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TripAdvisor boosts non-transactional mobile travel with offline app features

TripAdvisor announced the launch of a new offline feature for its mobile application which allows travelers to download reviews, photos and city maps before departing, and then access this information on the road when no data connection is available.

The release of mobile-led products which are not a part of core business, but created as additional services for customers is on the rise within the travel sector. With this update to the app, TripAdvisor will now function aside from the transaction side of travel, to simply help people during the planning, discovery and enjoyment phase of a trip.

?TripAdvisor's new offline functionality is a powerful testament to the versatility of mobile apps,? said Raj Aggarwal, CEO of Localytics.

?The mobile traveler benefits because it is convenient and cost-effective, and TripAdvisor benefits because it will make their app more sticky, which is defined as an app having high numbers of both 'power' and loyal users,? he said.

?Ultimately, brands, such as TripAdvisor are striving to have stickier apps because there is a clear relationship between greater app engagement, revenue and loyalty.?

At launch, the feature includes more than 300 city maps worldwide, with more to follow.

An upgrade on value
To access the new offline feature, TripAdvisor app users may search for a city within the app when a data connection is available and tap a button to download city content.

Once downloaded, the app will automatically transition between the offline mode featuring 10 reviews per point of interest when no data connection is available, and the full live version of the app when it is cellular or WiFi-connected.

Users may add and remove city maps as needed based on where they are visiting. Users may also download the latest version of the city map to sync the content with the reviews and opinions available on TripAdvisor's constantly refreshed live site.

According to digital performance analysis firm Criteo, the average user-to-download ratio in the travel app vertical is only 25.8 percent. This evidences the reality that companies do not just need more downloads, but more active users as well to improve the lifetime value of app users outside of seasonality.

Tapping desirables
Travel apps are used an average of 2.6 times per week and retain 45 percent of their users over a 90-day period, reports mobile apps analytics firm Flurry.

Utility-based travel apps focus on necessary travel transactions and provide a clear purpose for the user.

On the other hand, content-based applications such as guidebooks or social travel apps for leisure travelers would likely be used fewer times per week and have a much lower retention rate as leisure travelers not only travel less often than business travelers, but would likely delete a destination app upon their return home.

TripAdvisor?s new features combine the non-transactional side of travel with the profit of booking to reactivate its most valuable users while they are most receptive. This is becoming more and more critical as 70 percent of consumers look to a hotel or travel wiki to learn what digital and mobile experiences they are looking for in a hotel stay, according to a recent report from Magnani Caruso Dutton.

More so than any other industry, the travel sector comes with high expectations in mobile. Since consumers are inherently on the go when traveling, they tend to perform more activities on mobile devices, and they want hoteliers to match these expectations.

Similar to other online travel agencies, Travelocity was early to the game in mobile and ecommerce. During the Mobile Shopping Fall Summit last October, a Travelocity executive said the company sees the opportunity to leverage mobile in new ways to elevate the total travel experience (see story).

Mobile-exclusive experiences come into play once a consumer has booked a travel experience. From there, consumers rely on their mobile devices to alter travel plans. To tap into that utility focus, Travelocity recently updated its mobile app for iOS 7, and added an AirDrop feature that lets consumers share itineraries and plans to friends and family, as post-purchase offerings are area of investment for the brand going forward.

Similarly, TripAdvisor is targeting mobile to understand the bigger picture of how someone ultimately purchases and experiences travel.

Many times marketers assume that mobile is directly substitutionary for desktop space, but in actuality when people shop specifically with mobile, following booking the smartphone is pretty much the exclusive way that consumers interact with a brand or site moving forward.

?Users can now engage with TripAdvisor, and access content without being connected to a Wi-Fi or data connection,? Mr. Aggarwal said.

?This makes particular sense for a travel app because we find ourselves offline while traveling more than at home.?

 Final Take
Michelle is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York