Blog category: mobile

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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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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iPad - brief review with lots good, some bad

By Des O'Mahony | On Tue, May 11, 2010

Bookassist Hotel Booking Engine on iPadWe’ve been trying out Apple iPads in Bookassist and have a few observations to make.

All is good…
The device mostly lives up to the hype as a great portable communication tool. It is clearly aimed at the “consumer” end of media rather than the creator end, in that it is great at browsing the web, dealing with email, watching videos and films, listening to music, looking at photographs. If your country has the iTunes Movie store, it’s easy to get movies onto the device via iTunes syncing, and the quality of movie-watching experience is really superb.

During a recent 9 hour transatlantic flight between USA and Ireland offices, I watched 2 full movies, the remaining half of a third movie, and for an hour or so did a bit of word processing on the iWork Pages app while listening to music on the iPod app. All told, something in the region of 6 to 6.5 hours of use, with Wifi off. The battery went from 100% to 57% for all of this usage, which is seriously impressive. It definitely gets the thumbs up on battery.

Web experience is great, when connected to Wifi of course. Bookassist booking engine runs really well in standard web mode, as you find it on hotel websites. But we’ve adjusted the mobile booking engine version also (shown here) to run really well on iPad and to give a more naturally “touch” experience on the large screen. This will be released shortly as an update to the mobile webapp. We suspect that hotels will want to make sure that iPad users get this experience also rather than the standard web experience for iPad users, good and all as that is.

You can use a third party app such as Dropbox to keep documents in sync between your desktop/laptop and your iPad if you want to be able to readily access working documents while on the go.

But…
On the downside, Apple’s iWork applications for iPad - Pages for word processing, Keynote for presentations and Numbers for spreadsheets - proved to be a slight disappointment. At Bookassist we use iWork applications on the desktop extensively. The indications were that moving files to iWork on iPad would be relatively seamless. Not so.

Apple really should not have called the iPad iWork apps “Pages, Keynote, Numbers”. A modifier such as “Pages Lite” or “Pages Mobile” would have been far better to indicate their reduced capabilities in some areas.

iPad Pages and Numbers work well. The on-screen keyboard input takes relatively little to get used to and if you are familiar with the desktop apps you are up and running with these without too much difficulty. They are great for taking notes or doing quick work on the go. The use of the touch interface is quite intuitive if you are used to the inspector in the desktop versions.

iPad Pages lacks the “Track Changes while Editing” feature that I would use quite a lot when reading others’ documents. While you can create decent documents on the go, editing other’s documents is not as elegant. Also, opening existing documents from your desktop will likely lead to some formating changes which is annoying. It is a great app, but it is not the same as the desktop version.

iPad Keynote looked like it could really substitute for the laptop when giving presentations. Alas, that was a firm no for me. None of my desktop presentations, transferred to iPad, would import into Keynote. The cause is probably the extensive use of animations and element grouping that I make, or customised templates. Generating a simpler Keynote presentation meant the import worked fine, and generating a presentation directly on the iPad was a breeze. But the cool 3D graphics in charts are reduced down to 2D and some builds are not present. They still look great, but they are not what you might have come to expect of Keynote. Again, considering the device, this is an amazing app, but the expectation based on the desktop experience of the full app was higher.

A real show-stopper is the output to VGA for Keynote on the iPad as currently implemented. While the iPad displays your presentation as expected, there is as yet no remote control option to progress slides, requiring you to physically tap or swipe the iPad for each slide progression. As a speaker, I hate being stuck at the podium and prefer to be out and about on the floor while talking, so this lack of functionality is a real issue. Having to return to the podium for each change makes a real break in delivery momentum that is unacceptable. Sadly, the feature I anticipated most is a non-runner for now. Apple needs to fix this bigtime.

Also, there is no option to add and view notes per slide, no presenter view. This will likely be an issue for some users.

Make no mistake, the software engineering to get iWork running on the iPad is a really fantastic feat that Apple deserves credit for. But for Apple marketing to give the impression that these apps are up to exactly the same desktop standard is a mistake since it will only result in disappointment among users.

In summary, what the iPad does, and what it was designed for, it does exceptionally well. It is fantastic for web, mail and media interaction, just as advertised. Its interface is very intuitive. What it does not do well, and what it was not designed for, is to facilitate content creation at desktop standards. In that regard it is not yet a substitute for a full-fledged laptop while traveling.

Labels: technology, mobile

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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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Video of Bookassist’s hotel webapp on iPad

By Des O'Mahony | On Thu, November 04, 2010

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqgjfTkwkEA?fs=1]

This is a highly-optimised touch-screen app which works in portrait or landscape mode for iPad. Automatically served to your hotel customers when they visit your hotel website on iPad.

Of course the customer always has the option of viewing the full hotel website instead by tapping the exit icon (shown here) on the screen at any time, just as in the iPhone/Android webapp.

As a live example, while on your iPad, visit m.moranhotels.com.

For more video, see bookassist.tv

Labels: webapp, mobile, ipad, booking engine

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How Hotels Can Best Seize The Growing Mobile Opportunity

By Des O'Mahony | On Thu, February 17, 2011

Bookassist’s Des O’Mahony points out some painful truths for the hotel industry online, and recommends learn form their mistakes when looking at mobile



As we study the technology marketplace in early 2011, it is clear that the mobile space is growing at an unprecedented rate. It presents real and immediate opportunities to hotels to reach their customers and generate direct booking revenue for low acquisition cost.



How Hotels Missed The Internet Boat

Unfortunately for hotels, the guest has usually been well ahead of them in terms of their service requirements online and their knowledge of online technology. In the late nineties, as the web began to explode, the guest was already online and increasingly looking to book online. But hotels were far from ready to serve the online guest directly. The result was that third party channels stepped in as middlemen to fulfill the need and facilitate the online guest, taking control of that middle ground between hotel and guest.



Hotels spent much of the following decade paying high commission fees to third party channels that were servicing the hotels’ own guests online. Meanwhile the hotels’ own direct web presence was woefully inadequate and underpromoted, with little chance of converting lookers into bookers. The third party channels succeeded in taking strong control of the online space, and while they have certainly served the guest well, the hotels have been suffering the financial consequences ever since, with third party channels in control of many hotels’ inventories.



Gradually, hotels are realizing that they can sell quite successfully directly, that they can reach their guests directly online, and that they can do so with lower acquisition costs than the third party booking channels would have them believe. The savvy (but still too rare) hotel is embracing online marketing and social media and is no longer at the mercy of what the third party channel dictates in terms of rate.



But just as hotels have realized this past mistake, a new battle looms where the stakes are even higher. That battle is for the mobile space, and it is growing far more explosively than the rapid growth witnessed in web adoption. Hotels need to seriously invest in keeping up with guest requirements on mobile and ensure they don’t make the same mistakes in the mobile arena that they paid the price for in “traditional” web. It may seem a trivial market now, but it is set to change rapidly.



The Growth In Smart Devices

Let’s look at the potential that the hotel market faces. As former Google CEO Eric Schmidt remarked in early 2010 “I am struck by the explosion of mobile computing. Mobile is clearly going to win the battle with traditional computers”. These are ominous words that hotels would well profit from noting.



On the upside for travel, many reports have shown that the majority of customers are completely comfortable with booking travel online. A recent Google IAB/TNS Consumer Confidence Barometer survey of ecommerce purchasing behavior in Q3 of 2010 showed that an impressive 68% of customers both research and purchase travel online, significantly higher than any other category of goods or services such as technology, retail, media etc. The same survey shows there is ample evidence to suggest that this extends into the mobile area: 42% of people say they use their mobile because it is the easiest way to research or buy, while 49% of non-mobile users say they will use mobile in future to buy. Only 9% mention some reticence regarding security issues in buying on mobile. So hotels already have a captive and lucrative audience if they choose to reach them directly on mobile.



Now look at the rate of adoption of mobile technology. An October 2010 CNBC report on smart device acquisition stated that “Growth in Smart Device sales is unprecedented even in technology sales history” and figures from Apple, just one manufacturer, bear this out. It took Apple 680 days to sell the first one million iPods, a figure reached in 2003. In 2007, it took the company 74 days to clock up the one millionth iPhone sale. Last year, Apple shipped one million iPads in just 28 days. This is staggering growth in mobile internet-capable devices, and this is the space where the hotel customer is increasingly comfortable.



The result of this explosive growth in mobile internet access is that, according to Gartner research, and Morgan-Stanley, mobile internet access is expected to surpass desktop web access sometime in 2013 or so, with more mobile internet access devices (1.82B) in use than desktop or traditional computing devices (1.78B).



So we have the devices, and we have the willingness to purchase. Hotels need to act now to ensure they are maximizing their mobile presence and their mobile marketing and advertising strategies in order to capitalize on this fast-approaching perfect storm.



To App or not to App

In January 2011, Apple trumpeted its ten billionth app store download. Many hotels have asked if they should be on this app bandwagon. The answer is, “it depends”.



For the hotel that is looking to capture the casual rather than regular customer, an app is not an ideal solution. The casual customer finds hotels on mobile primarily via search, using Google or other engines on their mobile browser. When a hotel is listed on search results, the user taps to continue through to the hotel and does not want to encounter a barrier in the form of a request to go to the app store, find the hotel, download an app etc. The nature of the searching guest is to want information quickly, so they’ll just move on to the next search result if they encounter barriers. Understanding how your potential guests are finding you on mobile is critical to developing your solution.



What the hotel needs is a mobile website or webapp that instantly serves the mobile guest transparently and without barriers. A single tap from search results on mobile should deliver the hotel’s information and booking capability in a form suitable for the device in question, whether that be iPhone, Android-based phones, BlackBerry or whatever. No downloads or complications should be put in the users’ way.



Luckily, iPhone, Android and the newer BlackBerry devices (Torch) all share common web browser architecture, called WebKit, so minimal changes are required to get a webapp functioning well on all three. And since webapps can be built in HTML and CSS, just like regular websites, hotels need only invest in better web technology to serve the mobile customers’ needs. Webapps in HTML and CSS are easily adapted to new devices and platforms as they arise, so investment in a proper webapp architecture means you are building in future flexibility for new devices and standards. A Taptu Mobile Touch Web Report from 2010 showed that webapps grew at three times the rate of regular app development, with ecommerce being the fastest growth area in webapps.



Contrast this with the popular but fragmented app space. To build a great app for iPhone takes programming expertise that is not as readily available as web expertise. To additionally do so for Android-based devices means largely redeveloping your app solution, since iPhone and Android are on a completely different code base, speaking a different technical language if you will. Add BlackBerry to the mix and you are again developing in a different programming environment from scratch. Likewise Nokia/Windows Mobile. You are now faced with multiple development processes to give the same general experience to your customers, and multiple upgrade processes when you change information or when the platforms develop. Not to mention the fact that you would be relying on customers to go to the app store for their platform and search there for your particular hotel in order to find you, which is not the way that people traditionally find accommodation online and, by extension, on mobile.



For hotels with considerable repeat business and regular corporate guests, an actual downloadable app does make some sense - but as a complement to a proper mobile webapp solution, not as an alternative.



Good Old Fashioned Customer Service

It is easy to get bogged down in the technical details of what should be delivered, which platforms to target and what strategy to best adopt. But it is well worth noting that delivering solutions now on mobile to satisfy your customers’ needs is nothing more than a manifestation of good old fashioned customer service. If your customer is online on mobile, and you are not there to serve, then you have lost the opportunity to impress. To fail to embrace mobile now, or to cede your mobile presence to some third party, is to implicitly tell your potential mobile guest that you are not really interested in serving their needs and are content to let someone else do so.



As always, the key to success on mobile, as anywhere, is to understand what best suits the guests’ need, not what best suits the hotel’s, and to deliver on it.





Dr Des O’Mahony is the co-founder and chief executive officer of Bookassist (bookassist.org). Bookassist’s mobile webapp solution for hotels and hotel groups is a quickly-deployed and increasingly popular solution.

Labels: technology, mobile, marketing

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Mobile strategy push by Apple - it’s the free one that counts!

By Des O'Mahony | On Wed, October 05, 2011

There’s been a lot of talk of “disappointment” at Apple’s announcement yesterday of the souped-up iPhone4s. Industry watchers and punters alike were of course holding their breath for the mythical iPhone5.

But it was not to be, yet. And in the noise about what does and what does not constitute a major upgrade, the true strategic push was missed.

Apple has made major under-the-bonnet changes to the new iPhone4s to sell at the premium price point, and yes the current iPhone4 stays on the books and gets a big price drop when taken under contract. But the real game changer is that the iPhone3Gs will continue to be available and will now be offered for free from the carrier networks for contract or pay as you go customers.

Apple’s premium products have not ‘til now been considered accessible enough to ruffle the cheap Android market. The free iPhone 3Gs could well be the thing that does it, bringing a boatload more users into Apple’s smartphone bracket that otherwise could not afford, but would have preferred, Apple.

The swelling of users on the platform is a good thing for the mobile sales potential for hotels through platforms such as Bookassist’s web app which is already representing over 5% of reservations through Bookassist systems.

Labels: webapp, mobile, apple, android

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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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Referral Links - Tripadvisor Business Listing

By Des O'Mahony | On Fri, November 04, 2011

Bookassist’s Martin Murray discusses the use of the Tripadvisor business listing as a referral link.

When it comes to marketing your hotel online your main goal should be to drive as much qualified traffic and revenue through your own website as possible. One way to help with this goal is through the use of referral links.

There are many sources of referral links available and in this article we will be discussing the use of the Tripadvisor business listing as a referral link.

What is all it about?

With over 50 million reviews and an estimated one in every four travelers visiting the site before travelling, Tripadvisor has become the largest and most popular hotel review website. Tripadvisor launched the business listing back in January 2010 as a way for hotels to promote their listing and to encourage direct contact between the customer and the hotel. For many people checking hotel reviews is the final stage of their purchasing decision so having your hotel’s contact details present will help increase your chances of a direct booking which could otherwise be gained by a third party website.

Tripadvisor business listing features

There are several features to a Tripadvisor business listing. The main three are listed below.

Contact details displayed

Your hotel’s phone number, website link and email details are displayed under your hotel’s name on your Tripadvisor listing.
Create special offers
With the business listing you can create special offers for your hotel which are then displayed throughout the Tripadvisor website.
Mobile listing is enhanced
When you upgrade to a business listing, visitors viewing your listing on a mobile device will be able to call your hotel and visit your hotel’s website directly.

Cost

Tripadvisor charge a yearly fee to upgrade to the business listing and the cost varies depending on the number of rooms your property has. The average cost for a hotel in Ireland is €1550 pa. It is worth noting that you can you can cancel your subscription at any time and get your money back for the remainder of your subscription.

So is it worth it?

We have measured two hotels in the study below. Hotel A is ranked in the top 10% for their area while Hotel B is ranked in the top 30%.

Visits – Hotel A received 6345 visits while Hotel B received 674. (ROI) Return on investment – Hotel A had a return on investment of 44 (for every one euro spent on the business listing 44 was made back) while Hotel B had a ROI of 2. There are several factors which could explain the large difference in results between both hotels but the main reason is because Hotel A has a much higher Tripadvisor ranking than Hotel B and therefore gets a lot more exposure on the Tripadvisor website. If you are considering upgrading to the Tripadvisor business listing then we recommend that your hotel should be in the top 15% for your area for the business listing to be beneficial.

Conversion Conversion rate from the Tripadvisor business listing was quite high for both hotels. The table below compares the conversion rate from the business listing compared to the average conversion rate for referral links for each hotel’s website.

Is it worth it?

The simple answer is yes, if you have a high Tripadvisor ranking. The success of the business listing will mainly depend on two factors.

Tripadvisor Ranking – This is by far the biggest factor. The higher your Tripadvisor ranking the more times your hotel will be displayed to visitors. Also, hotels with a high ranking are trusted more as they are seen be of a high quality and therefore visitors are more inclined to learn more about them. If you are interested in upgrading you’re listing to a business listing but have a low Tripadvisor ranking we would recommend improving your ranking first.

Rate Parity / Availability – The business listing may generate traffic but that does not mean that this traffic will automatically convert into bookings, which is why having a least rate parity and good availability on your own website will help ensure that any traffic generated by the business listing will convert at as high a rate as possible.

If you are interested in upgrading to the Tripadvisor business listing then please contact us at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) Bookassist – Technology & online strategy for hotels

Labels: tripadvisor, technology, strategy, mobile

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Hotels - Ignore The Mobile Trend If You Dare

By Des O'Mahony | On Fri, May 03, 2013

Cris Petcu

“Mobile” is the word on everyone’s lips these days. Leaving the house in the morning without your smartphone causes panic, anxiety and worry that the day is ruined without it.

Mobile search in particular is surging in an upward spiral. The growth levels of search through smart devices have eclipsed all past search growth trends and provides a big opportunity to all businesses with an online element, and especially to those in travel.

Google studies have shown that mobile searches in travel have the third highest follow-up actions of any industry, which is a lucrative opportunity to be seized (only the auto and beauty industries have more). Hotels are a major part of this dynamic industry and are heavily affected by online trends. More and more hotel customers are going online everyday to check out latest deals, hotel locations, reviews and photos as part of their decision-making process, which means your hotel’s online visibility and presence on mobile is a vital point of contact. On April 11th, Booking.com announced on its website that mobile bookings had tripled year on year, proving that hotel customers are increasingly willing to book on-the-go.

With such high follow-up rates on mobile devices hotels need to provide their mobile visitors with mobile-centric information and show that they value and respect their visitors.

First impressions are very important and as mobile is fast becoming a hotel’s first introduction to their customer, mobile must be an integral part of online strategy.

Essential To Serve The Mobile Customer

In recent study carried out by Google (http://www.google.com/think/research-studies/creating-moments-that-matter.html) some critical information resulted that really hits home the importance of mobile search in the travel industry. Results showed that the majority of the travel-based searches carried out on mobile were done not in a downloaded app but in a browser. About 12% of those mobile searches generated a purchase, which is a phenomenal conversion result. Mobile-optimised websites can no longer be ignored.

More than one seventh of all travel searches on Google are via mobile. The reality for the hospitality industry is that, since it’s all about serving the guest, you cannot choose to ignore one seventh of your customers. It’s like telling every seventh person who walks into your hotel lobby that you’re not interested in their business. That would be commercial suicide, yet it’s essentially what many hotels are doing right now.

Another important factor to consider is that, according to Google, 81% of search coming through mobile is done for speed and convenience reasons. Mobile search is also responsible for pushing conversions through multiple channels as it can be the first point of contact between a hotel and customer before they action a booking. This means that there has never been so much evidence available to suggest that it is absolutely essential for hotels to provide focused, convenient and customised information to the mobile visitor as the potential value of this contact with the customer is huge.

Customised Mobile-Centric Websites or Responsive?

Mobile searchers are impatient and have specific needs compared with desktop users. A full website on a mobile screen does not service these needs so either the website must adapt or the approach must change more radically. A website needs to intelligently focus on the mobile visitor and provide them with what they are looking for - quickly, effectively and professionally.

Bookassist research has shown that the information sought by mobile users visiting regular websites, and their behaviour on websites, is markedly different from desktop users to the same websites. The popular and normally successful approach of responsive design, whereby the shape and layout of a regular website is adjusted to better match the mobile screen size, is not proving to be the best approach for hotels.

For example, based on tens of thousands of visits that Bookassist has tracked on hundreds of hotel websites, we developed our mobile optimised website (or webapp) approach for hotels to immediately offer the primary information needed for mobile users right on the front screen in prominent touch-friendly buttons - easy booking, special offers, photos, social media, maps and directions and call-now buttons - while still allowing users to access the full website if they need to, just one tap away. This filtering out of all the unnecessary information targeted towards desktop users is the key to success on mobile.

As most of a hotel’s mobile visitors come through search they should be automatically directed from the full website to a customised mobile optimised website, not presented with a question asking what they would like to do. Such questions are just a barrier to conversion, since the question may not be understood, or the language may be incorrect, or the user may simply be impatient and dismiss it and move on (we’ve all been there!). You need to provide the user with the best possible experience for the platform they are on, while allowing them later to easily switch if they wish. That’s why Bookassist’s soultion takes the decision automatically based on the screen size of the user.

Providing your mobile visitors with a mobile optimised website shows that you respect and value this growing profile of visitor. As proof of its success, the Bookassist mobile-optimised website platform recently took second place in the Eyefortravel Mobile Innovation Awards in San Francisco in March 2013 (http://bookassist.org/mobile/).

Engage Your Direct Mobile Customer In The Right Place

Proper mobile search optimisation and mobile search marketing ensure that your hotel has the best opportunity to capture direct online business at the highest possible margin. Targeting mobile users with Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising has become a very important marketing tool in the process of mobile search and mobile sales. Google researchers have found that mobile PPC ads are most effective during goal-oriented searches, meaning when someone is ready to buy they are more likely to take interest in a mobile PPC ad then when they are not. Almost 59% of such goal-oriented people found that mobile ads were a useful resource at this stage of the decision making process.

Now Google is rolling out new Mobile Enhanced Campaigns, basically encouraging more and more advertisers to join the mobile PPC advertising space. As search levels are surging on mobile devices this should not be ignored and will be embraced by many of the big players in the industry who already have a strong PPC presence on mobile. This means that targeted mobile PPC campaigns and professional mobile-centric websites will be key components of online strategy and help drive the surging revenue potential from the mobile search space.

Never has the importance of presenting your brand with intelligent, customised and effective information for your mobile visitors been so clearly evident, and to back that up with mobile marketing that specifically targets your customer segments. Hotels were slow to embrace the internet 10 or 15 years ago and as a result lost ground in the space to large online travel agents, which dominate to this day. Now is the time to target and serve your direct customers on mobile.

Don’t miss the train this time. The evidence is out and is shouting, “All Aboard”!

Cristian Petcu is an Online Marketing Specialist with Bookassist (bookassist.com), the technology and online strategy partner for hotels.

Bookassist’s mobile website (webapp) solution for hotels. The platform was recently honoured on the world stage with a runner-up position against world-leading brands at the Eyefortravel Mobile Innovation Awards in San Francisco in March 2013.

Bookassist’s mobile website (webapp) solution for hotels. The platform was recently honoured on the world stage with a runner-up position against world-leading brands at the Eyefortravel Mobile Innovation Awards in San Francisco in March 2013.

Bookassist’s mobile website (webapp) solution for hotels. The platform was recently honoured on the world stage with a runner-up position against world-leading brands at the Eyefortravel Mobile Innovation Awards in San Francisco in March 2013.

Labels: webapp, traffic builder, strategy, social media, ppc, mobile, apps

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