Driving Hotel Bookings Through Mobile Channels and The Phone Renaissance
August 30, 2013 8:29am
by Frank Vertolli & Ryan Fitzgerald
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). It's no surprise that 56 percent of American adults are smartphone owners; 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. 
How does your website measure up?
Let's begin by reviewing the many types of mobile websites:
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; 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. 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. 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.
 Mobile Usage in Travel on the Rise
 Mobile Search Moments
 Smartphone Ownership 2013
 More than 60% of hotel bookings made on mobile phones were for the same day
Tags: mobile bookings
Contact: Frank Vertolli
Contact: Ryan Fitzgerald
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