Why it’s time to take mobile seriously
02 JANUARY 2014 7:37 AM
Here are some tips to make your hotel’s mobile experience more guest-friendly and decrease your cost of sale.
Every January, some pundit proclaims the coming year as “the year of mobile.” But not me. 2014 is absolutely not the year of mobile.
Mobile has already happened. It actually broke through somewhere over the last 18 months, but many hoteliers failed to notice its real impact.
I know what you’re thinking: “That’s nuts. I get almost none of my bookings from mobile.” And that’s true, at least for most hotels.
But, in this case, reservations, roomnights and revenue are the wrong metrics to measure the situation. Here’s why.
Last year, roughly 90% of all guests researched their travel options online at some point, and half of those conducted some of their research on a mobile device, according to two separate Google studies. According to Pew Internet Research, more than 60% of cellphone owners go online using their phones and almost 21% of adult mobile owners use their phones as their primary way of accessing the Internet. Hoteliers I’m working with have seen mobile traffic increase between 75% and 100% over the last year to approximately 10% to 20% of all web traffic. Overall mobile Internet use grew by almost 75% in the last year and looks to do the same in 2014.
So where are the bookings?
They’re hidden in other channels. Because, most of the time, your guests can’t actually book on mobile. At least not in the real world.
Mobile isn’t a device; it’s a situation. A potential guest sitting on her sofa and checking rates while watching “The Voice” isn’t mobile (not that she’s not important, too). But she can just as easily grab her laptop or tablet and make a booking without too much trouble.
A truly mobile experience, however, needs to assist guests when they’re on the move.
Here’s an example: Try booking a hotel while dashing down 7th Avenue in New York trying to catch your train, or hustling through a busy airport teeming with travelers desperate to make their flights. Seriously, give it a shot. Grab your cellphone, search and select a hotel, visit its website, then pull out your credit card and try completing a reservation while holding a phone in one hand, clutching your credit card in another, dragging your roll-on bag with a third, and using another to enter information into the myriad form fields presented to you.
It’s not so simple, is it? Especially because no one has four hands.
Instead, guests researching via mobile make one of four choices when it’s time to book:
- Book via voice. While not tragic, voice almost always represents a higher cost channel. Yes, you can often recoup those costs through improved sales tactics and focused upselling. But that’s by no means certain.
- Book on another device, usually at a later time. Also not a terrible option, but not terribly guest-friendly either. Guests might need to restart their search and risk losing access to the inventory they’d initially found. Plus, some fraction of those guests will use paid search to “find” you for their return visit, increasing your cost of sale.
- Use an OTA that makes mobile booking simple. Online travel agencies have made great strides in improving the usability of mobile booking. And your commissions have helped pay for it. How nice.
- Choose another hotel altogether. This doesn’t happen as often today as the others. But as your competitors step up their mobile game, you risk losing out.
It’s pretty safe to say that of those four options, none are particularly guest-friendly, most increase your cost of sale/lower your margins, one is downright awful, and only one (shift to voice), offers any real benefits to you and your guest.
So, what can you do? Here are some tips:
- Ensure your website meets mobile guests’ needs. Prioritize content that matters to your guests in a mobile context. When you view your site on a mobile phone, can you find the phone number? The address? A link to directions or a map? If they’re going to call anyway, make it easy for them to do so.
- Improve your voice conversion rate. The more calls you turn into sales, the more profitable the voice channel becomes. Also, look to upselling to increase your revenue per call and improve overall profitability.
- Explore improved mobile booking solutions. Or pressure your existing vendor to improve its mobile capabilities. Guests won’t book if it’s difficult to do so. Focus on making it easy.
- Finally, develop your hotel’s overall mobile strategy. Think about how and where your guests use their mobile devices and seek to answer the questions important in those contexts. Real hospitality means helping your guests every step of the way, especially when they’re on the go.
In 2014, if your digital marketing and e-commerce activities don’t help mobile travelers, it’s no exaggeration to say you aren’t getting all you can from digital marketing and e-commerce. Yes, it’s true that the bookings aren’t there—yet. But don’t blame the guests. Instead, take a look at how you’re helping guests on mobile—or not helping them. Guests will book with hotels and OTAs that make it easy for them to do so.
Don’t you think it’s time you were one of them?
Tim Peter helps companies put the web to work to grow their business. Since 1995, he has developed innovative e-commerce and digital marketing programs across multiple industries. An expert in e-commerce and digital marketing strategy, Tim focuses on the growth of the social, local, mobile web and its impact on both consumer behavior and business results. Prior to founding Tim Peter & Associates, LLC, a full-service e-commerce and internet marketing consulting firm in 2011, he worked with the world’s largest hotel franchisor and the world’s premier independent luxury hotel representation firm to help hotels and resorts achieve more than $2 billion in online revenue.
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