The travel industry is being disrupted by digital. Sure, most bookings are made by PCs but smartphones and tablets influence planning decisions. Some clear mobile quality leaders and laggards are emerging, according to ARC’s measurement of app store star ratings and user reviews. ARC from Applause revisited the state of app quality in the U.S. as rated by customers of the 40 most popular travel brands.
What did we discover? Travel booking apps have mastered their mobile moments. Sharing economy travel brands are winning with mobile-first experiences. Traditional travel brands are underserving their mobile-savvy customers. Just in time for travel season, discover the best-and worst-rated travel apps so you don’t get stranded with subpar apps.
￼8 Popular Brands Earn High Quality Marks
ARC from Applause authored this report to help travel brands understand how U.S. customers perceive their flagship Android and iOS app quality. In all, 40 of the most popular brands qualified for our biannual Applause Travel App Quality Index, comprised of the apps that earned more than 150 app store ratings and reviews—totaling nearly 400,000.
Just 8 travel apps earned quality scores of more than 67 with more than 5,000 user reviews:
- Booking.com [Android | iOS]
- Alaska Airlines [Android | iOS]
- Kayak [Android | iOS]
- TripAdvisor [Android | iOS]
- TripIt [Android | iOS]
- Hotels.com [Android | iOS]
- Zipcar [Android | iOS]
- Orbitz [Android | iOS]
What are the commonalities? Most are travel booking apps that are optimized for a traveler’s mobile moments (see Figure 1). For example, one tap to see the best deals, seamless switching across devices, content and alerts pushed at the perfect moment and more. These experiences were born from customer-obsessed developers who fundamentally understand what their mobile users value.
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼Travel Apps That Have Room To Improve
On average, the 40 most reviewed travel apps lag all others in quality by 20 points—as compared with ARC’s calculation of a 67 average app quality score from our analysis of more than 30 million apps globally, including but not limited to the travel industry (see Figure 2). This suggests that brands born in the Web era need to prioritize mobility given how quickly mobile is influencing decisions and serving as the preferred device used by connected travelers, according to TripAdvisor.
Reviews of travel apps also reflect the level of customer experiences. If a person uses an app to fly to Chicago in February and a storm delays or cancels her flight, app stores are increasingly serving as a channel through which to share brand experience. Six brands received more than 2,000 reviews and were rated by their customers with average app quality scores less than 40:
- United Airlines [Android | iOS]
- Delta Airlines [Android | iOS]
- Hilton [Android | iOS]
- American Airlines [Android | iOS]
- Marriott [Android | iOS]
- Southwest [Android | iOS]
- Hertz [Android | iOS]
- US Airways [Android | iOS]
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼Note that the four largest airlines and two of the three most popular hotel chains offer the poorest rated apps, suggesting it’s time for the leading brands to realize the opportunity cost of letting users down in terms of brand equity—and lost bookings.
The Best-And Worst-Rated Travel Apps
Some travel apps emerged from the crowd with amazing reviews, such as Alaska Airlines for Android. Others stood out for all the wrong reasons. Seven of the nine lowest-rated apps were on Android while six of the nine highest-rated apps were on iOS (see Figure 3).
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼Some Brands Had Large Sentiment Swings
Since ARC’s inaugural travel report in November 2014, most brands didn’t experience significant changes in user sentiment. But two brands earned substantial improvement. Hilton introduced a new iOS build in June 2015 that enhanced booking rate transparency and simplified reservation field entry. JetBlue Airways added flight status on its Today view and introduced Touch ID login to TrueBlue in December 2014. Their customers have taken notice and applauded.
But with the good, comes the bad. Uber, Lyft, National and Best Western earned poor distinctions with scores that declined 5 points or more. These brands have work to do to stem their user sentiment decline and win more mobile customers and greater loyalty.
ARC from Applause is a research group dedicated to providing insights and data on the apps economy. ARC leverages data from a variety of sources, including proprietary Applause data, to provide a 360o view of app quality. ARC combines this data, with analysis, into reports to help brands and app developers understand what is happening in the apps economy.
Learn more at https://arc.applause.com.
About Applause Analytics
Combing through half a billion ratings and user reviews submitted across more than 30 million apps in the Android and iOS app stores around the world, Applause Analytics closes the gap between mobile app developers and their customers, generating actionable insights and quantifiable metrics based on what users are actually saying about their app experiences.
Learn more at www.applause.com/analytics.