Is Digital Experience + Mobility = Apple Inc + Android?


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I recently attended the Travel Distribution Summit, Singapore. Two of the key themes covered were mobility and social media for travel and hospitality. The event was abuzz with initiatives of social media and mobility that hotels and airlines are undertaking to enhance their guest experience and passenger experience. The “masters of experience” were talking about re-inventing experience yet again for a traveller. Some very interesting concepts and strategies were discussed. Here I want to talk about some of my observations which were left unanswered after the conference.

Is mobility = app?

First and foremost, anytime a presenter or a speaker wanted to talk about their company’s strategy for mobility, they presented their company’s app. There were so many participants in the conference who were just a single app companies. And it made me wonder, if we are seeing a surge in these one-hit wonders, all over again like we did at the onset of the web commerce in the mid-90s.

Is app = Apple Inc. + Android?

Next when it came to mobility and apps, most companies wanted to just talk about primarily an app for iPhone or an iPad or Android platform. I understand the domination that is currently enjoyed by these iOS and Android platforms for smartphones but is there nothing else about a mobile platform than just catering to iOS and Android?

Is Digital Experience only about an app?

The third question that kept coming in my mind is whether digital experience is all about just creating a mobile app. Most hotels seemed to present their mobile apps that have been developed. For in-room guest experience Peninsula, Hong Kong’s latest app seemed refreshingly innovative. For mobile bookings, Starwood and Marriott seemed very happy with the success of their own mobile apps for booking. Japan Airlines’s talked about their success in customer engagement by launching 10 different mobile apps, one for each function for the traveller – yes ten. So the big question seemed to be how many apps do hotels and airlines expect their customers to have on their mobile phones/tablets? For someone like me who travels to fragmented regions like Asia Pacific and Europe quite often, it would mean that I need to have one app for every airline that I fly and one for every hotel that I stay in…. Hmm…. Where’s the experience there?

Then there was a company which presented a tool called ‘Handy’ – a smartphone with pre-loaded traveller app that you could rent in the local country that you are travelling to. A tangentially different approach to enhancing traveller experience but I did not like the idea that I would lose my ability to use my address book or my apps that I have painstakingly installed on my own phone, just because I am in a different country. Again – is that genuine enhancement of a traveller’s digital experience? Slight improvement – yes. Enhancement?…. Hmmm…..

Is Digital Experience + Mobility = Apple Inc + Android?

Since i seemed that the overarching theme for mobile strategy for digital experience seemed like it was just about developing smartphone apps for Apple and Android platforms, it struck me as a kind of narrow and tunnel visioned. Not to say that I blame the hospitality industry for it. This is the general state of affairs in most industries – including hi-tech. With general lack of innovations and everyone under the corporate gun for do or die, the only option they have today is to ‘do’ – create a mobile app for Android and iOS.

Some of us Gen X’s probably remember the times when our desktop screens used to be cluttered with several shortcuts and icons when every application was locally installed. Slowly with move to the Internet and Cloud the desktop got cleared as number of icons reduced and became bookmarks in our browsers. Slowly the wallpaper of our loved ones photo became visible. Finally. Are we sitting on a similar inflexion point in mobile today?

The other day I looked at my wife’s iPad – it had three screens worth of icons on it. Everything from news to stock market to games to cooking to French lessons, not to count Facebook, email and Safari – you name it, it was there. Is that the future for traveller experience that hoteliers are planning or is there a better way to manage the list of travel apps from airlines to hotels to OTAs to weather apps to entertainment apps – the truth is still out there

Abhishek Singh
Currently, Abhishek holds the responsibility for conceptualizing, implementing and managing the IT product strategies for Infosys subsidiary, EdgeVerve, in the Digital space. Prior to this, several years at Singapore Airlines as well as his years of entrepreneurship ingrained in him the importance of customer experience.


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