Top 5 trends that will redefine the digital traveller experience in 2016

2015 was a defining year in mobile travel with an estimated 50% increase in mobile usage across business and leisure travellers worldwide[1]. A number of themes shaped last year – an obvious shift towards self-service options across every touchpoint, removing friction from the multi-device user experience and introducing real-time communication, location and context-aware solutions to enhance mobile interactions with travellers were just a few examples. As the pace of multi-device usage and travel app usage continues to grow, it is important for airlines and travel companies to look ahead to the new opportunities in a multi-device, ‘always mobile’ world that will shape the digital traveller experience of 2016.

Below, we have compiled the top 5 trends that will dominate the digital travel experience in the next 12 months.

1. Convergence in a multi-device world

Multi-device usage is becoming the norm amongst today’s travellers. In the UK for example, 75% of travellers own a minimum of three devices (desktop, smartphone and tablet), up from 66% in 2014[2]. In the US, this figure is slightly lower with 65% of travellers owning three or more devices[3]. The proliferation of mobile devices, which now also includes wearables, means that travellers are increasingly shifting between screens as they research, plan, reserve, book and manage their trips on the go and interact with their airline or travel provider in general. Better servicing the end-traveller’s needs at every stage of the travel lifecycle in today’s multi-screen world is an important reality that airlines and travel companies will need to address in the year ahead.

As travellers move more fluidly between devices, they expect to be able to research, buy or interact with travel brands via any channel at any time throughout the travel cycle. Airlines and travel companies must focus on aligning their digital strategies to provide a consistent experience across all screens.

Source: 123RF.com

2. Inspire, excite and engage with rich destination content

Another trend that emerged towards the end of 2015 was integrating destination content within smartphone apps. When the iPad first launched in 2010, airlines and travel companies believed that destination guides and inspiration features should be reserved exclusively for tablets. With their larger screens and more image-friendly displays, travel companies saw tablets as ‘stay at home’ devices and created content that would inspire travellers as they planned their trips.

But as we enter 2016, airlines and travel companies are beginning to recognise the importance of taking ownership of the end-to-end travel experience and keeping users within their apps with additional services and offerings such as compelling destination content that inspires them throughout their trip. Engaging destination content also provides travel companies with more opportunities to drive increased revenues by promoting relevant ancillary services and inspiring travellers to make additional bookings via their devices. Many leading travel apps have already teamed up with top destination guide specialists to aggregate their content, allowing them to quickly and efficiently bring this service to travellers in 2016.

Singapore Airlines Tablet App & Destination Guide Feature

3. Mobile payments will dominate in 2016!

2016 will be a defining year for mobile payments as the leading providers continue to battle it out to become champions of the mCommerce space. Apple Pay will continue to expand operations globally. Already live in four countries including USA, UK, Canada and Australia, Apple’s mobile payment service will roll out to Hong Kong, China, Singapore and Spain over the next few months. Google has announced plans to expand Android Pay (first launched in the US in September 2015) to Australia early in 2016 with other regions to be revealed later in the year. Meanwhile other key players such as Samsung Pay, PayPal and Walmart are all incoming in 2016.

Widespread adoption, improvements in security and increased consumer trust are also strong indicators that mobile payments will dominate in 2016. Innovations such as Touch ID are key to ensuring a frictionless payment process – proven to dramatically increase the rate of successful conversion, of particular interest for airlines and travel companies.  In the US alone, mobile payments are set to triple to amount to $27.5 billion by the end of the year[4]. Airlines and travel companies have a huge opportunity to increase new and existing mobile revenues by embracing new mobile payment technologies and adapting their mobile strategies to ensure a frictionless travel retail experience.

Source: http://appygeeky.com/

4. The rising demand for traveller autonomy

Perhaps one of the biggest opportunities for mobile travel in 2016 is the increasing desire for autonomy among today’s connected travellers. This demand is particularly strong among the ‘mobile-centric’ Millennials and Generation Z, 83% of whom confirm that they would prefer self-service options during travel than interacting with staff[5]. Airlines and travel companies understand that today’s travellers want to be able to manage all aspects of their travel via their own device and in 2015 we saw many of the leading brands make significant advancements in mobile self-service features. Booking, check-in and boarding are now par for the course in mobile travel apps. However, one area that remains largely untouched by airlines and travel companies is IROPS management services via mobile such as rebooking and disruption handling. This is one key area that will be on the agenda in 2016.

Research shows that travellers increasingly expect to have more control in managing their trips via mobile at times of disruption. For example, an estimated 50% of today’s travellers expect a notification or a call to their mobile phone during situations of disruption or delay[6]. A further 69% of passengers confirmed that they would like to use their smartphones to better manage their trip during flight disruptions[7]. Some of the leading airlines worldwide have already made significant movements in IROPS management and in 2016 we expect many others to follow as the demand for ‘full traveller autonomy’ continues to grow.

Source: Shutterstock

5. What’s next for ‘wearables’ in 2016? 

The rise of wearables was one of the top movements in mobile over the last year and strong growth is expected to continue into 2016. In the US for example, the use of wearables is expected to increase by 61% next year, accounting for over 25% of the total US population[8]. With similar growth expected in other regions, clearly this is a channel that needs particular attention from airlines and travel companies in 2016.

The launch of WatchOS2 last year gave rise to an initial burst of faster and smarter ‘stand alone’ apps that no longer relied on the smartphone to function. That trend will surely continue to grow with the much rumoured Apple Watch 2 in March this year. This brand new platform and other new advances in wearable technology in 2016 will create significant opportunities for airlines and travel companies to add increased sophistication and a new era of convenience to the digital travel experience.

Source: 123RF.com

Source: 123RF.com

So in summary, the rising adoption of multi-device digital strategies in 2016 will continue to have a big impact across the end-to-end travel experience. The next twelve months offers up a new phase of innovation across mobile technology with new opportunities for airlines and travel companies to deliver a more seamless digital travel experience across all channels and to present content that will engage travellers throughout the travel cycle.

Advancements in technology mean that travel companies will address traveller needs such as the demand for more autonomy in times of disruption, the desire to make quick and easy ‘on-the-go’ mobile transactions and the opportunity to bring a new level of convenience to travel via the introduction of wearables. As the digital landscape continues to evolve, airlines and travel companies must take advantage of new opportunities to continue creating compelling digital travel experiences that allow them to better connect, engage and inspire travellers in 2016 and beyond.

To find out more about the rapidly changing digital travel landscape for airlines and travel companies and key trends in 2016, please view our recent webinar on the topic here or contact us to arrange a meeting with with one of our experts.


[1] eConsultancy, March 2015, https://econsultancy.com/blog/66241-mobile-will-be-a-driving-force-in-th...

[2] Expedia Media Solutions, May 2015, http://advertising.expedia.com/about/press-releases/study-expedia-media-...

[3] Expedia Media Solutions, May 2015, http://www.meetingsconventions.com/uploadedFiles/MobileWhitepaper_Expedi...

[4] eMarketer, November 2015, http://www.emarketer.com/Article/US-Proximity-Mobile-Payment-Transaction...

[5] Pew Research, June 2015, http://www.stardiamondaward.com/2015/10/interactive-engagement-technolog...

[6] SITA, ‘The Future is Personal’, February 2015, http://www.futuretravelexperience.com/2015/02/report-highlights-demand-f...

[7] SITA, ‘Smart Thinking’ Study, April 2014, http://www.futuretravelexperience.com/2014/04/study-highlights-strong-de...

[8] eMarketer, October 2015, http://www.emarketer.com/Article/Wearable-Usage-Will-Grow-by-Nearly-60-T...

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