Over one third of people now use a mobile device to book a hotel room. That’s according to the latest Travel Flash Report by Criteo.
The shift to mobile continues to rise, and in 2018, hotels have an opportunity to capitalize on changing consumer habits.
As it turns out, the mobile booking landscape varies considerably between regional preferences, booking platforms, and demographics. However, there are clear patterns among the stats that hotels can exploit.
Here are some of the big booking stats to be aware of right now, followed by our own tips to boost your mobile conversion rates in the year ahead.
1. OTAs share of mobile bookings now 45%
This figure from Criteo’s Travel Flash Report reveals just how well OTAs are doing at attracting mobile bookers. The report also reveals how far hotels are behind: suppliers are only seeing 16% of their bookings from mobile.
When you look at year-on-year bookings for smartphones, they make especially stark reading for hotels. While OTA figures grew by 61%, suppliers increased by just 11%.
We’ve previously discussed why OTA mobile bookings are growing faster than hotels, which largely revolves around a superior user experience, and simplified browsing and booking process.
What’s frustrating is that suppliers haven’t kept up with overall mobile booking growth. More than ever, hotels need to address this issue and adopt some of the strategies being employed by OTAs or risk falling further behind.
2. Mobile bookings in North America and Europe behind Asia and Middle East
Criteo also reports significant variations in mobile booking trends around the globe. In North America and Europe, mobile bookings stand at just 28% and 33% respectively.
In Asia, the figure is between 45% and 49%, and it’s 53% in the Middle East.
Why the disparity?
Part of the reason seems down to regional demographics. For instance, over half of the population in the Middle East are Millennials—and their mobile usage is almost 100%. Clearly, the familiarity with mobile of a tech-savvy generation would account for these higher booking rates.
Similarly, smartphone and app usage is extremely high in the Asia-Pacific region, and shoppers frequently use mobile to book leisure activities such as excursions, dining, and cultural attractions. China itself is far ahead of the rest of the world in mobile travel trends—if you took the country’s mobile bookings just by itself, it would be the third highest source of bookings in all of Asia!
3. Travelers lack confidence in mobile
In general, travel websites often lack the essential elements needed to give shoppers the confidence to book. According to Think with Google, 55% of travelers agree they need to consult too many travel resources before booking. They also say they’re worried about finding the best price, and want the ability to compare options in one place.
Mobile is a major culprit for these sentiments. An earlier Google survey found that only 23% of leisure travelers are confident they’ll find the same hotel or flight information on mobile compared to desktop.
This lack of confidence is reflected in a shortfall of projected booking rates. eMarketer forecast that digital travel sales via mobile would exceed 40% by 2017. But in 2017, a third of those surveyed said they were still uncomfortable using mobile to research and book—a figure virtually the same as it was in 2015.
The takeaway message here? The mobile experience is falling short of expectations, and a lot of consumers still lack confidence in the information and rates that mobile sites deliver.
4. Mobile conversion rates extremely low compared to desktop
Travelers still aren’t converting on mobile to the same extent as desktop. Statistics reported by Smart Insights reveal that conversion rates on desktop for the travel industry are 2.4%, but just 0.7% on smartphone.
This is despite the fact that mobile usage overtook desktop back in 2014. So why the difference in booking rates?
In part, it can be explained by the growing number of “micro-moments” happening on mobile. During quick and frequent bursts of on-the-move research, a person might simply want to check a hotel’s rates, or flick through the image gallery. As people conduct more of these sessions, conversion rates on smartphones and tablets will naturally be much lower.
When consumers then head to the desktop version of a site, they’re generally well-informed and ready to book. However, this convoluted path to purchase is less than ideal. To secure a booking, keeping the browsing and booking process on one device limits the possibility of losing a customer along the way.
5. Mobile apps are a key conversion driver
The Criteo report also found that conversion rates on apps are five times higher than mobile. This huge difference is probably down to the ease of using a streamlined app compared with the typical mobile website. It’s also fair to assume that buying intent is higher among consumers that have gone out of their way to download an app.
The trend for app-based booking is also growing fast. Travel companies that have a booking app reported 60% of transactions via mobile, up from 41% just one year ago.
Finally, Criteo found that agencies and suppliers had a 23% conversion rate from travelers who accessed their apps. This is compared with only 11% on desktop and 4% on mobile.
Booking on mobile: tips for success
Based on the latest mobile booking stats, here are our takeaway tips to boost your hotel’s own mobile booking rates.
Let users know they’re getting the best deals and information.
Confidence is crucial on mobile. Your customers need to be reassured they’re booking at the best price. They also need to feel certain you’re providing the most relevant information about your property and destination.
To address the hesitancy over advertised rates, consider promoting a penalty-free cancellation policy and best price guarantee.
When it comes to providing relevant information, customization is huge. To help with this, Google recommends looking at your top mobile searches to learn more about your most popular mobile content. For instance, if your target audience frequently searches for hotels with a pool or family-friendly restaurant, promoting these amenities up front on your mobile site will instantly answer the most pressing questions of your typical customer, instilling greater confidence to book there and then.
Create a fast and frictionless experience.
Simplicity and speed is key to mobile shoppers. According to Google, 54% of leisure travelers and 69% of business travelers say limitations or usability issues on mobile are the biggest reasons they book on a different device.
To that end, your mobile site needs to deliver a seamless user experience. Booking forms should be easy to fill in, navigation simplified, and distracting elements stripped away.
Slow loading times are particularly frustrating for mobile users. According to Kissmetrics, 40% of people abandon a website that takes longer than three seconds to load. To check your site speed is up to scratch, use tools such as Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.
Optimize your mobile site to meet regional preferences.
The evidence is clear: marketers must optimize for mobile to reach international markets such as Asia and the Middle East. Travel is booming in both regions and mobile usage is high.
By adapting to meet the needs of these overseas travelers, you can potentially drive a lot of mobile bookings from lucrative new markets.
Aside from the basics of a great user experience, make sure your mobile site features translated content and helpful localized content. Get your mobile strategy spot on, align it with regional preferences, and there’s a clear opportunity for hoteliers with a strong base in Asia or the Middle East to reap the rewards.
Build a presence on apps.
We recently discussed how a rise in hotel and travel apps is changing how consumers research and book. Latest booking figures also reveal just how many more people convert via apps compared with mobile websites.
Creating a dedicated app for your own hotel can be a costly and time-consuming task, but there are definite benefits to building a presence on the new and niche apps flooding the market. Take the time to research the latest industry apps, then aim to get your hotel featured on the ones that are frequently used by your target audience.
Adapting to a mobile-first world
Global usage of mobile continues to grow, and travel bookings are increasingly happening via smartphone. Yet OTAs are still getting a much bigger slice of the mobile booking pie than hotels. A lackluster user experience, limited information, and concerns over mobile pricing seem to be the main reasons that hotels are losing out.
The remedy? Along with a fast and frictionless experience, hotels need to let their mobile customers feel they’re receiving the most relevant information and the best price possible, persuading them that heading to the desktop site to book isn’t necessary.
OTA booking figures clearly show that customers are happy to book via mobile when the experience meets expectations. With the right ingredients in place, hotels can begin to drive more conversions and begin closing the gap.