More guests are booking through the mobile channel than ever before—a pace of bookings that will only further intensify.
NASHVILLE, Tennessee—Tech-savvy individuals are far more likely to travel, and hoteliers who do a better job connecting with them via mobile platforms will see greater returns. But should marketers make their mark on mobile with equal tenacity? Not so, according to a 4 September panel titled “The multi-screen marketplace” at the 5th annual Hotel Data Conference, hosted by STR and Hotel News Now.
Before using different technologies or platforms, including mobile, hoteliers must ask themselves, “What’s the purpose of each page?” said Robert Cole, founder of RockCheetah, a hotel marketing strategy and travel technology consulting firm.
Most of the brands understand this, and they “purposely weigh up every bit of available technology and ask, ‘What is the convenience to guests?’” said Nolan Wrentmore, VP of revenue management and e-marketing at Aimbridge Hospitality.
The mobile channel is seen as increasingly convenient, generating increased sales of roomnights as well as restaurant tables. But it provides hoteliers with so much more, said Loren Gray, director of ecommerce for Ocean Properties Limited.
“It’s also about marketing and tracking. A mobile phone is the perfect marketing tool, as it is very immediate for the customer, and once we have potential customers’ data, we can tailor ads directly to them that we know stand a good chance of being acted on,” he said.
Immediacy and ease
Ease of use and immediacy are two key elements driving conversions through the mobile channel. That’s not only driven by mobile platforms or apps themselves, but also the smartphone.
The panel audience chuckled when Kurien Jacob, chief revenue officer at Highgate Hotels, said “success drops considerably when booking is done via a BlackBerry.”
“Sales success on handheld devices also drops as time goes by, while success via websites is the opposite,” he added. “Consumers need social media platforms to be easy to search. Then they want to see the room, the rate, the payment screen and lastly the confirmation. Make it easy for them to buy, and run your mobile ads accordingly.”
Cole said consumers want a consistent experience across all devices and through all seven phases of the ecommerce booking process: inspiration, research, validation, booking, confirmation, travel planning and memory sharing.
The number of customers now using two devices in their travel planning has risen to 33%, up approximately 600% in two years, according to the MMGY Global/Harrison Group “2013 portrait of digital travelers.”
Also increasing is the percentage of total mobile visitors to travel websites, from 7% in March 2012 to 17% in August 2013— a 142% hike in less than 18 months, Jacob said.
Those findings were confirmed by Adobe Systems’ “Hotel benchmarking metrics” report, which found that of 333.7 million visitors to 31 hotels websites during the fourth quarter of 2012, 16.2% of unique visits came via mobile devices. Of those, 58% were on tablets, and 41% were on mobile phones. (The remaining 1% came from “other.”)
“These customers are not going away,” Jacob said.
The panellists also cited Microsoft Advertising’s “Cross-screen engagement” study from March 2013, which claimed there are four pathways of “always-on” multi-screening behavior:
- content grazing, in which two or more screens are used simultaneously to view unrelated content;
- quantum journeys, in which people start an activity on one screen and continue it on another;
- investigative spider-webbing, in which consumers view content on two or more devices at the same time; and
- social spider-webbing, in which information from one screen is shared on another.
According to Microsoft’s survey, more people (77%) own a smartphone than they do a desktop computer (72%).
Cole reminded attendees that Google Analytics lists figures generated from mobile phones separately from those recorded by tablets.