The pandemic has begun to ease up, and the travel industry is seeing a rise in the number of people who feel safe enough to travel. But now, with many travel apps available to the user, it is becoming increasingly complex and vital for app-based travel businesses to attract and retain their customers. Having excellent user onboarding for your travel app makes it easier to gain long-term sticky users.
Giants in the travel industry have deep marketing and advertising pockets which they use for customer acquisition. But marketing alone isn’t enough to retain these acquired customers.
When looking for the best travel app, people don’t care about big brands. What they do care about is their experience while using the app. And app onboarding is the user’s first interaction with the travel product. If the onboarding is smooth, seamless, and tailored to the app, the user will likely stick and return to it.
Why should Travel Apps care about User Onboarding?
Travel apps face a unique dilemma when it comes to users, as most people don’t travel and book hotels every month. The average person takes about two vacations every year. So the trick isn’t just to target people who are traveling but to provide real value to them. This value should extend beyond one trip or one hotel stay.
App onboarding is a sequence of steps new users take before they use the app’s basic features. This process entails educating new users, getting consent to collect user information, and nudging users to register for an account. First impressions matter; the app onboarding process is like an audition or trailer where you must prove your app’s usefulness and value in solving the user’s problems.
Travel apps retain only 41% of users after 30 days, and this number further goes down to 25% three months post the app download. A smooth onboarding process ensures that users see real value in the travel app and become chronic users. It is akin to laying the groundwork for a long-term user relationship.
Types of User Onboarding Approaches
A new user’s relationship with the travel app begins with app onboarding and ends with them being loyal customers of the app. No two users have the same experience and expectations while using any travel app. So different kinds of apps require different types of onboarding approaches.
While designing the app’s onboarding approach, the type of user, their journey, their expectations, and the app’s USP should be considered.
1. The Functional Approach
This approach focuses on putting in front of the users the app’s core functionalities and a tutorial on how to use them. This could be finding the least expensive hotel stays at a location, finding the cheapest flights between places, etc. The functional approach shows users where to start and how to fulfill common actions. It’s like a visual tour along with specific instructions.
2. The Benefits-focused Approach
It is a process that showcases the value of an app before anything else. The approach emphasizes what the app can do rather than how to do it. For instance, permission requests the user can turn on or off, like location access by the app or receiving push notifications.
3. The Progressive Approach
This approach allows users to explore the app on their own and gives them new information as they navigate through it. The mantra followed is to learn by doing. It suits apps with intricate and complex workflows, gesture-driven interactions, and hidden or unique functionalities. The method doesn’t overwhelm the users and leaves them in total control while onboarding.
Key Hacks to Boost User Onboarding for Travel Apps
While designing the user onboarding for your travel app, take into account the following points:
- Understand and communicate the app’s core features and purpose with straightforward, concise messaging
- The degree of feature complexity in the app
- The in-app behavior and a typical user’s habits
Hack #1 Have an early “Aha” Moment
During the initial stage, the primary goal is to show new users the app’s key features and prove it is worth their time and device space. An informative walkthrough or tutorial guide is the way to go so that the users reach the “moment of delight” or the “aha moment,” where the product’s value becomes instantly clear. There should be no friction between the user and the “aha” moment.
Simple introductory text or videos should be used as a single-screen offering or a swipe-across carousel that showcases key features or have eye-catching discounts.
An app that does this brilliantly is Hopper. It ensured new users immediately experienced the app’s core value of saving money through its simple interface and straightforward messaging.
Hack #2 Allow Users to “skip” the Onboarding Process
Imagine being in a rush to book tickets for a flight due to leave in some time, and you have to first sit through the app onboarding process. People don’t always have the time to walk through the app’s features before being allowed to use them. They could be in a hurry, so there should be a skip option.
It could be for people who want to jump right in and browse through the app or people who are well-versed in using mobile apps. The first experience should be as quick and easy as possible.
Hack #3 Have a Geo-Fencing Permission Pop-up prompt
One of the main requirements for any travel app is access to the user’s location. It is required to give users the best travel deals and have customized in-app messaging, email campaigns, and push notifications.
Let’s say the user lives in New York City and shares that information with the app via a pop-up upon app launch. Your app would then be able to send them flight travel offers out of their home airports and the best hotel deals too.
Moreover, suppose the app detects the user traveling to Boston often. The app could send information about cheap flights, beautiful hotel stays, upcoming events, and the best restaurants in the area through push notifications. The user could also set custom push notifications.
Expedia asks its users to provide location access during onboarding in an effective and non-intrusive way.
Hack #4 Features tell, Benefits sell
Users don’t pay attention when the onboarding process talks at length about the features of the travel app. They start listening when it talks about how these features will be helpful to them. Features are of no value to the user; what the user can get from them is.
Pitch and use your value proposition wisely, as it is your biggest asset. The onboarding should talk about how using the app will make the user’s life better and easier. Show the user this, and they will stick with the app for a long time.
Train tracking app Where is my Train, in its onboarding, talks about how upon installation, the user can spot a train, know its delay, and search for other trains. All are benefits that will make the user return to the app again.
Hack #5 Ask for only what you need!
With the increasing tech awareness and sensitivity about a person’s location being made public, users are becoming more careful with what permissions they grant their apps. If they see many permission requests coming from the travel app and are unable to understand why the app needs them or what it plans to do with it, users are more likely to leave the app and uninstall it without going forward with the onboarding.
If your app requires several permissions from the user, ensure that you let them know precisely what it plans to do with the information and how it will benefit the user.
Hack #6 Set the tone by running a “Welcome” Email Campaign
A welcome email is the first time you turn up in your user’s inbox and is the most crucial email brands can send to new users. Welcome emails also have a much higher opening rate of 46%, which is 3X the average. These emails should be personalized by using the recipient’s name in the message body and should show gratitude to them for installing the app.
Your welcome email should set a positive tone. It should try to activate the user by giving them stellar deals or attractive discounts, which pushes them to use the services of your travel app. It could also guide them to product walkthroughs, which will help users better understand the app.
Hack #7 Have a Multi-Channel Communication approach in place
Welcome emails set the tone, but the app needs to further build rapport with its users. Healthy communication is key, and there should be interactions with the users post the initial email campaign. Through these communications, the app could deliver tutorials, in-depth guides, and articles to its users.
A combination of multiple channels like Emails, In-App Messaging, Product Tours, Push Notifications, Surveys, etc. should be employed to communicate to users information that is relevant to them. This information could be based on travel history, the latest available offers, etc.
Hack #8 Gamify the User Onboarding Experience
Gamification of the onboarding process is done to add an element of fun for first-time users. It works similarly to how players progress to a new level in a game after completing tasks given to them. Adding gamification offers users a sense of satisfaction in completing the onboarding tasks and makes the app enjoyable and habit-forming. Users generally commit to the app if there’s gamification involved in the onboarding process.
Effective designing of the onboarding process of your travel app is essential and should involve a lot of thoughtful planning. An excellent onboarding process can become of the biggest drivers of business growth, user engagement, retention, satisfaction, and activation. It can give your travel app an edge over others in the market.
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