Think long-haul to reap the benefits of your travel app

A new report by Dublin-based consulting firm Accenture reveals that companies are failing to realise the full potential of their apps due to poor app management.

While the vast majority of executives (87%) recognise the value of mobile apps for their business, few are well prepared to successfully deploy and maintain those apps, says the firm.

Many failed to take account of user feedback during the design and build stages of app development (just 52% employed a testing program that included user feedback); and only 48% undertake usage reporting or analytics to understand any user pain points in live apps.

Abhijit Kabra, mobile applications practice lead at Accenture Digital – Mobility, commented: "We found that too many companies are neglecting to continually improve their existing apps. So, they risk wasting their investment."

Robust app management must be implemented once the technology is deployed, he explained. This helps provide the best possible user experience, and also helps ensure that security challenges are addressed as an "ongoing priority".

Security was found to be the greatest challenge in managing and developing mobile apps, cited by 49%. The second biggest challenge was performance issues, such as crashing and bugs (37%). Yet just over half (55%) make use of bug fixing or tracking tools to help overcome this.

The overwhelming majority of survey respondents (Accenture questioned 2,000 senior decision-makers) expect apps to play a major role in adding value to their business. Some 82% see apps as integral to their organisation; 85% said they're the dominant user interface of the future; and almost nine in ten believe apps to be a portal to the digital business.

While Accenture's study is not specific to travel, its results are reflected in the travel sector. A recent report by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) found that more than three-quarters of managed and unmanaged travellers who have travelled on business at least once in the past 12 months (out of 521 surveyed) have downloaded travel-related apps, says Business Travel News.

Navigation apps such as Google Maps and Waze are the most common, followed by airline and hotel apps; then third-party travel booking apps like Expedia, Orbitz and Kayak; and finally, itinerary management apps, ground transportation apps (like taxis or Uber) and general travel review apps like TripAdvisor.

The good news for travel firms is that the field is wide open when it comes to app selection for business travellers. Just 17% of respondents said their companies recommended a menu of travel apps (which is something of a missed opportunity for corporates, says GBTA).

Firms with managed travel programs were more likely than others to recommend apps, but not by much, the study found.

Millennials and Gen X travellers were more likely to use travel apps than Baby Boomers. To cater to Millennials, who will account for half of business travellers by 2020 according to the 2013 Boston Consulting Group report, and have a low threshold for subpar technology, there is a need for top-notch technology and apps that are as easy to use as consumer apps.

For the vast majority of firms, security is the biggest issue when it comes to travel apps. Travel buyers attending The BTN Group's Innovate conference in New York City in September named traveller safety, and security and data security among their greatest concerns when looking for an app to recommend, says Business Travel News.

This brings us back round to Accenture's study on app management: it's more important than ever to ensure that apps provide the best possible user experience – and this isn't limited to the development stage, but is an ongoing process.