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Case Study: What You Need to Know when Developing Travel Apps

Aug 23 2021

travel app


No matter what app industry vertical you function in, it is critical for all app developers and mobile marketers – like you – to understand your target users’ journeys. This blog discusses the critical aspects involving App Awareness and User Acquisition and is the first in a series of five that focuses on each of the broad stages across the App User Life cycle Journey with regards to the travel sector.

The online travel sector has emerged as a leading driver of growth in the overall travel industry; touted to be worth USD 1,091 billion by 2022 at a CAGR of 11.1%. With a plethora of mobile apps at the disposal of more well-informed users; mobile travel service bookings as a share of total global online bookings have skyrocketed by over 230% between 2015 and 2016 alone.

As of 2016, revenues worth USD 65 billion were generated through mobile app bookings – globally – in comparison to the USD 115 million earned through traditional online bookings. This number is only likely to increase in the future as the share of mobile app bookings in the overall revenue pie continues to rise.

With over 5% of all apps available across both Android and iOS platforms being travel-centric apps; it creates a highly competitive marketplace. Rising above the clutter to attract and engage users is one of the biggest challenges you will face today. This is precisely why app awareness and subsequent user acquisition is of paramount significance.

 

The App User Lifecycle Journey

The App User Lifecycle Journey

 

 

Value proposition that resonates with  users


You only have one app store page that visitors from a variety of traffic sources will land on. Whether they come with higher intent from your desktop or mobile website, or if they happened to click on an ad, the creatives and messaging they see upon landing on your page should be compelling enough to convince them to install.

An important first step in pinpointing your app’s competitive advantage is understanding the market. To get you started, try to answer questions such as:

  • What key messages do your competitors highlight in their app stores (e.g., do they emphasize travel deals, app features, variety of options, etc.)?
  • What overall trends do you notice (e.g., design styles, Gallery orientation, Video vs. no Video, etc.)?
  • Where is the opportunity for your app? More specifically, how can you differentiate your app and its unique benefits from other travel apps?

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Define your messaging


Once you have a more comprehensive understanding of the travel app landscape and your competitors, you’re better equipped to define the specific (and unique) messaging you should test.

This messaging style is used to convey the emotional experience of booking a trip, and it positions your app as a travel partner that people can trust. Both VRBO and TripAdvisor use this type of messaging to appeal to the positive feelings associated with traveling—the happiness that people feel when they ‘find [their] perfect place” and the safety of having “the ultimate travel companion” when they’re exploring unfamiliar destinations. 

This is an effective tactic to attract users who are motivated to take action by the strong, positive feelings that traveling brings them as well as how this product can benefit them on a personal level.

Another style is focusing strictly on the functionality of your app. What specific features does your app have, and what does it enable people to do better? Airbnb does this well by consolidating their app’s functionality into a concise statement in the first Screenshot: Search. Book. Travel. Explore. They keep their messaging short and to the point, which appeals to travelers who value ease and want to use a single app that can do everything they need.

Social proof


Some apps choose to focus on social proof in their messaging (e.g., how many people rely on this app, how it ranks compared to other apps, travel awards they’ve won, etc.). This is a useful tactic to alleviate any concerns about the app’s reliability. Visitors can be comforted that your app will work and provide value because millions of other users trust it.

One could argue that given the challenge of persuading desktop or mobile website travel bookers to install a dedicated app instead, this is one of the most important messaging styles to use. By highlighting the exclusive deals, savings, or features that users can only access in the app, you provide a significant, tangible benefit to installing it. This is an especially critical topic for apps of all industries to address because you’ll always have visitors who question why they should install an app over simply using the website. Testing will ensure you have an optimized and compelling answer to that question.

Design styles


Once you’ve solidified your messaging strategy, you need to find the most effective way to bring that messaging to life through your creatives. Based on our work in the mobile travel industry, we’ve found that most travel app galleries use the following design styles:

Lifestyle


Feature-oriented screenshots are real screenshots of the app used to showcase different features and UI. If using this style, it’s important to help visitors focus on the relevant parts of the UI and enforce the connection between the textual caption and visual so they quickly understand the image. 

If your UI is exciting or a key differentiator in your app’s category, this approach may resonate well with your target audience. On the other hand, if this design approach isn’t well executed, you run the risk of losing installs from users who might glance over small UI elements and not understand the value they offer.

Rich branded experience


Compared to the previous design styles, the brand-focused trend is less common since it’s only effective if used by companies with established brand recognition and association. Kayak uses its signature orange color in the visual assets of their product page, and TripAdvisor’s recognizable logo is also prevalent throughout different assets. Implementing well-known brand elements can prove effective in converting users who are familiar with the company and want to ensure it’s a legitimate and trustworthy app.

 

App Store Optimization


Creating enough buzz around your app to drive app downloads is a major stepping stone to success. And, one of the best ways of doing so is through ASO.

It’s the process of optimizing your app store presence. Higher your search ranking, greater the chances of getting your app featured – higher your app visibility; thus, increasing the chances of app downloads. ASO assumes even greater significance for travel apps, given how dependent on user search action this segment remains.

Here are a few practical ways to improve your ASO:

Main Title: Include keywords that have high search volume specific to the travel industry; such as: travel, trip, flights, trains, hotels, vacations, etc. In the beginning, it is acceptable to play around with your title as you attempt to hit upon what works best for your app. But, as your app continues to gain traction on the app rankings; you would benefit by locking in a permanent title as too much chopping and changing can erode carefully built brand recall. 

 

Ensure you pick something unique that doesn’t get lost in the crowd. Also, avoid using too many irrelevant keywords in your title as app stores often suspend apps for “keyword stuffing”. So don’t pad your title with random keywords. Try to find a mix that capitalizes on search and positions your app as best in class.


Number of App Downloads: There is only so much that you can control when it comes to identifying and bidding for relevant keywords. Beyond that, app discovery and download depend on user discretion.

App Ranking: This is greatly influenced by the number of downloads. More downloads, the greater your chances of a potential user giving your app a try.

App Ratings and Reviews: Rankings and reviews have an enormous impact on your app’s visibility — and propensity for new users to download. This is especially true if your brand is relatively unknown in the market. Apart from providing an excellent user experience, there are a couple of things you can do to get more of those coveted 5-star reviews.

For one – ask! Use in-app notifications to find out which users are happy with the app, and ask them to leave a review. Or, you could offer discounts or access to exclusive content in exchange for ratings and reviews.

App Description: Include a brief, well-written description of the app’s main features and benefits; along with engaging screenshots or short videos of the app. You should also include the version and date of last update, as they have a bearing on eventual user acquisition. Users are more likely to download a travel app that clearly communicates its benefits and version updates. Think of this as subtle user engagement.

Invest in app indexing


Only 40% of users search for apps in the app store.

This means 60% make travel-specific searches on desktop or mobile web browsers. That’s why app indexing is so critical to app awareness and user acquisition.

According to Google, “App Indexing lets Google index apps just like websites. Deep links to your Android or iOS app appear in Google Search results; letting users get to your native mobile experience quickly; landing exactly on the right content within your app.”

Simply put, Android and iOS algorithms recognize HTTP URLs and establish connections between your app’s website, app store page and/or the app itself.

Adding deep links to your app means a simple travel-specific search will display your app as a search result, directing interested users to your app store page. Not only does this increase app discoverability, it also helps you re-engage existing users by directing them to the app on their device.

Send web visitors to your app


After spending extensively on conceptualising, developing, testing and launching a comprehensive travel app; the only way you can achieve a respectable return on investment is by diverting your existing user base from your website to your app. With conversions on mobile travel platforms rising to 88%, your app becomes even more important to your business.

Directing web visitors to your app can be as simple as adding a “Download the App” button or page to your website.

Encourage existing customers to download the app with incentives. Offer loyalty points or a discount on their first in-app purchase.

Travel giant Expedia does an excellent job of this. They ask web users to enter their mobile numbers, and then send a direct link to download the app. Now Expedia has a personal touchpoint to send their latest offers, as well as a way to drive users to their app.


ASO Topic App Store Optimization, Creative Optimization & Creative strategy, App Growth Case Study,

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