Mobile has arrived.
Over the past two years smartphones have seen exponential growth – both in terms of the total number of users and the sheer volume of possible applications for the technology.
Devices – led by the iPhone, but increasingly challenged by Google Android enabled handsets from a number of producers – have begun to offer users access to a vast wealth of information in the palms of their hand.
While still lagging behind personal computers as the primary tool for accessing the internet, smartphones provide an essential service to countless users around the world.
In travel and tourism, the opportunities are virtually limitless.
Airlines have been queuing up to launch applications allowing passengers to book flights, access reward schemes and provide real-time information on departures.
Hotels are no different, allowing guests to check-in online, book services and – importantly – review their stay after departure.
More recently, the way in which users engage with their smartphones has come in for closer scrutiny, allowing tourism operators to identify new marketing strategies that make meaningful connections with the new mobile consumer.
Not just services, but also advertising can be transmitted directly to the consumer – with ads tailored to individual interests.
One expert in the field Michael Slinger, head of director mobile advertising, Americas, for Google, works with large clients to help them understand how to reach end users via Mobile devices.
He reveals those looking to sell online must tailor their site to mobile devices, not just offer a scaled down version of the web.
Slinger explains: “Up to 80 per cent of advertisers have not done the basics of creating mobile websites.
“Yet, depending on the category, 15 to 25 per cent of searches are mobile.
“If you have not optimised for mobile, you are missing out.”
Just adding a phone number to the online ads used for mobile adds another six to eight per cent to your click-through rates.
World.Mobi is seen as an industry leader by many
One such company already offering such services is World.Mobi, considered by many to be leaders in mobile web site development and mobile strategy.
Rather than simply recreating a miniature desktop site for the mobile, World.Mobi specialises in exploiting the characteristics of the mobile phone as a communications device in order to help drive more customers to a business.
Whether an organisation needs a simple mobile site to start communicating with users on the go or need to manage complex content changes across both desktop and mobile channels, World.Mobi is the first port of call for many.
However, all tourism insiders should listen closely.
Google itself made $1 billion – from a total of $29 billion – from mobile advertising in 2010.
The market holds huge promise for a company that likes to note that mobile searches on average increase by 50 times when a user upgrades his device to a smartphone.
But it is not just search in which Google dominates.
Gmail, Google Calendar, Orkut, Google Maps, Google Earth and Google Reader all led the sectors they represent, with the American giant looking to expand its mobile offering further in coming month.
For example, Translate (for Android) will allow users to translate conversations instantly, while Google Books will see users download books and keep them stored on remote servers, reading one book on a variety of devices.
A music store to rival iTunes is also in development.
As mobile internet grows it will be interesting to see if Google can maintain its pre-eminent position, or if upstarts – including World.Mobi – can challenge for a seat at the top table.