Hoteliers face a challenge in 2019: Creating and managing a robust digital presence in an increasingly mobile-first environment. This means investing in mobile technology and marketing that enables the best user experience while achieving maximum engagement, regardless of device. The explosion of mobile customer engagements creates a tremendous upside opportunity for smart hoteliers who invest in and take advantage of this rising tide of mobile-obsessed travel consumers.
It's clear that we're already living in a mobile-first world. Mobile devices dominate the travel planning journey: up to half of all desktop bookings worldwide are preceded by a click on a mobile device, and 94% of leisure travelers use multiple devices (mobile, tablet, desktop) when planning and booking travel (Criteo).
In hospitality, up to 30% of hotel bookings are done via mobile devices, a percentage dependent on whether the property is branded or independent, its location (rural or metro area), complexity of hotel product (golf resort vs. major city hotel), availability of a loyalty program, and composition of its customer segments (business vs. leisure, transient vs. group).
The hospitality industry, by default, has lower mobile booking share compared to the overall projections for the travel industry due to the complexity of managed corporate travel and SMERF group segment procurement, such as mandated GDS bookings for managed corporate travel and the offline RFP process for group travel.
Across HEBS Digital's hotel client portfolio, consisting of hundreds of hotels and resorts of every size, we saw this shift occur in every data category. The most notable developments in 2018:
As we continue to experience this shift to mobile and increased complexity in the travel planning process, hoteliers need to find ways to engage their best potential guests across multiple touch points and across all devices, especially mobile. Today's typical online travel consumer is exposed to more than 38,983 micro-moments in any 60-day timeframe. They also visit an average of 18 websites via multiple devices in eight sessions before making a hotel booking (Google Research). This journey results in some serious competition for the travel consumer's attention and has become increasingly dominated by mobile micro-moments and touch points.
Here are the top two action steps for hoteliers to address the shift to mobile-first user behavior:
#1. Invest in a responsive, mobile-first website.
Hoteliers need to keep the property website, which is the foundation of their digital marketing and distribution strategy, up to the mobile-first standards demanded by today's travel consumer. With nearly 59% of website visitors now viewing on mobile devices, a fully responsive mobile-first website design is a must.
If your property website is older than two years, it's due for a redesign. Websites older than two years are often lacking the latest best practices in technology, design, and UX, such as a mobile-first design, content merchandising, Google AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages), schema, and technical SEO considerations. An outdated website leads to lower conversions.
The website download speeds across various devices also inevitably affects conversion rates on the hotel website: fast download speeds drastically improve the user experience and increase the user's desire to purchase on the site. According to Google, 53% of visits are abandoned if a mobile site takes longer than three seconds to load. Mobile-first responsive websites with cloud hosting and CDN (Content Delivery Network) provide far better server response times and faster download speeds across geographies.
A hotel's website must also be backed by a website technology platform that includes mobile-first functionality specific to the hoteliers' needs, such as:
A highly-secure cloud hosting platform.
The property website must incorporate the right balance of beauty and science. An excellent design combined with a state-of-the-art website content management system (CMS), supported by a strong merchandising strategy and engaging visual content and copy, all while providing an optimum user experience from top to bottom on all possible devices. This type of website will result in a boost in conversions and revenues from the direct online channel.
#2. Engage the mobile-first travel consumer with multi-channel, multi-device marketing.
Keeping travelers engaged and reaching them at various touchpoints throughout their journey requires integrating all marketing channels across all possible screens. Effective multi-channel marketing campaigns utilize the full spectrum of digital marketing (SEO, SEM, display, paid social, and email) to promote one cohesive message across channels and devices. This strategy is the most effective way to increase reach and boost revenues for a need period.
To achieve mobile-readiness, hoteliers must invest adequately in a mobile-first website and digital marketing campaigns. Bying, and future guests, hotels can drive more direct bookings throughout the entire path to purchase, especially from the mobile channel.
NextGuest Digital (formerly HEBS Digital)
One Penn Plaza 48th Fl
New York, NY 10119
Founder & Director at NextGuest Digital. Recognized as a thought leader in digital marketing strategies in hospitality, Max is a frequent guest speaker at industry events and conferences. His expertise is sought after by a diverse client portfolio of top tier hotel brands, luxury and boutique hotel chains, hotel management companies, resort and casino companies, franchisees and independents, as well as major Wall Street investment banks and financial institutions. Under Max's leadership, HeBS Digital has pioneered many of the best practices in hotel digital marketing and direct online channel distribution, and has won many prestigious awards for its groundbreaking website design, technology, and digital marketing campaigns. Max received the HSMAI "Top 25 Most Extraordinary Minds in Sales and Marketing" honor for 2008. He has an MS in Economics of International Tourism and an MBA with Beta Gamma Sigma honors from Fordham University in New York.