital ads for existing app users can effectively re-engage consumers and capture their attention.

Moreover, leveraging customer data beyond holiday periods offers valuable opportunities. 

For instance, by using information on their past holiday preferences and deals, personalised "ideation" ads can be sent to cater to their specific interests. 

For example, if a customer frequently visits the same destination, they can receive a notification about promotions on that holiday package. This approach ensures consistent engagement throughout the year, not just during holidays.

In this dynamic landscape, travel apps have become a powerful catalyst for business growth. 

By prioritising first-party data, application expertise, and user engagement, travel companies can reap the benefits. As the industry continues to evolve, leveraging the potential of travel apps is no longer an option but a necessity.