Blog category: iphone

Google inserts Ads into iPhone maps - Pay Per Tap (PPT) ramps up

By Des O'Mahony | On Mon, October 05, 2009

Google has recently launched sponsored links directly on iPhone’s (and iPod Touch’s) native Google maps app. When searching for services in an area on the maps app, for example searching for hotels on a map, sponsored links can now appear alongside regular service links as shown in the example below of a “New York hotels” search. Sponsored links get a special marker compared to the usual pin also (as shown on the right).

If the user taps the sponsored link, the usual screen containing phone number, address, and directions appears but additionally shows some brief, italicised ad copy under the name of the business.

Can we propose a new acronym - Pay Per Tap?

The service doesn’t appear to be live in Ireland yet. Clearly, the drive towards mobile advertising is in full swing, with mobile the next battleground for pay per “tap” (PPT) funds.

See Inside AdWords

Labels: strategy, sem, mobile, marketing, iphone, google, adwords

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Five steps to engaging online with your customers’ conversations

By Des O'Mahony | On Wed, January 20, 2010

It seems odd to have to make this obvious statement in 2010, but hotels’ behavior still indicates that they are not seeing the obvious: Customer reviews are one side of a conversation - hotels need to answer back. Hotels not dealing with this are going to be increasingly in trouble when trying to build their online and offline revenue.

In the last number of years, the hospitality industry has witnessed an explosion of customer-generated content. Ask any average person what they think the highest-trafficked sites in travel are and you will generally get a list of high profile third party hotel booking sites. And of course there are plenty of big brand names dominating booking. But they are not dominating travel. Any ranking of travel sites by traffic will show you that bookings sites are nowhere near the top of the pile, but rather review sites and customer generated comment are the leaders in capturing people’s eyeballs online.

What this tells us is that booking is the end point of a process, and that this process is increasingly dominated by online research. Potential customers want to explore, to read and to be informed before they eventually settle on the target for booking.

Yet a cursory look at some of the dominant online players in hotel reviews reveals the fact that hotels are still not engaging with this. Time and again we see review after review by guests online with no response or input from hotels. As a hotel, think about what this means to your potential customers: if a customer stood in the lobby and either complained or praised your staff or hotel, would you let them stand there without even acknowledging their presence? At the very least it would be rude, but more likely it would result in you losing that customer for life, as well as anybody that he might talk to. Your repeat custom would suffer rapidly.

The startling absense of hotels from the online conversation is very visually highlighted in Bookassist’s recent launch of an iPhone mobile hotel app platform. Customer reviews that have been automatically collected by the booking system for hotels over the past number of years are displayed as a key feature of the iPhone app, and are represented by conversation “bubbles” coming from the customers. Yet many hotels have never used the system’s opportunity to respond, leading to the iPhone app’s review display looking like an unanswered conversation of one-sided bubbles, which of course is exactly what it is. Where hotels have responded, such as that shown in the image, the positive impact on the potential customer browsing the reviews is clear - this hotel cares, this hotel takes me seriously, this hotel fosters customer relations.

Hotel Webapp with Online Booking and Reviews by Bookassist
Hotels that respond to comments, such as ARCOTEL Kaiserwasser staff in the image above, are engaging in a conversation that speaks volumes about their commitment to customer relations.


Hotels, make it a resolution now to engage online with your customers in 2010. You need to put interaction with your potential online customers to center stage and not just treat it as an inconvenience. There is no hiding online and there’s no point hoping it will all go away.

1. Set Google Alerts on your hotel name and variations of it so you can instantly see if someone is referring to you online. Make sure someone in your organisation has clear ownership of monitoring this.

2. Register with the major online review sites such as TripAdvisor and, again, make sure that someone in your organisation has ownership of the reading and responding process.

3. Get on Twitter, monitor Twitter for comments about your hotel, and assign that task to someone in your organisation as a primary role, not just something to do when they find a minute here and there.

4. Remember it is a conversation - you must respond to positive as well as negative comments just as you would if the person was standing in front of you. Refusing to make eye contact or ignoring the person talking to you gets you nowhere in real life, and if anything makes matters significantly worse. It is exactly the same online - except that this time the whole world is gauging your refusal to interact and what it might mean for them as a potential customer.

5. Get proactive, not just reactive. Conversation is a two-way street so instead of just responding, get out there and have your say first. Get online and tell people about new developments in your hotel, tell people about events, ask your guests their opinions. Use blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other approaches to get your name and your opinions out there. Remember, all of these have the added advantage of being found in the search engines when someone is looking for information about you.

Labels: web2.0, tripadvisor, travel2.0, iphone

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iPhone webapp video showing hotels and groups usage

By Des O'Mahony | On Thu, April 22, 2010

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihWz2sEN9rc]

This demo shows how the webapp can be configured for a group of hotels (in this case ARCOTEL Hotels at arcotelhotels.com), allowing the hotels in the group to be listed by price, name or location. The webapp is language aware so it can be configured for as many languages as your hotel uses.

The webapp shown here is on iPhone, but equally works on Android devices.

Each hotel has a details on the group page showing photo, contact info and pricing. This also links to a full hotel-level webapp also, so that each hotel functions as a stand-alone property. Full secure booking capability, reviews, photos and location-aware mapping that allows you to route yourself to the hotel. We hope you like it!

For further details see Bookassist Mobile Hotel App.

Labels: mobile, iphone

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Going Mobile - It’s Where The World Is Heading

By Des O'Mahony | On Wed, August 04, 2010

“I am struck by the explosion of mobile computing - mobile is clearly going to win the battle with traditional computers.” So said Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google at the Media Summit in Abu Dhabi in March this year. There is unprecedented acceleration in the adoption of mobile touchscreen devices which is contributing to a strong growth in web access on-the-go. This is creating a significant opportunity for the hotel industry in particular and, with short lead-in times becoming more and more prevalent, positioning your hotel for mobile access is increasingly critical. Without mobile, you risk being rapidly left behind.

To App or not to App?
To get your business onto mobile, there are two approaches. The first is via a downloadable app. The hype around apps, as fueled by the success of iPhone’s app store, might indicate that the best approach is for your business to build a downloadable app. But this is not necessarily so.

Apps are indeed popular, but they are dominated by casual use items, games and utilities. Also, once downloaded, many are one-try wonders - Pinch Media, which analysed 30 million downloads, found that only 30% of people who buy from Apple’s App Store use the application the day after downloading it and for free applications 95% of people use it no more than once. Apps are also something that someone must intentionally seek out and, usually, log in to purchase or download. In other words, they require prior motivation on the buyer’s part which is a barrier to large scale use.

The Webapp
The second approach is the optimized web application or webapp. Here, the aim is to capitalize on your existing website address by developing a mobile-specific website that will be served from your web address whenever accessed by mobile. With a webapp, if configured properly, your customers just go to your web address as usual, but get a mobile experience rather than a desktop experience. It gets you right in front of your guests immediately, with no barriers to access and no extra steps or motivation required on behalf of your user. It is seamless.

If you consider how users look for hotels on mobile search, the webapp for your hotel is the obvious choice. The user is in the search engine on their mobile, is searching for hotels, will see your hotel listed in search results, and will tap to go. With a webapp you are serving them immediately from your web address with a rich mobile experience. With a downloadable app, you are reduced to giving some notification or message that they should now go to the appstore, find your app, download it, launch it, and continue. For the casual booker, that is five steps too many and your booking opportunity may well be lost.

Cost is also an issue. A custom-built app will generally cost considerably more than an optimized webapp, and for booking purposes both will have to resort to real-time data connection to your reservation system over the web anyway, so why not just use the web-oriented webapp approach in the first place? Apps will also need to be maintained, updated and re-issued via the app store when changed, which is far more cumbersome than updating a webapp where users automatically get the most current version on every access, without any update issues.

Webapp Acceleration
Even as the production of apps worldwide has skyrocketed, webapps have grown even more, at over three times the pace of app development. That’s according to a recent mobile marketplace survey by TapTu, which also indicated that the fastest growth area in webapps is ecommerce. This shows that mobile users are quite happy with webapps as a means of interaction - and as a means of buying.

One Webapp Suits All
While downloadable apps must be developed for each specific platform of mobile phone, webapps are somewhat easier since they operate within the mobile’s browser. The dominant operating systems in the touchscreen smartphone market, Apple iOS and Google Android, both use browsers based on the same common core technology called WebKit, and with the August 2010 release of version 6 of their operating system, Blackberry have also adopted WebKit for their new browser. The S60 Symbian operating system used on Nokia and LG smart phones also uses WebKit. So ensuring a relatively uniform experience is now much more straightforward since webapps need only be constructed to be compatible with WebKit to reach the majority of modern touchscreen devices.

Bookassist Webapp for Hotels
In January of this year, Bookassist announced a comprehensive webapp solution for hotels that is rapidly gaining ground nationally and internationally, winning well-known clients such as Bewleys Hotels in UK and Ireland, Arcotel Hotels in Austria, Hotel Paris in Czech Republic and Glenview Hotel, Lough Erne Resort, Buswells Hotel and Camden Court Hotel in Ireland. The development of the webapp was based on detailed analysis of the unique mobile access statistics that Bookassist has researched from thousands of reservations daily across its network of client hotels. This information guided the main features of the webapp development, with the aim to get relevant information in front of the mobile user as quickly as possible and to facilitate booking with as few taps as possible.

Here’s how it works. When a mobile customer goes to a participating hotel’s website on their mobile, Bookassist scripts automatically redirect the customer to the mobile webapp version (though the customer can return to the full website at any time if they prefer). The hotel-branded splash screen immediately shows the most popular primary functions that people demand, the top three being location, booking and photo gallery. Languages are immediately available. Options are kept to a minimum and the system does not clutter the screen with superfluous links. The location page gives the usual address, phone number and email for the hotel, but additionally the address links to a dynamic map that can use the mobile phone’s geolocation facility to route the customer from their current position to the hotel, taking real advantage of the platform.

Booking has also been greatly simplified for the on-the-go customer. The webapp allows you to tap an arrival date and number of nights if required, tap on a room to see its description and price, and tap “book” to proceed. Entry of basic contact information and a credit card is all that is required to complete the reservation, with both an email and SMS confirmation automatically sent to the customer. Fast, simple, secure and effective.

The hotel webapp can also handle hotel groups, where an additional group webapp allows the customer to sort all hotels in a group by price, location or alphabetically, and then with a tap links through to the webapp for each individual hotel.

Bewleys Hotels QR code mobile appThe Bookassist webapp solution is the best way to get your hotel mobile in the fastest timeframe. Further details, and a demonstration video, are available at http://bookassist.org/mobile. To see a working hotel group, visit Bewleys Hotels by pointing your QR code reader app on your smart phone at the code shown here.

Labels: web design, mobile, iphone

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Explosive Mobile Growth in Hotel Bookings

By Des O'Mahony | On Wed, November 02, 2011

Bookassist CEO Dr Des O’Mahony shares some data on hotel booking performance on mobile platforms, showing the clear and growing opportunities in the area and some surprises in the user patterns.

Bookassist launched its mobile web app solution for hotels in late 2009 (bookassist.org/mobile) and more than 150 hotels and hotel groups are now using the solution. We thought we’d share some of the results we are seeing with usage on mobile, whether regular hotel websites on mobile or mobile web app.

Growth Trends for Hotels
Trends in our data to date strongly indicate that city hotels perform far stronger on mobile than those outside cities, in terms of traffic and in terms of conversion of that traffic to bookings. Also, the lead-in time for bookings on mobile has proved to be very short, with more than 65% of all mobile bookings we track being for within 24 hours of arrival. The necessity of having last-minute availability on mobile is clear for city hotels given this trend.

While city hotels are performing much better on mobile, it is clear from our data that other hotels are also showing mobile business growth, though with a time lag compared to the city properties. We expect to see growth continue in all sectors on mobile, which represents a very real opportunity for hotels in the coming months and years, especially with over 100 million smart devices now being sold per quarter through 2011.

Traffic Growth and Conversion
The graph below shows an example of a small European city hotel group and the evolving mobile business it has seen through 2010 and on to today (the figures have been rounded for clarity but are otherwise accurate). During 2010, the hotel group did not operate a mobile-optimised web solution up to end July, but adopted our mobile solution from the start of August 2010 onwards.

The growth in traffic during the first half of 2010 (blue graph) is attributable to the general mobile traffic growth trend in society based on the explosive sale of smart devices in the last number of years. The standard website that this hotel group used was bookable on mobile, but was not especially optimized for it, and recorded a relatively poor conversion of 1.1% to 1.24% across the six month period.



We introduced the webapp solution and saw an immediate change in conversion from mobile devices from 1.24% to 2.31% in the weeks prior to and after the launch, a clear vindication of optimized mobile strategy. The hotel group also indicated the availability of a mobile optimized solution on its online and offline marketing, helping increase the general mobile visitor growth trend from that time onwards (blue graph). Mobile advertising was also initiated, though its impact compared to the general mobile traffic growth trend is hard to quantify. Critically, the conversion continued to grow to finish the year at an impressive 2.91% conversion across all mobile platforms.

Revenue Growth
More importantly, the combination of capitalizing on traffic growth and an optimized webapp to drive conversion has had a very significant revenue impact. Bookings revenue from pre to post webapp time periods has risen from about €2,500 per month for the group to over €20,000 booking revenue per month in 2010 (green graph). This now represents a significant percentage of the group’s online revenue and by the third quarter of 2011 had reached €35,000 in monthly revenue, with a conversion creeping up to 2.99%, a very welcome conversion rate for any hotel on any platform.

Overall for clients with this profile, we are seeing up to 5% of online revenue now attributable to mobile devices in 2011, from basically zero at the start of 2010.

Platform Specifics - Usage
Market figures for device sales currently show that about 50% of smart devices sold are Android-based. Despite this, only 15% of our figures show traffic from Android devices (see below). This trend is reflected in general web access data that tends to show Apple’s iOS devices taking up to 80% of all online mobile traffic. It appears that since the Apple iOS devices are more of a premium product, their users are more committed users and more internet-savvy, while many Android phones are being supplied by telecom operators as their standard phones, even to users who have no interest in internet access. While our webapp is optimized for both iOS and Android, it is vital that iOS is optimized for in the first case since it represents the largest market right now.




Platform Specifics - Conversion
When we look at conversion figures, below, an extremely interesting picture emerges. Android users are converting way below the average, at less than 0.8%. iPhone users convert more than three times better at 2.5%, while iPad users convert at a whopping 8 times their Android cousins, at 6.5%. The iPad conversion in particular is strongly surprising and again reflects the attitude of the iPad use to internet usage and engagement. It is clearly vital that hotels consider targeting this platform preferentially and ensure their websites are optimized for it.



Summary
Mobile is a very real opportunity. Volume is growing, conversion can often be higher than regular web access and is definitely higher when optimized mobile solutions are deployed. iPad stands out as a clear opportunity and with the rate of sales of iPads and their dominance among travelers, it is clearly a target platform above all others. Short term booking is dominating and last minute availability on mobile is critical for successful conversion.

Labels: online, mobile, iphone, ipad

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