The number of mobile phone users in the world is expected to pass the five billion mark this year. When it comes to travel, the shift to mobile also continues to rise — and not just as a way to find inspiration. According to Criteo’s Summer Travel Report 2018, bookings on mobile grew 3-10X faster than desktop compared to 2016.
1. OTAs dominate mobile bookings (still)
According to recent figures from Phocuswright, OTA mobile bookings are projected to soar. By 2022, more than a third of European supplier-OTA bookings will take place via mobile websites and apps.
However, desktop bookings are predicted to remain flat for the next few years.
Data from Criteo’s Summer Travel Report 2018 report notes that worldwide, OTAs capture most of the mobile bookings. A huge 39% of OTA bookings are made on a smartphone compared with only 10% of supplier bookings.
Takeaway for hotels: In the highly competitive European marketplace, and on a global scale, the battle for mobile is one that hotels continue to lose against the OTAs.
Why are OTA mobile bookings growing faster than hotels? The Phocuswright report states that in part, it’s because OTAs have historically focused more on technology than travel suppliers. Hotels must close this technological gap to ensure they don’t fall further behind.
The seemingly unlimited budgets of the OTAs might seem daunting, but there are a host of ways to ensure your hotel website is optimized for mobile, such as focusing on local SEO, site speed, and NAP consistency — a term that refers to a hotel’s Name, Address and Phone number being consistently listed across the internet, including its own website.
According to the latest data from McKinsey, the proportion of cross-device travel-shopping journeys has risen 10% in the past year. Below, you can see an example of a typical accommodation-purchase journey from the McKinsey study.
This example involves 35 touchpoints across desktop and mobile devices, whereas the average number of touchpoints was 45. It’s also interesting to note how a typical travel shopper goes back and forward between desktop and mobile throughout a journey.
This journey is far from smooth, however, and travel shoppers are often slowed down when they transition on their cross-device journeys. An analysis of the McKinsey study by Think with Google notes that cross-device journeys took longer than single-device ones, requiring five additional days, 55% more sessions, and 45% more digital touchpoints.
Takeaway for hotels: As travelers jump between desktop, mobile, and apps, Google suggests that it’s time to “embrace omnichannel shoppers”. This means that hotels need to optimize every digital touchpoint to ensure that guests receive a seamless and consistent experience, on whatever device they use.
Focus on devising an intelligent marketing strategy that helps you target customers throughout the travel journey. Metasearch marketing is a great way to help your brand stay top of mind and drive bookings, while Facebook Travel Ads can be highly effective at engaging new and returning visitors who have browsed your hotel’s website.
Finally, be sure to integrate conversion-focused tactics on your hotel website, including time-based offers, strikethrough pricing, and “Rooms Remaining” information to generate a sense of urgency and incentivize guests to book.
It seems inevitable that the way we interact with mobile devices will shift from tap-and-swipe to voice-based technology. That transition in travel may well be hastened following Google’s plans to launch voice bookings for hotels, a move announced last year.
The search engine giant reported that 50% of its traffic is on mobile, and 20% of that traffic is on voice, and growing rapidly. The incentive to shift focus is clear. Given Google’s enormous influence on web usage and behavior, the company’s investment in hotel voice bookings will undoubtedly speed up the number of hotel bookings that are done without a screen.
Takeaway for hotels: As the way people search shifts from tapping to talking, hotels need to think about optimizing for voice-based search. For instance, a typed query like this: “Top luxury hotel in New York” would change in a voice search to be more like this: “What are the best luxury hotels in New York?”
To stay ahead of the game, hotels need to identify how voice queries are phrased and then incorporate these phrases into their own web content. One way to achieve this is by creating a FAQs section for guests that features lots of natural, conversational language.
As more travel shoppers use their voices to search and book via mobile, targeting long-tail keywords will become more important to optimize visibility.
4. Mobile travel bookings rise across Asia-Pacific
According to a study conducted last year by Ve Global, 30% of all travel bookings in Asia Pacific are made through a mobile or tablet. That compares with 29% in the US, 28% in Europe, and only 13% in Latin America.
However, a huge 92% of all bookings in Asia Pacific are abandoned at checkout, which includes a 90.4% abandonment rate for hotels. Encouragingly, though, customers from the Asia Pacific region were by far the most receptive to remarketing.
According to the Ve Global study, travel companies in Asia Pacific could expect to recover one online booking for every 18 remarketing emails they sent. In comparison, European companies had to send 23 remarketing emails to recover one abandoned booking.
Takeaway for hotels: Despite the high abandonment rates, there’s clearly a huge opportunity to market to the mobile-reliant Asia Pacific traveler. Jamie Pierre, Managing Director at Ve Global, APAC, advises travel brands to offer a multi-channel approach and ensure that prices and information on their mobile sites are easy to find.
Marketers should also pay close attention to unique booking trends in different countries across Asia Pacific. The booming Chinese travel market is definitely one to watch, and mobile is used extensively there throughout the travel journey. To connect with travelers in China, start with WeChat — this huge social media platform has over one billion active users and accounts for a staggering 34% of all mobile traffic.
As covered by Skift, some forward-thinking hotels are using WeChat “mini-programs” (a form of cloud-based app) to try and break into the Chinese travel market.
In addition to this innovative approach, you can capture more overseas mobile bookings by ensuring your mobile site features translated content and helpful localized information.
5. The boom in mobile apps and last-minute bookings
The use of mobile travel apps is on the rise, especially among US travelers. According to a survey by Travelport, the average US leisure traveler uses between seven and eight different apps. When it comes to hotels, 39% of guests would like to use digital room keys, and 36% would like to check into a hotel via an app.
In terms of last-minute bookings, Criteo’s Summer Travel Report found that hotel’s received just over 70% of last-minute bookings via mobile devices.
Takeaway for hotels: We’ve previously discussed how a rise in hotel and travel apps is changing how consumers research and book. The latest data reveals just how integral mobile apps continue to be during the travel journey.
The Criteo report points out that having an app is the best and easiest way to capture last-minute bookings. However, building a custom app can be hugely time-consuming and expensive. To that end, we suggest having a presence on the array of niche booking platforms flooding the market, such as Journy, Hotwire, and As You Stay.
When it comes to last-minute bookings, companies such as StayNTouch are a great option and offer mobile check-ins.
Of course, offering an optimized mobile experience is the key to capturing the high percentage of last-minute mobile bookers.
Global usage of mobile continues to grow, and travel bookings are increasingly happening via smartphone. Yet OTAs are still getting a far bigger slice of the mobile booking pie than hotels.
The remedy? Hotels need to offer enhanced usability on mobile. Simple steps include providing relevant information to incentivize bookings, a fast and frictionless experience, and fast site loading times. Hotel guests need to feel happy and confident to book on mobile, rather than compelled to book via a hotel’s desktop site.
OTA booking figures clearly show that customers are happy to book via mobile when the experience meets their expectations. With the right ingredients in place, hotels can begin to close the gap and drive more conversions their way.