Retailers relying on the internet for business must tailor their offerings to favour mobile devices, rather than desktop PCs, or face losing business, Viator said at the TravelTech: Best of Enemies conference in Sydney.
According to Viator's VP engineering, Jeff Lewis, people are moving away from computers and are instead using their mobile phones. Viator's business is based on online retail of day trips and tourist attractions.
"Mobile internet penetration is even stronger. Mobile internet exceeds computer usage, so if you're relying on the internet on computers, in about two years' time, you're going to be serving the minority of users," said Lewis.
Lewis said that 25 per cent of mobile web users in the US don't even have computers, while a quarter of users in China are already using the internet on their mobile.
He further stated that according to statistics from TripAdvisor, 60 per cent of smartphone users downloaded travel apps, and 45 per cent used the apps to plan and research their trips.
Simon Monk, CEO of travel insurance company World Nomads, said that when considering creating a mobile app, businesses need to be conscious of costly global roaming data, which restricts the way an app can be used while travelling.
"So you have to think of the purpose of what you want to develop; how are you going to enhance your customers' travel experience," said Monk.
Monk said that creating an app is not the same as developing for mobile web, and there are a number of challenges to consider, such as getting your app noticed in a saturated marketplace of almost half a million apps, and still climbing.
"How are you going to get a person engaged with your app and actually get them to use it preferably all day, every day? There are 400,000 apps out there, how are you going to get yours seen?"
World Nomads created an app for the iPad because the number of apps available in that market is smaller than for the iPhone, said Monk. However, creating an app is only the beginning.
"When you create an app, you've got to figure out where to launch it. Facebook and Twitter are good to market it, broadcast in emails in our reader list," said Monk. World Nomads had "30,000-odd downloads in the first four weeks", he said.
"We probably got more new customers from a mobile app [from the] get-go than we've had [from] any campaign," said Monk.
Viator's Lewis said that 30 per cent of iPhone sales were made within three days of people actually jetting off on their trip.
"People are willing to buy in-destination, or while they're sitting at the airport waiting for the plane to take off," said Lewis. "55 per cent of mobile web sales are within three days."
Viator also experienced lots of new customers and massive short-term bookings from mobile search on the mobile web.
Travel is listed as the seventh most popular app to download, said Lewis, with the most successful apps being planning, photography, social, deals and bookings, maps/navigation (particularly offline maps), TripIt, itinerary planning and recommendations.