Perspective | The next gen bookings; only on Mobiles
India is a rapidly advancing nation in the technological space. With the growing population and increasing smartphone penetration, India is going mobile and digital. Smartphone and internet is not just for rich and wealthy but more users are becoming informed by getting access of mobile internet. However, the growth is still not at par with the other countries.
Over the last 5 years we have seen that there has been a change in the way we use technology. According to industry reports, India has about 278 million internet users. With the kind of opportunity in the country marketers are doing their best to utilize mobile as a platform. With the increase of usage in smart phones, mobile bookings have become a convenient option.
Adgully caught up with Vikalp Sahni, CTO at GoIbibo, Sharat Dhall, President Yatra.com, Pranav Bhasin, Head Mobile Products at MakeMyTrip.com and Anand Subramanian, Director - Marketing Communications at Ola to know about the future of mobile bookings.
Mobile as a platform:
Sharing insights on how best the platform works, Sahni said, “We have understood this long time back that mobile will be driver of transactions and that’s why have started investing in mobile technology and we’re sure that when we create anything, any kind of a product or any framework on the GoIbibo platform we ensure that its mobile friendly. Mobile friendly in the sense that technically when we build it we ensure that it is being easily exportable as a web service and it can then be ported very easily on any mobile ecosystem. Mobile Ecosystem in the sense that we are in iOS, we are in Android, in Windows mobile as well. We are pretty much leveraging all the ecosystems in GoIbibo and it’s a key driver for our growth.”
With similar thoughts, Dhall added, “With smartphones getting cheaper by the day, we expect that the contribution of mobile bookings to become 50% of our business over the next 12-18 months. As a company, we are adopting a ‘mobile first’ strategy by introducing new features on the mobile first. To name some of the features, we introduced complimentary lounge access for our mobile app bookers along with a feature allowing web check in that works very well for a business traveller. Apart from that we also have air fare calendars which are ideal for a price conscious shopper, special air fares for the deal seeker, special hotel rates and last minute travel offers and a wide variety of holiday packages to choose from and a lot more. Overall, our app has been extremely well received and we have a large number of very positive customer reviews for it.”
On the other hand, Bhasin said, “Mobile is the perfect channel for a travel company to provide real value to the customer and create higher engagement by enabling an easy travel-booking experience. We have a mobile-first approach but all services ultimately complement our core value proposition of value-based travel-related services. Mobile provides a smoother user experience, increased personalization and allows faster access to relevant information”
Commenting on the same note, Subramanian says, "Ola is India's most popular app for personal transportation with over 100,000 vehicles registered on the platform. Ola is high on technology innovation and was the first one to come up with a one-touch mobile app for cab booking in the whole of South Asia. Ola is present in 50+ cities across India and over 80% of the bookings are made through the Ola mobile app due to the ease and convenience in booking."
He adds, "We are a mobile first company. At the driver end as well as at the customer end, we have put mobile platforms to work to ensure a real-time connect between them. There are various features available for the customers on the app. They can recharge their Ola money wallet and as a security feature, we have also recently released an SOS button for customers, which when activated, will send out all ride details in real-time including GPS coordinates to pre-set friends and family members of the user via SMS and e-mail. Through the app one can also book auto rickshaws in over 6 cities. The driver app on the other hand acts as a booking device, serves up navigation and also displays the fare towards the end of the ride. We are making ground transportation convenient, reliable and safe for all alongside a seamless mobile experience for customers and drivers."
Progessing towards the Mobile Space:
We all know that mobile gives us convenience and this shift is increasing rapidly in the Indian scenario. Sharing thoughts on the same Sahni said, “The growth on mobile is the highest of all other channels. When we say other channels it means desktops and tablets. We have seen the highest amount of growth on this platform.”
Dhall also thinks on similar lines. He adds, “The thing that has been the most exciting about this year is the mobile technology which has completely transformed the travel landscape. Due to Smartphone penetration, which is likely to continue to grow at a furious pace, the adoption of mobile as a platform for travel bookings has led to an exponential growth in our mobile traffic and bookings.”
On the other hand, Bhasin says, “We are the only OTA in India to offer full-service apps for a range of smartphones – Android, Blackberry, iOS and Windows, besides a HTML-optimized touch site. Unlike other apps with limited functionality, MakeMyTrip travel apps not only enable searching, booking and paying for both domestic and international flights but also Hotels, Holidays and Bus besides offering add-ons such as booking history, itinerary, flight status as well as location-based solutions for dining options and restaurants. The information is delivered through an intuitive and interactive interface. These apps offer the same functionality as that available on the website (including hotel reviews, pictures, and TripAdvisor ratings). Furthermore, the app enables users to cancel their bookings, track the status of their refunds, send e-tickets and vouchers and also look for alternate arrangements in case of last minute delays.”
Progressing towards this change, Subramanian said, "Due to Internet penetration and increase in the number of smart phone users, there has been a substantial shift towards booking from the mobile app as compared to before. We have seen this number move up from just about 30% a year and half ago to about 80% at current scale."
Challenges in the space:
There are a lot of challenges in this space. Sahni says, “One of the major Challenges on the mobile currently or for any e-commerce company is Payments. Payments have to be driven by credit cards and credit cards have safety secure. And then also a lot of these banks don’t have a very nice mobile friendly website when a user transits from the application to these banking websites. Yes we are trying to solve these challenges by creating close and petty close wallets. That’s one of the major drop-off that we see. Apart from that it’s a very niche ecosystem and I would rather say that mobile rather adds more value to the product than creating challenges, but yes payments still remain a major challenge.”
Dhall adds, “In an industry like ours, the only way to remain ahead of competition is by being extremely customer focused and constantly innovating on the product experience. We spend lot of effort in technological development of the mobile platform to ensure enhanced features and a superior product experience for our mobile users. We have reduced the size of the app over the months to make it easier and quicker to download – this has accelerated the number of app downloads which is now approaching the 2 million number. Moreover, we have invested heavily in analytics to have a clear understanding of the customer segments so that we can offer the right product mix to our customers.”
Being one of the pioneers in this space Bhasin adds, “In 2014, we saw the tremendous impact of mobile internet penetration in terms of how online travellers accessed and made transactions. Our mobile app downloads grew 3x from 1.5 million in 2013 to nearly 5 million in 2014 and mobile contribution to traffic (visitors) grew from 20% in 2013 to 33% this year. MakeMyTrip is focusing on delivering a superior experience to all mobile users regardless of channel of access. We recently introduced India’s first flight-booking service in Hindi on our mobile site and we will extend these vernacular services to other languages such as Gujarati, Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam in 2015.”
On the challenges front, Subramanian said, "Smartphone penetration definitely needs to go deeper into smaller towns and cities where we are fast expanding. Similarly, data and connectivity are infrastructural challenges that we have solved for by integrating an additional layer of SMS notifications at every step."
Speaking about from where the crowd comes, Sahni tells us, “About 70% comes from the web and tablets while 30% of their crowd comes from the mobile platform.” He adds,
“Given a choice I do most of my transaction from mobile itself because everything is synced with my mobile.”
Dhall also has similar figures. He said, “The browsing trend on mobile has increased dramatically with more than one in every three people searching on the mobile. In fact 30% of our bookings and 40% of our traffic are coming via mobile. He adds that given a choice, “I personally prefer booking via our mobile app as it is a great user experience and extremely fast and easy to use, allowing me to book my tickets from anywhere at any time.”
Being one of the best cab bookings service, their bookings happen mainly through mobile. Subramanian said, "Over 80% bookings received are through the Ola mobile app. However, the number is slightly lower in smaller towns although that is rapidly changing too. Around 3-5% of our bookings are made through the web by our customers." Given a choice he said, "We are at the forefront of the mobile revolution in India. Mobile is convenient and far more intelligent a source of booking compared to any other. We are able to bring in a completely seamless experience from booking to payment with the mobile platform!"
Bhasin adds, “More than one third of our total online monthly unique visitors come to MakeMyTrip via mobile, which now represents 24% of all online transactions. We also witnessed a clear skew towards higher last-minute bookings on Mobile.”
It has been observed by marketers and brands that majority of the bookings these days are happening through mobiles. The earlier misconception of mobile not being a friendly platform doesn't hold true anymore. With about 30% of travel bookings and about 80% of cab bookings happening from the mobile platform itself is an indication that this platform has given immense convenience to the consumers. Though there are challenges like payments, this platform is trying to overcome it soon. Happy Bookings! By Archit Ambekar | Twitter: @aambarchit