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by Frank Vertolli & Ryan Fitzgerald

August 2013

Last year, Google Travel found that 25 percent of all online search for travel came from a mobile device.  eMarketer predicts that this figure will jump up to 40 percent by the end of 2013. [1 ]  In fact, HeBS, a New York-based agency, found that 39.5 percent of all online traffic came from either a smartphone or a tablet during their first quarter this year for various hotels they manage across North America. [1]

People are already choosing to search on their mobile devices over a desktop computer in locations where both devices are likely available to them (work or home).[2]  It's no surprise that 56 percent of American adults are smartphone owners;[3] however, with their limited time, attention span and screen space, hoteliers have to adapt, taking any friction out of the equation, and making the website experience seamless and easy-to-navigate for the mobile user.  PhoCusWright estimates mobile revenue should reach 20 percent of online travel dollars in the U.S. by the end of next year, when mobile bookings reach $25.8 billion. [1

How does your website measure up?  

Let's begin by reviewing the many types of mobile websites:

  • Mobile-friendly  sites are the standard version of websites that function normally on all mobile phones (e.g. no Flash elements, which aren't capable with iPhones), but don't be confused by their title because these mobile sites are not always friendly for your business.   All of the content is listed, but there is often a need to pinch and zoom to navigate the site.   Images are too small to provide an enriched experience, there is too much copy/content and files and images and videos aren't optimized for mobile bandwidth. 
  • Mobile-optimized sites are specifically designed for users on a mobile phone.  They can be a dedicated version of a website specifically designed for mobile, or a responsive design that adjusts the layout and content of the site to match the website visitor's device (computer vs. tablet vs. phone).  The key is that visitors receive a customized experience and further, you can develop and track specific conversion expectations and metrics for these consumers.  There are two types of mobile optimizes sites:
  • Dedicated-mobile sites offer specific content and call-to-actions based off the type of device you're on when viewing the site.  For example, Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board has a dedicated-mobile website featuring easy-to-use drop down navigation, large clickable icons and social connection buttons.   
  • Mobile-responsive sites are the best kind of website to have in this constantly evolving digital world as they create a consistent user experience regardless of the device (desktop, tablet, mobile).  Grand Canyon Railway's website automatically adjusts based on the size of the browser to offer users the best content possible with the allotted space.  Once the screen drops down below tablet size, the booking engine is replaced with a phone number to easily contact the railway and hotel for a reservation.

Regardless of the type of mobile website you have, it's important to ask what core items you are going to convey.  You have to be very focused on what you're saying and how you're saying it to influence your visitors' next steps.

Mobile searches drive behavior in the moment, and consumers want speed and convenience;[2] however, a purchase via mobile phone, even with a mobile-optimized site, can be challenging.  The relatively limited screen size on mobile devices generally means that users will spend less time and look at fewer pages.  Furthermore, the multiple fields normally required to make a purchase and other key factors represent barriers to conversion, especially when planning travel.  

This is where the phone comes into play.  The bottom line is that most hotels are overlooking the most basic information on their mobile sites, the phone number.  

According to Google, three of four mobile searches trigger follow-up actions, whether it is further research, a store visit, a phone call, a purchase or word-of-mouth sharing.  On average, each mobile search triggers nearly two follow-up actions.  The top searches for follow-up actions includes beauty, auto, travel, food and tech.[1]   Calling to make a purchase is one of the easiest options for a  traveler when they are browsing hotels via smartphones.  Adding an easy-to-find call button on the home page is a step in the right direction in optimizing your mobile site.  

In the hotel industry, there is a perception that generating a call is more costly than website bookings.  This might be true, but a more comprehensive comparison is the cost of booking customers via phone versus shifting business to an OTA (online travel agencies), such as Expedia, where a 20 percent or more commission cost needs to be factored in, or worse, a competitor who made the booking process easier.  Not to mention, last-minute booking is very common on mobile devices.  Both Orbitz and Travelocity have reported that more than 60 percent of hotel bookings made on mobile phones were for the same day.[4] Customers want to speak to somebody quickly for this type of booking.

Having a phone number available for questions will also help improve your mobile site. Over time, you will observe trends of information consumers can't find on your site, which will help you adjust the content.  The call center should be viewed as a commerce center, not a cost center. 

We recently worked with a travel industry client who was reaching users on mobile, but they were lacking an optimized experience.  There was only a five-percent click-to-call rate.  After developing a dedicated mobile effort including an optimized landing page, a click-to-call button and separately targeted mobile efforts, the client's click-to-call rate jumped to 25 percent.

The mobile landscape is constantly evolving.  Are you effectively optimizing your website for speed and convenience?   Potential guests don't want to, and won't, scroll through five pages on their devices to find your phone number.  They'll go somewhere else.  Give them easy access to your product, and give them the option to call.  

[1] Mobile Usage in Travel on the Rise

[2] Mobile Search Moments

[3] Smartphone Ownership 2013

[4] More than 60% of hotel bookings made on mobile phones were for the same day

About Frank Vertolli, Co-founder, Net Conversion

Frank Vertolli is the calm during the storm He seeing things clearly and providing rational thought leadership to clients no matter the weather.  He leads marketing and project management for Net Conversion with more than 15 years of results-oriented digital marketing experience in the hospitality industry including corporate, small business, agency and start-up environments.

Contact: Frank Vertolli / 407.241.2044

About Ryan Fitzgerald, Co-Founder, Net Conversion

Ryan Fitzgerald dreams in pie charts and bar graphs, and is committed to helping his clients understand the importance of these numbers. He leads analytics, reporting and product development for Net Conversion; spending hours poring over Excel spreadsheets and calculating the effectiveness of advertising campaigns.

Contact: Ryan Fitzgerald / 407.241.2044

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