Across the spectrum of travel businesses the paradigm shift to mobile now takes on acute significance. From online travel agencies, hoteliers, travel agents, and the business side of the travel industry, the inevitability of the mobile customer has arrived. Fortunately for a good many travel entities, preparations were made to adapt to this shift. However, the majority of businesses worldwide now find themselves behind the proverbial 8-ball. To all the businesses we’ve suggested convert, that milestone we predicted has arrived. Don’t say we didn’t tell you so.
Mobile: A Must Now
A report just out from Max Starkov, CEO at HeBS Digital, reveals the telling shift from desktop to mobile devices for hotel bookings and conversions. According to Starkov’s research, some 16% of all bookings in 2014 so far have come via tablets and smart devices. This, looking across 1000 US and Canada bookings, also revealed almost 20% of room nights purchased via mobile devices.
The data, from mostly independents, also showed a massive shift in “discovery” metrics for hotels. Some 42% of web visitors and nearly 38% of page views came from mobile devices for the target group. Starkov correctly summarizes this as an irreversible trend. Here’s some of his findings:
- 41% of web visitors and nearly 38% of page views were generated from non-desktop devices (mobile and tablet).
- Nearly 16% of bookings, 19% of room nights and 14% of revenue came from tablets and mobile devices.
- If we include voice reservations originating from the hotel mobile website, over 25% of bookings and revenue originates from the non-desktop channel.
- Tablets generated 224% more room nights and 283% more revenue than “pure” mobile devices.
- The iPad outperformed all other tablet devices and was responsible for 95% of tablet revenue and over 85% of visitors. (This partly reflects the popularity of the iPad in the US market.)
On the Path
Three screens. This is how most digital marketing evangelists describe the digital landscape for guest conversion now. Hoteliers, restaurateurs, any business intent on engaging new customers today, has to understand the landscape, or die. As a marketing firm executive, and a technology consult, this has been part of our business dogma for a decade now. Now that all the votes are in, perhaps harping on “channel mastery” completeness will not be such a hard sell. What’s a hotel to do, you ask? Strategies that involve desktop, tablets, and phones are obviously a must, but more significantly hoteliers need to prioritize efforts in; paid search, email marketing, SEO, online media, social media, re-targeting advertising, and banner advertising, etc.
While the typical “marketing funnel” is no longer valid for converting (see below), the core presence (website) of a business is still vital. The text, aesthetics, calls to action, prices, and promotional effort of ANY company has to “speak” to customers just like any storefront does. This has always been the case, but in a visually oriented mobile world, “gripping” presence is even more crucial. Just to show how quickly even marketing is morphing, my good friend Brian Solis is perhaps the world’s most famous digital analyst marketing wise. He’s at the forefront of engaging digital consumers. A recent study his Altimeter Group created, amplifies most of what I am saying here. Here’s what Solis says are the key elements for success in transforming your business into a digital, customer centric entity:
- Element #1: Vision and Leadership. Digital transformation is an emergent movement and not yet recognized as a formal priority or effort by most businesses. This requires those leading or attempting to get a digital transformation program in motion to make the business case. But, the business case needs more than evidence or anecdotes; it needs a story and a vision for what it looks like and what it delivers.
- Element #2: Digital Customer Experience. Digital customer experience begins with research, not guesswork, to study personas, behaviors, and expectations throughout every stage of the customer lifecycle. Once armed with information, digital transformation takes shape by specifically aligning people, processes, and technologies against goals and milestones to map a new and effective journey for digital customers.
- Element #3: The Digital Transformation Team. In many cases, we learned that organizations form special teams to bring people together to start talking and put change into motion. These teams go by many names: digital circles, Centers of Excellence (CoE), rapid innovation teams, digital acceleration teams, and more.
Mobile adaptive technology, sophisticated analytics, and especially innovative and acute marketing techniques come into play too. As another example of this next-gen travel ecosystem Orbitz’s head of mobile product, Megan Hughes discussed recently the “shift”, as well as what Orbitz is doing to lead the way for OTAs. Talking about marketing, Hughes had this to say:
“In the last two months, Orbitz has gotten more active in push messaging, as well. On that front, it’s integrated flight status alerts into Google Now, Google’s virtual assistant app, as well as into native Android and iOS messaging services. Beyond that, the ability to get flight updates has also been integrated with social sharing through sites like Facebook.”
This is the leading edge of “syncing” your business with your customers. Orbitz users will be able to do their research on a tablet at a cafe one evening, then return to find their research in tact on their desktop at work the next day, and so forth. Our own efforts at Pamil Visions and Argophilia Travel bear witness to “integrated” messaging as well. Being “where” and on “what” the traveler is on and into, and in real time, this is the present future. Just yesterday I wrote a post involving Kempinski Hotels. I “tweeted” a share to their St. Petersburg, Russia team and the response was instantaneous.
A year ago one of the most imaginative hotel entrepreneurs in the world asked me to help “fast forward” efforts to promote his hotels. I connected with this hotel group’s digital expert, in the hopes of offering the latest advice on the integration of marketing channels within that organization. To make a long story short, an “idiosyncrasy” in that hotel group’s market caused a big, big problem. The group had essentially NO Twitter engagement whatever. Facebook? It was operated in a “sufficient”, but essentially mediocre manner. PR, media outreach? Print media and localized PR, that’s all the company knew, or wanted to know. If not for the super saturated market those hotels live in, the ostrich strategy might have soon spelled bankruptcy. The rationale was; “we don’t like Twitter.” I wonder if Holiday Inn liked telephones when their business started up? “Tried and true”, this is what hoteliers and other businesses have relied upon as their savior. What was a truthful dogma though, is now a wooden spike through the heart of any hotel business.
We live in the “now”, and we sell to people using Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google +, Yandex, Google, Baidu, whatever their heart desires to use. Whatever it takes to convert, that’s what your business has to do. If a person tweets your hotel asking if you have any rooms, at the last minute, are you willing to turn them away? Your competitor wont. Your competitor may be Kempinski in Russia. I bet I know where I’ll be staying in St. Petersburg. How instantaneous is that?
And when we travel to Ravello, Italy….