Planning for travel often begins on smartphones and tablets, but hoteliers must streamline the jump from mobile to desktops for final booking to take full advantage of existing consumer behavior.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—As the push for hotels to streamline the mobile bookings process continues, hoteliers must also keep in mind that a booking journey born via mobile often still migrates to the desktop, sources said.
Speaking during Phocuswright’s recent “Mobile’s breaking points: Are smartphones ready for center stage in travel planning?” webinar, Phocuswright VP of research Douglas Quinby and Google product marketing manager Shelby Coyne discussed the path travelers take in booking their journeys.
Quinby said consumers, particularly those in the U.S., are very comfortable using smartphones to browse travel destinations and hotels. But their comfort level isn’t as high when it comes to making the purchase, especially compared to other categories like music, books and household goods.
“There’s very clearly a migration from smartphone to desktop or laptop,” he said.
Mobile first, desktop second
Quinby said there could be a number of factors playing into this disparity in comfort between buying and shopping, including concerns about the “quality or comprehensiveness of the data” available on mobile.
“A clear complaint is the ability to search and compare all of this information across websites and apps,” he said, noting smaller screen sizes make that a practical concern.
Companies can help combat that by making the transition from one technology to another, Quinby said, which can include taking simple steps like saving searches to be accessed via desktop.
Speaking with HNN, Sam Trotter, corporate brand strategist for Charlestowne Hotels, said the transition can also be added by retargeted advertising and by collecting emails at every opportunity.
“Not everyone is there to book, so (collecting emails) is a great way to bridge that gap,” Trotter said.
He also noted that more and more guests are getting comfortable with the thought of making their bookings via mobile, so hoteliers must also make that experience as streamlined as possible.
The power of micromoments
Much of the initial stages of travel planning are done via mobile in what Coyne described as “micromoments.” Google has done a significant amount of research into this particular consumer behavior, she said.
“These moments show intent and ultimately inform the booking decision,” Coyne said.
According to a recent Google report on micromoments, they “occur when people reflexively turn to a device—increasingly a smartphone—to act on a need to learn something, do something, discover something, watch something, or buy something. They are intent-rich moments when decisions are made and preferences shaped.”
Coyne said these moments include “dreaming moments” when travelers are searching for broad inspiration—like searching for a particular destination—or looking for tips on a type of trip, like a honeymoon, and moments where travelers try to identify specific activities and experiences once they decide on the broad strokes of their trips.
She said these moments are important in part because most travelers only have “a few trips a year,” but want to work on planning them continually.
“A session might be 100 different moments across devices,” Coyne said.
Trotter said his business sees the power of these moments.
“Guests aren’t booking at that point, but it leads to that eventual transaction,” he said.
An opportunity for loyalty
During the webinar, Quinby noted that even though booking leads guests from mobile to desktops, hoteliers must keep in mind that guests’ needs jump back to mobile after a booking has been made.
Trotter noted that the larger hotel brand companies have an advantage in making travel more seamless through the use of their mobile apps and loyalty programs.
“Hilton has the ability for a guest to check in and choose his or her own room,” he said. “That’s a great added benefit, and you want to have that ease of booking (from the app).”
Quinby said communicating with guests via their smartphones and “creating a uniquely differentiated experience” via mobile is something hotels should be able to do because “they own the customer in the experience.”
He said things like using smartphones as room keys can help hotels immensely.
“It makes that loyalty program that much more sticky,” Quinby said.