It is hard to believe that the idea of the mobile app is just over a decade old. Apple launched its App Store and Google its Android marketplace (now Google Play) in 2008. According to recent research by sector analyst App Annie, the world collectively downloaded 194 billion apps in 2018 — more than 25 for every single person on the planet.

Time spent on apps is growing, too. In the UK, travel apps were used around 15 billion times in 2018, up 85% from two years earlier. Similarly, spectacular growth has been seen in other key countries such as France, Canada, Germany and the US.

On-trip is key to success

A 2019 survey of travel apps by J.D. Power found that, on average, users prefer the experience they get from apps created by financial institutions, such as banks and credit card providers.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the study also found apps that are easy to use during travel are most popular with users.

Michael Taylor, J.D. Power’s Travel Intelligence Lead, says: “While some travel apps are delivering on their promise, others are missing the mark at critical moments of truth that can significantly influence traveler perception of brands and services.”

Power in your pocket

The importance of the in-app experience while traveling is at the heart of enhancements coming to the Amex GBT Mobile app this year.

“Our goal is to build features that serve travelers,” says American Express Global Business Travel’s (GBT) Vice President of Marketing and Product Strategy, Evan Konwiser. “It’s about on-trip relevance and that includes booking, communicating with agents, getting itinerary information, operational information on flights, messages from the travel manager and risk alerts.”

Bookings within the Amex GBT Mobile app are currently driven by the Neo™ booking tool, which allows users to book hotel, air, rail and ground transport. This will soon be expanded to include companies using other online booking tools.

Taking care of business

With the potential for travel disruption on the rise, keeping travelers informed is more important than ever. The app’s Proactive Traveler Care™ feature sends push notifications with important information directly to travelers caught up in disruption. In emergency situations, Expert Care™ users can communicate via two-way mobile messaging, share their geolocation and quickly access emergency response numbers.

“Duty of care is top of mind, and travel managers and TMCs are looking for better ways to communicate with travelers,” says Konwiser.

“Travel managers have traditionally struggled to communicate with travelers, but when you think about mobile on the go, it is a natural channel. As we add more features, you can put those messages into better context, using things like geolocation that you could never use with SMS.”

The Amex GBT Mobile app now acts as a global, real-time messaging platform that enables live conversations with travel counselors.

Delivering what users want

Delighting users — whether they are travelers or travel managers — is essential, and the company does extensive research to make sure it is listening to them. The app is developed and tested by a team of experts in Paris, bringing together the best of GBT and expertise gained from the acquisitions of travel and expense software firm KDS in 2016 and global travel management company HRG in 2018.

“We do the research by talking to our customers and travelers, and analyzing usage to see what they are actually doing in the app, to make sure we invest in the right features and functions,” says Konwiser. Much of the power of the enhanced Amex GBT Mobile app comes from bringing data together through APIs from different sources, such as trip data, profiles and external sources of information.

Personalization of the app experience is also vital. As Konwiser says, “People want more things on a self-service basis. They want a more personalized service, and we can do that with AI.”

The app’s Trip Recommender™ tool offers personalized suggestions based on traveler preferences and previous trip data, which can be reviewed and booked with a single tap.

In short, the Amex GBT Mobile app looks set to become indispensable for modern business travel.