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Symbian: Interview

Riding the Mobile Revolution

Netbiscuits helps the travel industry optimize mobile sites for maximum revenue.

Whether or not they know it, most hotels already have a presence on the mobile Web. Potential guests who pull up hotel Web sites on their cell phones often find poor displays and usability rather than a site specifically designed to meet their needs -- and convert them to bookings.

"The travel industry should understand that mobile is already here," said Ran Farmer, Netbiscuits managing director for North America, "and they need to get out in front of it because it's moving really fast."

How fast? Businesses may be underestimating the number of people on the mobile Web. In some parts of the world, more people access the Web through their mobile devices than on a personal computer. Younger generations expect to do everything on a mobile device that they can do on a fixed PC. For hotel brands, that translates to potential guests using their devices to search for a hotel, book rooms, look up itineraries and find information about a particular location such as weather, transit or local attractions.

Netbiscuits is a mobile Internet software platform that makes it easy for businesses to create, publish and manage a mobile site. It is available as a web-based software service. The platform provides all of the tools, interfaces and mobile-enabling technologies that are needed to develop, publish and monetize a mobile-optimized Web site. The company hosts more than 8,000 mobile Web sites and serves more than 50 countries with offices in North America, Europe and Asia and recently won the Mobile Entertainment Award for Best Mobile Publishing Platform.

"Mobile is definitely a new channel that can extend the business," Farmer said. "Before the Internet, we made our travel reservations in a certain way, and the Internet came along and completely changed that world. The mobile Web is another step in that direction. It can do a number of things. It extends the loyalty of existing customers because more and more people will be using the mobile channel to do everything. Any travel industry company that's created a reasonably good mobile experience has been favorably impressed by the traffic that they get."

The increase in traffic through a mobile site can have a provable return on investment -- provided the company delivers a real Internet experience that meets customers' expectations.

"There are people who are trying to find mobile sites on their phones, and if the hotel or travel co doesn't have mobile-optimized site they don't get a good experience," Farmer said.

With countless mobile phone types in use throughout the world -- all with different screen sizes, browsers and features -- creating a mobile site that works across all of them could be a challenge. Netbiscuits makes it easy.

"Our software from the beginning was created to remove all those barriers to launch a site quickly and easily and have it look good on all the handsets," Farmer said. "It ensures that the experience on any handset is the most optimized possible for that specific device."

Farmer calls this capability taming the "device chaos."

The secret behind this capability is Netbiscuits' global handset database. Every time a device comes to the market, Netbiscuits tests it against up to 800 different parameters to learn its capabilities. The results go into a database that informs Netbiscuits' software so a mobile site delivers optimized content no matter the age or capability of the phone. When devices add new features and functionality, Netbiscuits responds by creating new tools for developers to use.

With a database that has been built up since the year 2000, Netbiscuits is able to provide ease of access for generations of mobile users from all over the world.

"A brand owner doesn't want to build an optimized site just for one device or one class of device," Farmer said. "New devices are coming to market all the time. Someone may have a BlackBerry they've had for two to three years. Someone else has new iPhone or Android. You want to make sure you can reach the entire market, as well as a market three months from now, without making major changes."
Netbiscuits has turned another conventional mobile concept on its head. In the past, companies believed they should build a low-end, least-common-denominator site to ensure it reached all devices. Netbiscuits believes the opposite, that companies should build a high-end site for the most sophisticated phones, then let Netbiscuits software automatically scale back the sites for lower classes of devices.

Creating a mobile solution doesn't mean hotels have to reinvent their current PC-based Web sites. The power of Netbiscuits is that hotel companies can integrate directly into their existing Web content management system without having to manage a mobile site and a fixed Web site separately. Instead, hotels can define different experience for the mobile user. The best sites strip out extraneous information to create a more optimized and efficient experience for the user.

Once they have a mobile-optimized site, hotels can focus on using it to drive revenue through mobile commerce or m-commerce. Netbiscuits can mobilize a booking system -- as it did for the car rental companies Enterprise, National and Alamo -- and it can integrate advertising and marketing operations.

The sooner hotels move to build optimized mobile sites, the better, Farmer said.

"Mobile is already here," he said. "The travel industry should be prepared to take advantage of it."

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Digital marketing professional with 10+ years experience in shaping B2B SaaS platforms via relevant content, outstanding product experiences and great customer success management.

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