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In the mobile apps versus mobile Web debate, apps appear to be edging ahead when looking at the world as a whole, although there are regional differences and it is too soon to declare an outright winner.
Among respondents in the Expedia/Egencia survey who had indicated they used a smartphone or tablet to book a hotel, 58% globally said they had used an app and 42% responded that they hadn’t. The U.S. breakdown was basically the same, 57% versus 43%.
Expedia Inc. is hedging its bets when it comes to apps versus the mobile web. “We are making a couple of bets there,” says Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Expedia.
“We are investing heavily in our app product and in driving downloads on a global basis. We have more than 150 million downloads now globally. And, we are also making a very big bet on responsive Web design, which is making sure that whatever services that we build across our brand family that those are available in a responsive way across any device that you are on. Whether it is a tablet or a mobile phone. Eventually it will be watches etc. It is a different way of design. It is more complex. There is a challenge in moving from the old way of designing to responsive design, but we are very consistently moving over more of our sites onto responsive, which makes for a terrific mobile experience across whatever device you may be using.”
TripAdvisor’s CEO Steve Kaufer argues that there is no clear winner yet globally in apps versus mobile Web. “The jury is still out in terms of mobile Web versus mobile app,” Kaufer says. “We see resounding votes for both. We have a lot of app usage and a lot of mobile Web usage.”
“We see coexistence for the foreseeable future, and TripAdvisor hasn’t gone the route of an app for each and every brand that we have, but where there’s a specific need we do look at creating frequently a custom app for it,” Kaufer adds.
It is clear that most online travel players have a preference for apps over the mobile Web because they bypass the cost of constantly having to reacquire the customer through paid search. In India, where online travel agency MakeMyTrip attracts about 25% of its hotel bookings through mobile devices, CEO Deep Kalra votes for apps.
“Definitely apps are our favorite medium because of the obvious advantage of not having to re-acquire the the customer,” Kalra says. “App customers convert higher, and then you can attribute some kind of lifetime value there. We incentivize people not to download our app, but to do their first transaction through our app. We have 3.2 million app downloads through the end of last quarter [Q2 2014], and that number is growing well.”
For more, read our full report, The State of Mobile Booking 2015.