Plenty of the apps that we use today are location-aware. Instagram shows us where photos were taken, OpenTable offers nearby restaurants, Eventbrite invites you to gigs in your city. These features get users to stay longer in these apps, boosting their engagement rates.
But users still have to open another app to plan their routes to destinations. So here’s a way to take your engagement rates to another level — bring route planning to your web or mobile application. By adding route planning, you’ll also increase user loyalty and improve the user experience, which can eventually turn into more revenue for your company.
What apps can benefit from route planning?
There are plenty of industries that can benefit from route planning. We’ll skip navigation apps with GPS trackers and mapping where the route planning technology is vital. Instead, we'll focus on apps whose functionality can be complemented by embedding route planning.
By allowing your users to plan tours and build travel routes right within your app, you can make their travel experience more engaging. AllTrails, a website and an app for hiking and mountaineering, allows you to build routes of your walking tours, save them, share them, and view routes created by other users.
Say a user is going to a concert in another city or country. In this case, he or she might want to eat somewhere or even stay for the night. For situations like this, you can let users plan routes from events to nearby coffee shops or hotels, or even to city sites and exclusive exhibitions. Festicket, a major event platform, already offers a similar option — Festicket Trips. But users can’t edit these packages and routes. You could take it further and offer festival tours with customizable routes.
For logistics, delivery, and taxi companies, road trip planning is essential, especially when it comes to crowdsourced delivery of multiple parcels and food orders or picking up multiple passengers. At Yalantis, we’ve already developed a number of solutions for logistics and delivery companies with a focus on flawless route planning. Check out the transportation management system we built for one of our clients. Also, see our case studies about Brilliant Move and another delivery platform if you want to learn more about the logistics tracking software, delivery management software, dispatching software, fleet management systems, and transport monitoring systems we’ve built.
Real estate apps
Touring places to rent or buy can be daunting: people have to see lots of properties that can be far away from each other. Route building and route scheduling can truly simplify their lives. The same applies to agents who help tenants and homebuyers find properties, so agents will surely appreciate a tool for route planning too.
Zillow and Zumper, top American real estate apps, allow users to schedule live tours, but neither allows users and agents to create live tour routes. If you want more ideas on real estate app development, read our recent post on how to uberize the real estate industry.
Nurses and doctors often have to perform routine examinations at patients’ apartments or houses.You can help doctors and nurses organize their examination trips in your healthcare app.
For people driving to other cities and countries, planning a route to parking can be a great time and money saver. You can get inspired by parking apps like Parke, which allows users to find nearby parking spots and complements that functionality with customizable routes.
If your app is for one of the industries mentioned above — or if you’re planning to enter these industries with a top-notch user-friendly app — we’ve got great news! Below, we describe in detail what exactly an app should offer to let users build customizable routes.
What route planning should offer to users
Route planning relies heavily on maps and the data they supply on distance, speed, traffic jams, alternative routes, travel times, and locations. To calculate routes in your app, you can use the Directions API by Google. But routes are only one piece of the puzzle.
Helping users prioritize stops
When choosing places to go, users may be more interested in some destinations than others. For instance, say a tenant is selecting an apartment to rent. They may like some alternatives more than others and want to visit them first. In this case, you can let users rate places to make sure they manage to visit their top choices. Users may also rely on ratings left by others to help them plan their routes.
To add ratings to your app, you can choose from a number of APIs like sellytics, Boltron, and ReviewPro. There are even industry-specific APIs that supply rating features, like Amadeus Hotel Ratings for travel apps and the Uber Driver API for taxi businesses. But judging from our experience, businesses prefer creating custom rating services for their apps to drive more flexibility and to easily maintain this functionality.
Helping users plan their time
Once users have prioritized a list of places to visit,they need to decide when to visit them and how much time to spend at each one. Therefore, users need an integrated calendar for planning. To add a calendar to your app, you can use the Google Calendar API or the Outlook Calendar REST API as well as plenty of other alternatives. Take a look at our guide on how to implement a calendar in your app for more information on this topic.
Helping users sync their tour plans
Users may not be alone when going on a planned route: tenants and homebuyers may need to agree on tours with agents, event-goers may travel with their friends or family, and doctors can visit patients along with nurses. That’s why users need a feature to share and approve their routes with others. From our experience, most app developers choose Google’s mobile and web Sharing APIs, though there are other solutions by Alligator.io and SalesForce.
In addition to a sharing feature, there should be a notification and approval mechanism to agree on routes. Say a tenant has built an itinerary for a live tour and sent it to their agent. In this case, you’ll need to send the agent a push notification about the itinerary and send a notification to the tenant to inform them whether the agent has approved the itinerary.
In case a user or agent is offline, you can consider sending an SMS instead of an in-app notification. For push notifications, there are various solutions, but the most popular among our clients is FireBase Cloud Messaging. And for SMS messages, there’s an API by Twilio.
One more way to sync tour plans is by implementing real-time chat in your app, where users can discuss routes. PubNub, Layer, Pusher, and plenty of other messaging services can help you implement this feature.
Helping users handle changes and risks
Even when everything is duly planned and prepared, there’s always a chance that something will go wrong. A tenant may have to change the route if it turns out an apartment is no longer available, a client may cancel a delivery, or a hotel may temporarily close because of a storm. That’s why you need to let users edit, cancel, and postpone their tours. There aren’t ready-made solutions for this, so you’ll need to create your own custom functionality. Here’s an example of how the Komoot app allows users to build and edit hiking and biking tours:
Finally, you’ll surely need a help center for your users. This can be either a dedicated screen or a website page with FAQs, useful articles, and a form to contact your support team. Or you can take it further and implement a user support chat powered by Zendesk or Intercom.
Route planning software
In case you’re not ready to invest your time and money in route planning development, there’s an alternative for you: using existing route planning software. Let’s have a look at some of the top players on the market.
HERE is the biggest player in the route planning market today. The Routing API by HERE provides a route optimization solution, allows you to calculate routes for multiple waypoints, edit routes, update past routes, and calculate a matrix of routes, taking into consideration various destinations and starting points. In addition, this SaaS solution supplies Public Transport TimeTable Routing and Traffic Enabled Routing in its premium package. As you can see, you can use the HERE Routing API for any industry that requires route planning.
This SaaS product is made for delivery management and last-mile delivery. Onfleet supplies companies with an API that can be integrated into online ordering and parcel delivery apps. In addition to route planning, you can use Onfleet to automate your delivery routines, manage your inventory, and get delivery reports.
YaCu is another solution for routing and route optimization and focused on delivery management. It supplies delivery routine automation and offers extra services like delivery analytics and vehicle monitoring.
Route4Me is another route planner that provides its route planning API for free, but you’ll have to pay for extra services like in-app voice-guided navigation, scheduled customer notifications, delivery analytics, and a customer relationship management system. Route4Me is more customizable than other options and is used by businesses in the transportation, food delivery, healthcare, and construction industries.
Now that you know about route building SaaS tools, you may be wondering if you should use a SaaS product or build your route planning functionality from scratch. The answer depends on your budget and business goals. If you need to enrich your app’s functionality within a short period of time and with minimum upfront cost, SaaS will do. But no matter which SaaS option you choose, you’ll be tied to its tech stack and won’t be able to tailor the service to your needs. Also, you’ll have to pay a subscription fee for the service, so over time, you’ll spend quite a penny.
On the contrary, you can invest more time and money at the beginning and build the functionality you need from scratch. This will eventually bring you more flexibility for future app updates and allow you to add any new features you may come up with. And all of that without being limited to your SaaS provider’s services.
Implementing route planning in your app may seem quite a challenging task, as you’ll have to develop a sophisticated system for editing and sharing routes with scheduling, real-time chat, push notifications, a verification mechanism, and a support center. But the results will be an enhanced user experience and improved customer loyalty. Hopefully, this guide will help you achieve that!