By Jon Bosworth, Manager, Client Marketing Strategy
In mid-September, our team was fortunate enough to schedule time with our Google rep to discuss some of the latest data points relating to the hospitality industry’s growth in mobile marketing. Even without looking at the stats, it’s easy to understand the shift towards this new marketing opportunity.
“A quarter of the entire population of the US now has a smartphone.”
You only need one quick look around you to know everyone is using a mobile phone. In waiting rooms at doctors’ offices, coffee table magazines lay untouched as everybody browses the Internet on their mobile devices. In the subway, walking through town, sitting at a restaurant, in the movie theater before the film starts—how many people can you see using their mobile phones at any given moment? Even in homes, it’s becoming less and less common for people to use desktop computers to complete digital tasks, like travel shopping or booking hotel rooms.
But, now travel shoppers (and consumers in general) have the ease and convenience of being able to pull out a smartphone or tablet and engage in web browsing right on the spot. Although some may consider mobile just another trend, we learned a few new things from our recent Google presentation that suggest an evolution in how and how often people are using the mobile web.
The Mobile Traveler
Denying the power of mobile is essentially turning a blind eye to what’s happening in the world around us. If you prefer a world not trapped in a technology loop, good for you—sadly, your hotel doesn’t exist in that world. When you begin thinking about mobile marketing for your property, put yourself in the shoes of travel shoppers. How does mobile connectivity change the way your target audience receives, interprets and interacts with your message, and ultimately, books rooms?
Consider the following traveler examples:
When it dawns on me that I’d like to visit Cleveland, I immediately pull out my smart phone and start researching my trip. In this simple action, I am hardly alone; I have a device in my pocket that can answer all of my questions—why wouldn’t I use it as soon as I begin to have those questions?
Say I’m researching hotels on my smartphone… I come across a website—complete with outdated Flash elements—that was built to be displayed on a 1280 x 720 desktop monitor, NEVER to be rendered on a miniature palm-sized screen. Did I get the information I wanted from the website? Or did I get frustrated and quickly abandon the site?
As a mobile consumer, I’m looking for information—and I’m looking for it fast and easy. I don’t have time to zoom in and try to fat-finger my way into small date/rate search boxes to check rates and room availabilities. More often than not, if I don’t find what I’m looking for on your mobile website in a short amount of time, I’m going to get frustrated. Then, I’ll do something you won’t like: I’ll book your competition.
Another important factor to consider is that OTAs and third party affiliates are investing in mobile apps in order to be the most relevant and popular booking choice for travelers. The good news for hoteliers? Google reports, “When booking hotels on their mobile device, travelers use the mobile web three times more than mobile apps.”
You need to be willing to put your hotel where people are looking for it, and put it there in a way that makes it easy and beneficial for them to include you in their travel planning.
Mobile’s Role in Travel
During our September briefing, Google came prepared to discuss the burgeoning role mobile is playing in the world of travel research, planning and shopping. Although we don’t need Google’s independent study to know that mobile is more than a trend, it’s always nice to have solid numbers on which to base your decision(s). Here are some of the statistics they presented:
- Nearly 1 in 4 searches for hotel-related terms now come from mobile devices. Moreover, 1 in 3 business travelers used a mobile device to book accommodations.
- 23% of hotel searches are currently on a mobile device, expected to rise to 43% by 2013.
- 75 million US adults go online via mobile devices, with over half of them going online via their mobile device at least 1x per day.
- Mobile web adoption is ramping up 8 times faster than the desktop web did in the mid-90s.
Find these stats and other eye-opening information on mobile in Google’s study “The 2012 Traveler“.
The facts are in, and the data is mounting. Even for the thousands of hotels in our own portfolio, the data we’ve monitored overwhelmingly supports Google’s findings. Across the Vizergy portfolio, 20-25% of the traffic to hotel websites is coming through Apple iOS and Google Android platforms, ie. iPhones, iPads and Android phones and tablets. Mobile devices are not a trend—they are an evolution of the Internet, and we can expect them to have as much of an effect on traveler behaviors as the Internet as a whole has had over the past 20 years (albeit in a more compressed timeframe).
To bring this point home, I recently reviewed some impressive reports for an independent hotel website. In just August and September 2012 alone, this particular site saw over 15,000 visits. 18% of those visits (more than 2,500) came through on the Apple iOS and another 5.5% on Google Android. With their current numbers delivering about $1.60 per visit, they would have grossed $4,500 in those two months if they had a mobile website—more than doubling the amount it would cost to design, develop and host a new mobile website.
Do you need a mobile website?
Are you curious about how your site stacks up in mobile browsers? Visit your current website on a smartphone or tablet to see how it renders for mobile travel shoppers—then try to imagine your movie is about to start and you need to book your hotel before the lights go down. Could you do it?