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Smartphone and travel? Are you being left behind?

The recent surge in mobile traffic, particularly over the last couple of weeks amid the severe blizzards on the East Coast US, has demonstrated just how useful mobile can be. During that period, hoards of people used their mobiles to check for updates, and the impact on travel routes – which just highlights how much we have begun to rely on smartphones’ web access.

The benefit of mobile for the travel industry is two-fold. Firstly, customers are afforded optimal speed and convenience with online bookings, check in and virtual boarding passes, and secondly the organizations themselves benefit from lower operating costs, agentless customer service and gaining that all important competitive edge.

A multitude of services can now be accessed through mobile, and customers are able to plan and purchase the entire travel experience from start to finish – from flight and hotel bookings right through to virtual room keys. Customers are also starting to demand this level of customer service across all of their mobile devices. For instance, they might want to tap into their travel plans on a BlackBerry, iPad, PC and alike – thereby making it crucial to keep any mobile offering consistent and device agnostic.

Recent research has demonstrated that it is primarily the younger generation leading the pack here. What begins as an adoption of free apps, and an experiment to test the limits of a mobile travel app, is resulting in more and more people expressing a willingness to pay for a quality mobile service.

With so many alternatives on the market however, a bad experience with a travel app (i.e. slow, buggy, incorrect or rarely-updated information) can prove fatal as most users won’t hesitate in switching to a competitor. In fact, a recent Kony and PhoCusWright study showed that 31 percent of US travelers are less likely to use a mobile application after a malfunction. As travel companies scramble to meet the rapid market demand, staying on top of the game by providing quality mobile apps, which will enhance user experience, is crucial to stand out in the crowd.

The market growth of mobile is giving enterprises a competitive opportunity that simply cannot be missed or overlooked. Almost 70 percent of major US airlines have already migrated their mobile offerings to Kony Mobile Travel, so it becomes clear that not having a complete mobile package can definitely prove costly.

As an example of the benefits, one US airline reported a 145 percent increase in mobile ticket purchases, 50 percent increase in mobile check-ins and a 134 percent increase log-ins to loyalty programs as a result of a sound mobile strategy.

The rest of the industry should take heed. Don’t be left behind.