Smaller companies, including travel agencies, can go mobile with a relatively small investment, according to Carin Van Vuuren, chief marketing officer for Usablenet, a New York-based developer of mobile websites and apps whose travel clients include Ritz-Carlton, Best Western and Jetblue.
Travel Market Report asked Van Vuuren why an agent should consider adapting their websites for mobile, how much it might cost and what the returns would be. She also discussed mobile apps for agents.
Can smaller companies afford to have a mobile presence?
Van Vuuren: There is no minimum size for mobile. There are so many templates available to get your site mobile. If you have a company with $5 million in sales you should have a sophisticated mobile website and can afford one.
Anybody with a desktop website should probably have a website adapted for mobile use. That means having a look, functionality and convenience that optimizes the mobile experience.
What are the risks in developing a mobile website?
Van Vuuren: Doing it wrong. The statistics are powerful in showing that almost everybody who has had a poor experience on a mobile site would not recommend that site.
If ABC Travel has a site that’s easier to navigate on a mobile device than XYZ Travel, that is a tremendous competitive advantage.
How much does it cost to develop a mobile site?
Van Vuuren: You can get templates from sites like Wordpress, and there are many other options to do it on your own at minimal cost.
To work with a company like ours, the entry level is around $45,000, which buys a very functional site. For a Cadillac-level site, it might cost $100,000. It all depends on your goals.
Why should agents make that kind of investment?
Van Vuuren: The statistics about the projected growth of mobile bookings are staggering.
We have not done a mobile website for an agent but have for a regional resort company in the U.K. called Butlins. Like many mobile sites, it enables you to click through to a call center where a live agent helps in completing the booking.
A travel agent might choose to go that route. Or you can have a click-to-chat option.
Butlins’ bookings have soared on their mobile site.
What about mobile apps for travel agents? When would an app be worthwhile for a smaller company?
Van Vuuren: If you have a corporate client that makes frequent and similar bookings, it might make life easier for them to have an app to handle that. It might save time because they don’t have to enter their information every time.
But small to medium-sized agents would probably not need apps. The point in developing any of these tools is not the cost, but if there is enough of a case for your users. Can they accomplish something on the app that they couldn’t accomplish on the mobile website?
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