Solve All Your Problems with Mobile

By Alan Minton, Senior Vice President of Marketing for Cornerstone

Does anyone else feel that mobile phones are being billed as the next great cure all for businesses large and small? It seems that the single key to corporate riches is a sound mobile strategy.  Think I am exaggerating?  How many of you have seen the Geico ad with the talking pig on a plane checking his insurance policy updates on his cell phone?  I recently conducted some grueling and seriously unscientific research and discovered I know absolutely no one who checks their insurance policy regularly. So how is the Geico app going to sell more auto insurance?

Now don’t get me wrong, I understand the allure of the mobile market.  There are roughly 6 billion cell phone subscriptions in the world and slightly more than 1 billion of them are smart phones. This is an enormous marketplace and if you can get your product in front of all these people in an engaging way then you are bound to make millions. site down . Unfortunately, there are a couple of problems with this very broad assumption.

First, I am reminded of a conversation I had with a business man in Beijing. He said – “Everyone thinks ‘If I only could get a dollar from every Chinese person then I would have more than a billion dollars’. The problem is that every Chinese person does not have a dollar” In short understand your market better before you make revenue predictions.  That is sound advice. We need to be careful not to confuse possible with probable.

The second issue is that of channel limitations.  Not every channel is suited to every product.  Anyone remember how the internet was going to produce the demise of the financial planner or real estate agents?  Sure, eTrade and others provided a new channel for those who were willing to rely on their own understanding of finance to make investment decisions, but many still rely on certified financial planners to manage their 401ks and IRAs.

Now let me be clear, I think the Travel space, particularly the leisure Travel space, is ripe with opportunities for consumer-facing mobile apps. All you have to do is read the recently released PhoCusWright study that predicts U.S. mobile leisure/unmanaged business travel bookings will more than triple from 2012 to 2014, when mobile bookings will reach US$25.8 billion. However, I am concerned that corporate travel professionals are looking at the mobile channels as their savior.  Just last week I received a question from a customer wanting to know what our mobile app technology plan looks like. At first glance this seems like it is an acceptable question.  But with additional consideration I am afraid this exceptionally ambiguous question was the product of channel confusion.

I know there are many good travel apps that are excellent. Here is a link to CNN recommendation of the top 50 travel apps.  I use several of these myself and each time I attend a travel industry event I enjoy perusing all the cool new ideas based on mobile technology.  Yet I am curious as to how these apps help us address all of the pressing challenges facing corporate travel professionals.  For example, one of the most common questions we receive at Cornerstone from corporate travel managers is, “How can I be sure my data is accurate?” We answer this question via our Data Confidence Index™ where we analyze a company’s travel data based on 51 metrics so that they can feel confident about their data quality and thus the business decisions they make based on this data.  I am not sure a mobile app is the right solution for this type of a problem.

So here is my conclusion/recommendation.  Use the technology that is best suited to address a specific problem.  Be aware of the new mobile apps and their capabilities and limitations. Don’t be so reluctant to use hosted solutions to tackle some of travels larger and important challenges.

Think I am a technology Luddite?  Let me know.  And if you have some favorite mobile apps you want to share, post them here.