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Strong device traffic shifts through 2013
September 5 2013

One company’s research shows website traffic via desktop declined by 19%, while revenue from mobile and tablet devices grew steadily at more than 64%. How should hoteliers respond?

Highlights
  • Tablets are portable, but not mobile devices, and should be treated separately.
  • The results from the 1H 2013 show a dramatic shift from desktop to mobile and tablet.
  • Year-over-year web analytics have become quite meaningless.
     
By Max Starkov
HNN columnist

Last year, in the pages of Hotel News Now, I proclaimed 2013 would be the “year of the three screens in hospitality”—desktop, mobile and tablet. I advised hoteliers to prepare for the “three-screen explosion” and to get ready to work hard to deliver a customized and user-friendly experience across these three screens.

I also cautioned hoteliers to take with a grain of salt industry statistics and projections about the contribution of the mobile channel, understanding that the majority of “mobile” bookings, roomnights and revenue are generated by tablet devices, such as the iPad, Samsung Galaxy and Google Nexus, not by pure mobile devices like the iPhone or Android- and Windows Mobile-based smartphones.

Max Starkov
 

Tablets are portable, but not mobile devices, and should be treated as a separate device category, and marketing and distribution channel. Internet users exhibit different behavioral patterns when using the desktop, mobile and tablet devices; each device category addresses different needs at different times of the day and week. What works for a user researching and booking on a desktop website does not work for a smartphone user who is reading content on the go and needs a mobile-enabled booking engine. Similarly, a tablet user expects a highly visual experience and a website built to accommodate touchscreen navigation and browsing via swiping.

No wonder Google projected completely different dynamics in each of the three device categories in 2013: Hotel queries from tablets are expected to grow by more than 180%, while queries from mobile devices will jump by 68%, and desktop searches will decline by 4% for the first time on a full-year basis.

3 screens in first half
The results from the first half of 2013 are in, and they show a dramatic shift from desktop to mobile and tablet devices. Across HeBS Digital’s hotel client portfolio, consisting of thousands of hotel properties, we saw this shift in every data category.

The most notable developments in the first half of 2013:

  • Nearly 31% of web visitors and 28% of page views were generated from non-desktop devices (mobile and tablet);
  • nearly 12% of bookings came from tablets and mobile devices;
  • tablets generated 360% more roomnights and 670% more revenue than pure mobile devices; and
  • the iPad outperformed all other tablet devices and was responsible for more than 95.1% of bookings and 96.7% of tablet revenue.

Interestingly enough, nearly 17.6% of website visitors came from mobile devices, but these mobile visitors generated only 2.5% of the bookings. Why? In my opinion, there are three main reasons:

  • Many industry sources confirm that seven out of 10 bookings originating from hotel mobile websites actually happen via the voice channel, and not through the mobile booking engine. Most of these calls and conversions remain untracked and unassigned to the mobile channel.
  • Many mobile users start their research and information gathering via their smartphones, and later continue via their desktops or tablets at the office or at home.
  • Many hoteliers lack a mobile-friendly website presence or have an “impossible to use” booking engine, which are both major impediments to conversions and mobile bookings.

How did the three-screen results from the first half of 2013 compare to the results from the same period of 2012? HeBS Digital saw a significant—even dramatic—shift from the desktop to the tablet and mobile channels within one short year:

  • Website visitors and page views via desktop declined by 19% , while bookings declined by 6%;
  • revenue from both mobile and tablet devices exhibited steady growth of more than 64%, indicating travel consumers increasing comfort transacting via their smartphones and tablets; and
  • overall, the mobile and tablet devices generated in the first half of 2013 were 32% of total website visitors vs. 17% in 2012; 38% of page views vs. 14% in 2012; and 12% of trackable bookings vs. 6% in 2012.

What are the immediate implications for hoteliers?
Hoteliers must boost their presence in all three screens of desktop, mobile and tablet, including enhancing and optimizing their websites and launching multi-screen digital marketing campaigns targeting travel consumers at all touch points.

In the same time, year-over-year web analytics have become quite meaningless, due to the huge shift from desktop to mobile and tablet channels. For example, according to HeBS data, 17.6% of website visitors in the first half of 2013 were from mobile devices vs. 9% in the first half of 2012. This means nearly 8% of former desktop visitors are now using the mobile channel. Because the majority of bookings happen via the voice channel, these are bookings that did not happen via the desktop website. Hoteliers must install call analytics, as the majority of mobile bookings are from the voice channel.

Indeed, the tremendous growth of the mobile and social media channels and the proliferation of the new tablet channel we are witnessing today has created not only new user behavior but also new information needs in each device category, requiring hoteliers to create and manage their presence and digital content across the three distinct distribution and marketing channels.

About the author
Max Starkov is president & CEO of HeBS Digital, the hospitality industry’s leading full-service digital marketing and direct online channel strategy firm based in New York City www.HeBSdigital.com.

HeBS Digital has pioneered many of the best practices in hotel Internet marketing, social and mobile marketing, and direct online channel distribution. The firm has won over 260 prestigious industry awards for its digital marketing and website design services, including numerous Adrian Awards, Davey Awards, W3 Awards, WebAwards, Magellan Awards, Summit International Awards, Interactive Media Awards, IAC Awards, etc.

A diverse client portfolio of top-tier major hotel brands, luxury and boutique hotel brands, resorts and casinos, hotel management companies, franchisees and independents, and CVBs are benefiting from HeBS Digital’s direct online channel strategy and digital marketing expertise. Contact HeBS Digital’s consultants at (212) 752-8186 or success@hebsdigital.com.

The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Hotel News Now or its parent company, STR and its affiliated companies. Columnists published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.

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