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Travel apps have turned previously complicated transactions into simple taps on travelers’ smartphones.
Today new mobile tech integrations are giving smart travel companies the opportunity to drive sales by establishing direct links between different types of apps across several travel sectors. Skift recently looked into the data that users share while using their favorite travel apps, but new technologies are emerging that will help better, more efficient passing of data between services, without compromising on privacy.
The ability to take a customer from one app directly to a specific section of another app is referred to as “deep linking.” The concept is nearly as old as the Internet with web pages using hyperlinks to bring readers from a page on one website to a specific page on a second website.
In the context of mobile apps, deep linking brings users from one app to a specific location within another mobile app, primarily a point of sale, rather than simply launching the app as it would from the home screen.
Direct linking establishes a direct channel of communication, built around buyer intent, that allows marketers to provide users exactly what they are looking for when they are looking for it. This increases the likelihood of securing a booking by creating a clear path from demand to product.
A great example of this is Uber’s recent integration into United’s and Hyatt’s apps (see right image).
United customers, for example, can start the Uber booking process directly within the airline’s app by entering their pickup and drop-off locations and viewing wait estimates for Uber’s different services including UberX and UberBLACK. Users select a service and are then transferred to the Uber app to complete their booking.
If the user doesn’t have the Uber app, they will be prompted them to download it or create an account through a mobile website.
Travel is a series of transactions across a broad ranges of services including air travel, ground transportation, and accommodations. Connecting these previously separate sectors through deep linking improves the customer experience and increases the likelihood of transactions for service providers.
“Travel is especially magical because a traveler has an innate need for these services and has a different spending profile than they might in their regular life,” explains Chris Maddern, co-founder of Button, a tech company that facilitates deep links between apps.
“I think you’ll see more travel companies trying to provide the concierge angle of travel.”
Uber doesn’t release data on which percentage of its bookings come through deep links from the United app or its other partners including HomeAway and LiveNation. Such integrations have only been live since August 2014 when Uber first released its API.
However, a company spokesperson says, “We are very encouraged by the initial data indicating that Uber API integrations are a powerful way to improve engagement in partner apps and introduce potential new riders to Uber.”
Another benefit of deep linking — from a user’s perspective — is that there is significantly less data shared than traditional partnerships, explains Maddern.
Traditional partnerships, such as Uber’s points partnerships with American Express and Starwood Hotels and Resorts or the more traditional relationships between hotels and airlines, require a certain amount of data sharing that ties users’ personal information to their identity.
Deep links, however, are based on users’ intentions and actions rather than who they are, decreasing the need for data sharing.
“One of the main elements of deep linking is that it’s on a point-to-point basis. It has full context of the action you’re trying to complete” says Maddern.
“When you’re using a Facebook log-in, they’re trying information to your identity and retrieving that in a new app. It’s a proxy for understand your state, what you want to do.”
Deep Link Options
As one-to-one relationships — such as United and Uber’s integrations — proliferate, travel providers have had to choose which partners to pursue.
Technology company URX wants to help companies get around that challenge with a platform that allows service producers to integrate several partners through a single integration.
For example, United app users could potentially click a “Request Ride” button instead of an Uber button. They could then select which car service to book through or be served one selection based on their location or previous behavior.
In addition to linking between apps, some companies are taking advantage of the technology to drive customers to the right page within their app. This is the same way that a CNN article might link to another CNN article.
This activates channels that the company already has available and helps customers more efficiently find what they need.