Mobile is increasingly becoming the dominant avenue for information access and is increasingly strong in the decision-making process in travel.
Mobile internet access continues to move to “the norm” versus desktop/laptop access. This is hardly surprising given the advances in mobile devices and access capability, as well as the reduction in access costs. Mobile is particularly critical for the travel sector, since it combines key elements of the experience in a perfect storm, i.e. the ability to geo-localize information, to research and to book, as well as the ability to share travel experiences in-the-now via mobile-dominated social media.
What we’ve looked at
We’ve analysed traffic and revenue generation across hundreds of hotels in the European marketplace for the first six months of 2017 and compared with the equivalent period in 2016. In order to be sure of a representative and comparative sample, we focused on the top 200 hotels in each of the following catchment regions that we manage with our local Bookassist teams, namely UK & Ireland, Spain & Portugal, Italy, Austria & Germany, France, Czech Republic & Slovakia.
Traffic on Mobile in Selected European Regions
Mobile phone alone will surpass 50% of sessions in our Ireland and UK sample by the end of 2017 based on the current trend.
Revenue Generation on Mobile in Selected European Regions
With revenue generation data, we see quite a different story. For the same hotels, mobile revenue generation also shows strong double-digit growth year on year, but this is coming off a very low base of mobile revenue generation in many cases (see figure 2). The volume of mobile business is increasing in all our European markets, and again Ireland and UK is proving to be in a strong position with this trend.
The ratio of mobile to desktop traffic however is far higher than the ratio of mobile to desktop revenue generation, indicating that customers are still far more comfortable committing to hotel booking transactions on desktop despite researching on mobile. At least for now.
What does it all mean?
The data presented here are just the tip of the iceberg in our analysis, but there are two key points here for hotels: the obvious growth in mobile access and the need to cater for it, and the questions around the relatively slower pace of mobile revenue generation.
In terms of access, hotels need to be fully mobile-aware online right now. It’s no longer something for the future. The industry must also recognize that a full user experience is increasingly required on mobile, and must move away from having lower-level content and weaker experience on mobile versus desktop. There is a trade-off here in terms of what you can present to the mobile visitor and the bandwidth requirements for it. But the key is to always have information optionally available should a visitor take the active decision to access it, rather than taking pre-emptive action by stripping out content to satisfy online speed tests but leaving yourself with a fast and useless site. Active access decisions are less influenced by mobile speed issues than relatively uncommitted browsing for example, so optimizing everything to match a browsing or search-oriented mobile speed test could be detrimental. This is a complex area of debate that we continue to study and try to quantify.
Regarding revenue generation, there are a number of factors at play. It could be that difficulty with credit card entry or payment models on mobile could negatively impact mobile conversion versus desktop. But in our data we do not see an appreciable increase in cart abandonment at the payment stage on mobile versus desktop. Bookassist’s mobile booking engine does allow credit card scanning for example, as well as the possibility for “book without credit card” in some cases. But there is no doubt in general that the industry struggles with credit card entry and/or payment as a higher barrier on mobile. Fixing this as an industry will certainly help trends.
Another factor often touted for relatively lower mobile revenue generation is that people book last minute and cheap on mobile. In our data, this is not so. There is no significant difference in the individual transaction values between mobile and desktop in our preliminary data. In other words, people tend to be booking the same kind of thing whether it is on mobile or on desktop. In fact, for one of our 5 star resorts outside Dublin, we saw 36% of their booking engine revenue come via mobile in July 2017, so “expensive” bookings are not immune to mobile at all.
Right now, it seems that many people may simply be more comfortable booking on desktop, or may be in a different frame of mind (i.e. at a different stage of the decision process) when on mobile which reduces their tendency to complete a transaction there. If so, this habit will certainly change soon.
Not the Complete Picture
It’s important to realise that bookings on mobile in particular are not confined to the web, though this is the only really viable channel on mobile for the independent hotel. In-app booking on mobile is on the rise, but publicly-available data on the area is difficult to find. In discussing bookings via OTAs with a number of hotels, it is clear that OTAs are not sharing information on whether bookings for their clients are coming from in-app on mobile or from mobile web. Thus OTA figures in the public domain regarding mobile booking need to be treated with some caution in terms of their exact interpretation. See https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/in-app-booking-worrying-endgame-hotels-one-enabling-des-o-mahony.
Bookassist Keeps You Prepared
Bookassist solutions have been mobile-ready since our first mobile booking engine launch in 2010. All web design and booking engine products are now responsive/adaptive or tailor made for mobile. Our mobile booking engine is the fastest and cleanest experience out there - and is set to get even better with a new release in late 2017.
Mobile is increasingly becoming the dominant avenue for information access and is increasingly strong in the decision-making process in travel. But for now, revenue generation on mobile for hotels falls short of desktop. Continuing improvements in mobile user experience, and in payment methods should redress this shortfall in time.
Dr Des O’Mahony is CEO and Founder at Bookassist (http://www.bookassist.com), the multi-award-winning technology and digital strategy partner for hotels worldwide, and is a HSMAI “Top 20 Extraordinary Minds” recipient.
Bernhard Böhm is Product Research & Development Officer at Bookassist.