Travel providers have been examining ways to make the traveler journey friction-free long before anyone heard the word “coronavirus.” But across all sectors of the industry, contactless solutions have gone from a “nice-to-have” to “need-to-have” as travel brands contend with evolving traveler expectations.
One new solution at travel providers’ disposal is Apple’s App Clip, which allows users to experience a small part of a brand’s app without having to fully download the application.
App Clips, which were released as part of Apple’s iOS 14, are designed to be used in the moment – for example, to order food – and allow users to complete an entire task or transaction in seconds. Users discover App Clips via Safari, Maps or Messages or in the real world through NFC tags, QR codes or App Clip Codes, which are unique markers that take users to specific App Clips.
If users scan a QR code for a tour, for example, they’ll see an App Clip pop up that will let them immediately pay for the experience through Apple Pay. Once the transaction is completed, the App Clip disappears, or brands can offer users the opportunity to download their full app.
“The pandemic era has accelerated already-rising trends: app overload, privacy transparency and instant/zero-touch experiences,” says Tal Raviv, product manager at marketing analytics platform AppsFlyer. “App Clips is the well-timed culmination of these trends.”
Raviv says a good way for travel brands to think about App Clips is to ask: Where do we lean heavily on mobile web?
“App Clips combine the availability of mobile web with the richness of native iOS app experiences. When you think about it that way, it’s less about the sector of travel, and more about the context and use case. Brands should consider what the quick-value moments are that provide an excellent opportunity for a native mobile experience to shine – way above what mobile web can offer,” he says.
“Travel is an ideal context for App Clips, because there’s so many rich mobile experiences available. On the other hand, a lot of the value doesn’t neatly fit into people’s long-term routine, the way messaging or finance apps do. App Clips liberate this value from being stuck behind an app download – and allows travelers to instantly get some of the value they would get from the full app.”
Although current usage in travel is relatively nascent, several brands have introduced App Clips as a way to provide a frictionless experience for travelers as well as increase customer engagement.
In February, travel e-commerce platform KKday became the first tourism operator in Greater China to introduce an App Clip experience.
With KKday’s App Clip, travelers in Taipei visiting attractions including the Taipei Children’s Amusement Park, Maokong Gondola and Taipei Arena Ice Land can scan an App Clip Code with their iPhone to quickly and seamlessly purchase a ticket.
After completing the ticket purchase, visitors will immediately receive the QR code of the electronic voucher and can enter the venue by validating the voucher at the entrance using their phone.
KKday CFO Victor Tseng says that while over 50% of KKday’s users are using KKday’s app, there is still a subset of users booking through web browsers or other methods.
“There are so many new users out there that have not discovered us,” he says. “The App Clip is a supplement to these kinds of users out there to be able to discover these products that KKday has digitized in a more frictionless way.”
App Clips, Tseng continues, help create a “holistic, touchless experience” – critical in COVID times – without users having to take up time and space on their mobile installing a full app. “It’s very frictionless, very digitized and very fitting in light of COVID and social distancing.”
KKday has also partnered with Taipei Metro to provide a NT$50 discount to consumers who pay for experiences at Taipei Children’s Amusement Park, Maokong Gondola and Taipei Arena Ice Land with Visa cards through Apple Pay.
One month since launch, App Clips have seen “pretty good” traction, Tseng says, and KKday plans to work with more vendors in Taipei to implement the solution.
In Las Vegas, Caesars Entertainment is the first hospitality company on the Strip to utilize Apple’s App Clip solution.
Developed by digital experience company Bottle Rocket, Caesars’ App Clip allows on-site guests to locate their hotel room and book restaurant reservations without having to download the Caesars Rewards mobile app.
The App Clip also leverages push notifications from Caesars’ engagement partner, Airship.
Launched in 2020, the App Clips are accessible via QR codes, NFC touch points or from links within Caesars brand communications. Currently, the Find My Room App Clip – which provides guests with step-by-step directions to find their rooms or points of interest at Caesars properties – is available at all of Caesars’ Las Vegas Resorts, and the Book Restaurant App Clip has launched at several properties.
“Caesars Entertainment’s App Clips highlight two key features of the Caesars Rewards mobile app that guests can use quickly and conveniently without the full app installed,” says Terry Chi, director of mobile and digital innovation for Caesars Entertainment.
“For a non-app user, these App Clips allow the guest to discover some of the useful features of the Caesars Rewards mobile app, thereby encouraging a full app download later. For a current app user, it saves the guest some steps in populating information when using the Book Restaurant App Clip.”
Chi says that from a marketing perspective, the obstacle in being first-to-market with the App Clip solution is that many people don’t fully understand what an App Clip is or does. “It will take time and education to get mass adoption,” he says.
That said, so far, engagement with Caesars’ App Clips “has surpassed all expectations.”
Online travel agencies are experimenting with App Clips, as well. In September, Expedia Group-owned Hotwire.com launched an App Clip that provides hotel information including ratings and a way for users to book with one tap via Apple Pay.
The App Clip, along with a new Hotwire deals widget, will help customers save an average of 52% on last-minute accommodation bookings when compared to the listed rate two weeks prior, the company says.
Although Expedia Group is in the early stages of the launch, the company says the experience has been positive and it is continuing to adapt the app to customer feedback.
“Early signs show that, we have seen Hotwire customers re-engage a lot more when they use our app. Loyalty is higher for app users and users like to explore more app-specific features like reviews and mobile-only deals,” the company says in a statement.
“We wanted to create something that would help customers get a taste of the app experience in the App Clip so that they can transition over to the app from mobile web to get these benefits.”
Ultimately, says AppsFlyer’s Raviv, it’s all about lowering the “install barrier,” which “dramatically expands the situations where a brand’s app can offer value,” he says.
“While this will definitely result in more full app installs downstream, the underlying goal is engagement and value. Brands that thoughtfully leverage App Clips are going to have a lot of opportunity to increase engagement and value, whether it takes place in the App Clip or the full app.”