Why hoteliers need a better mobile plan

By Lindsey Iles

The reality is that hoteliers are
under pressure, and the constant innovations in technology that make things
easy for consumers can put a squeeze on hotel resources. That said, as a
hotelier, how do you cut through the clutter to reach the right customers? Keep
these tips in mind to blast through the noise to make the most of your mobile
communications. 

Understanding mobile usage behaviours

It can be tricky to navigate what does and doesn’t
resonate with mobile users. Simply downsizing your desktop content for the
smaller screen isn’t going to cut it. Travellers
want access to practical and useful information at their fingertips, such as
airline check-in and mobile boarding passes. They want speed in communications,
like real-time messaging from hotels and geo-location tracking on
transportation. We’re making these consumer expectations a reality through a
recent collaboration with Egencia, the business travel arm of Expedia Group.
Busy business travellers will soon be able to message their hotel directly from
within the Egencia app on their mobile device.

It’s not just about communications. Content plays an
important role in driving mobile engagement. Travellers engage most with photos
on mobile devices, viewing on average 30-35 images of hotel properties before
booking, followed by the availability wizard and reviews. Understanding
what travellers are actively seeking and using on mobile, and applying these
insights to optimize your strategy can encourage more mobile engagement and
usage. 

Mobile users are browsing AND buying

There’s also a common misconception that mobile is used
purely for research and not a conversion tool. While 15 per cent of Canadian
leisure travelers made their last hotel booking via a smartphone or tablet, Expedia Group data also reveals that one third of
booking transactions are made via mobile, with more than 50 per cent of traffic now arriving via
mobile. Even if mobile is not the final platform for the transaction, cross
device compatibility is just as important to influence customers throughout
their purchase journey. For example, business travellers are more likely to book
transportation first from their desktop and add a hotel afterwards. Being able
to reserve a hotel from their mobile device can increase attach rates and
facilitate earlier bookings.

Hotels should also take advantage of mobile deals, as 7
in 10 mobile bookings come from deals. The use of deals is high for customers
across the globe, up to 91 per cent for American and Canadian travellers, 88
per cent for Chinese and Brits, 80 per cent for the Japanese, 70 per cent for the
French and 68 per cent for Germans. Enticing travellers with mobile-exclusive deals, such as
earning points from in-app purchases, can increase conversion on mobile.

Looking ahead, a younger Canadian demographic
will continue to drive changes in travel behaviour, including an ongoing shift
to online and mobile booking. Online travel booking growth will outpace the
overall market through 2021, when online travel penetration will reach 47
per cent.

Mobile is not the last resort

Mobile has long since been touted as a source of
same-day bookings and the go-to tool when hoteliers need to fill rooms at the
last minute. However, Expedia Group data shows that mobile booking windows span
the full spectrum.

In
Quebec, the booking window for mobile stays (trips booked on mobile) average 14
days, with longer booking windows in Mont Tremblant (20 days), Gaspesie – Iles
de la Madeleines (21 days) and Quebec City (17 days). When looking at other
desirable destinations across Canada, we see an increase in the booking windows
for Vancouver (21 days), Banff Area (29 days), Cavendish (29 days), Tofino (30
days), Whistler (24 days) and Gulf Islands (35 days).

According to Expedia Group data, the top five inbound
mobile demand penetration markets for Canada are Canada, U.S., United Kingdom,
Republic of Korea and Australia.

Avoid the ‘set and forget’ approach

Hoteliers often fall into the
trap of establishing a great mobile strategy but then crossing it off the list
and failing to continually test, learn and evolve.

Leveraging the assets of technology partners, such
as an OTA, can help create big results for minimal input. As an example,
the Expedia Group PartnerCentral mobile app allows hotel partners to better
manage their business across Expedia Group’s portfolio of travel brands and
supports hotels’ engagement with their guests anytime, anywhere.

Integrating
mobile as part of your long-term strategy to drive bookings is an essential
step in capturing travelers, as more customers browse and shop for travel
across different platforms. That said, understanding how customers engage with
travel content on mobile is critical to optimize your mobile strategy and
produce successful results.

Lindsey Iles is Expedia's Senior Director of Market Management.