The Google guide to mobile hotel bookings
19 MARCH 2014 7:57 AM
See. Think. Do. The three phases of the mobile booking funnel require different strategies and different units of measurement, according to Google’s Vincent Macri.
SAN FRANCISCO—The average U.S. consumer spent three hours and 11 minutes daily on digital devices in 2010.* Three years later, that number had jumped to five hours and 16 minutes, according to Vincent Macri, head of mobile – travel at Google.
“What pushed us over the edge and what made us have two hours of additional consumption was the increase of mobile and tablets,” Macri said during a panel titled “Overcome fragmentation” during the 7th annual Social Media & Mobile Strategies for Travel conference hosted by EyeforTravel.
The questions for hoteliers, he said, is how does that impact bookings?
“People are using mobile phones throughout every step of the travel cycle from beginning to end,” Macri said.
Google defines those phases as “see,” “think” and “do.”
“This is clearly what is most important to everyone,” Macri said, working his way backward with the action phase of the mobile booking funnel.
“It’s driving revenue for our businesses,” he said, adding 15% of all bookings now come from smartphones. That accounted for $6 billion of overall revenue during 2012. Within less than five years, that number is expected to reach $40 billion, Macri said.
To capture a share of that growing pie, he pointed to a travel company that does mobile bookings right: Southwest Airlines.
First, the company’s mobile site features large, easy-to-click buttons.
Second, those buttons were few and far between. The initial mobile landing page has a button for check-in, check flight and book travel, among others—listed in order starting with the most often used.
Third, launching the Southwest mobile page prompts users to also download the airline’s mobile app.
“Apps in particular help with loyalty,” Macri said. That’s especially true for a high-volume enterprise such as Southwest that attracts thousands of bookings each day. The Southwest app stores users’ key data to make that booking process even more seamless.
“This is an exciting place to be because they might not be pulling the trigger, but there are a lot of people spending time doing the research for travel,” Macri said.
During 2010, 5% of all traffic to travel-related websites came from mobile. By 2013 that number had jumped to 30%, or 1.4 billion minutes per month on mobile devices, he said.
Carnival Cruise Lines leverages this research phase by answering travelers’ questions up front. The company’s mobile site allows users to search by destinations, providing key information such as ports of call and cruise features to aid in discovery.
“Our job in the think bucket is to make people think of us when they’re ready to book,” Macri said.
“For this bucket what’s most important is to understand the reach,” Macri said of this initial inspiration phase. “Let’s try to spur them into thinking about us from the beginning.”
Visit California made a splash in this stage with its Dream365 project in which it “took over” YouTube with advertisements and 24 separate videos published in the span of 24 hours, each showcasing an unforgettable experience unique to California.
The thinking behind that campaign was simple, Macri said: “‘We know that people on their mobile phones are traveling, and we want them to think of California.’”
Putting it all together
“The whole idea is the full mobile experience,” Macri said. “Each bucket is important. Each one is different. And each one deserves its own strategy.”
Many marketers speak of the “end-to-end” user experience in the booking funnel, but Macri eschews that term. The mobile booking process is more fluid, he said. Travelers don’t necessarily progress through each stage sequentially. They might do some research on one location, get inspired to research in another, and then book something else entirely.
Further complicating matters is the use of different tools, such as tablets or desktops, along the way. Tracking users as they jump from device to device is nearly impossible, he admitted.
Hoteliers must still strive for measurement despite such complexity, Macri said.
In the “see” phase, he advised attendees to focus on reach: number of interactions; increase in brand awareness; and percent of new visitors.
Engagement is the primary goal in the “think” stage, so hoteliers should gauge click-through rates and page visits.
The third and final “do” phase is all about conversions; key measurements should include visitor loyalty, checkout abandonment rate and profit, he said.
Clarification, 19 March 2014: The sentence was clarified to show the figures represent daily usage from consumers.