The mobile device joins the TV and PC as the third screen. What does that mean for the travel industry?
In June 2007 Apple Inc, headed by Steve Jobs, introduced the iPhone in the U.S. and coupled with the RIM Blackberry consumers finally understood that the device they take everywhere with them does more than make phone calls and send text messages.
With applications that can extend the mobile experience from simple applications that allow you to track how many miles you are running to fun applications which allow you to take a sample of a song you hear at a club which then searches the database to retrieve the title and artist.
With increased phone functionality and an eager and savvy consumer population, mobile has truly taken off as a mass market device that goes beyond calling and texting.
Mobile market penetration is over 100 percent in some areas of the world which means that people can own more than one phone at a time. In Africa, where access to the internet is scarce, mobile has become the communication device of choice and the world is bearing witness to an entire generation who are skipping the PC device and going straight to mobile, booming mobile sales in that region.
As a result this has opened up an entirely new medium of communication for marketers to embrace which take into account changing behaviour patterns on the most widely used device on the planet.
The Mobile Web
10 July 2008 was a major miles stone for the mobile internet which had seen its fair share of problems from the days of WAP and high mobile web access charges. This was the day that Nielsen Mobile declared that the mobile web reached a critical mass of users. Due to the introduction of smart phones in the mass markets, the prime driver of mobile internet growth, and the lowering of tariff rates for mobile internet connection as well as the adoption of flat fee data plans, the mobile web has taken off.
By 2013, mobile web users are expected to top 1.7 billion, according to Juniper Research. However with less than .02 percent of websites being mobile friendly, having a mobile website offers an immense opportunity to set yourself apart from the crowd.
Chris Whitfield, Marketing Executive at World Mobi, a world leader in mobile web development, said: “With consumers interacting with mobile more and more, expectations are increasing, however, most companies do not have mobile websites to offer the rewarding and engaging experience that consumers expect.”
Mobile applications have seen much publicity recently and while most have a natural utility such as Where Traveler, a mobile city guide for popular travel destinations, or local gas prices, which allow you to find the cheapest gas prices in the area, some play more on the entertainment side such as the Phonesaber which allows Star Wars fans to fight out a battle with their iPhone. The fact remains that smart phones still only comprise of a small percentage of the total mobile phone market, so don’t venture into this field because of hype. There must be clear goals for what needs to be achieved and a clear marketing strategy. Just because you make an application doesn’t mean people use it. After all, Apple recently had its 1 billionth iPhone application downloaded so standing out from the crowd is half the battle.
Perhaps one of the biggest benefits the mobile web has had for consumers is the ability to conduct mobile search. Search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing have seen an exponential increase in the number of search queries which has lead Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt to say recently that mobile is at the very heart of its growth plans adding that “the fact of the matter is that mobile devices are going to be the majority of the way that people get information.”
Having a mobile website will be at the heart of a company’s mobile strategy in the coming years and in the future to ensure that companies can be findable in the mobile search engines as well as serve as a landing page for other mobile marketing campaigns. Companies which embrace the mobile market will be positioned to move forward in the years to come.