Industry Update
Opinion Article 9 July 2015

Hotelier’s Action Plan to Capitalize on the Mobile Channel Boom

By Max Starkov, Adjunct Professor NYU Tisch Center for Hospitality and Hospitality & Online Travel Tech Consultant

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In the first half of 2015, the age-defining shift from desktop to mobile and tablet devices continued its rigorous pace: more than 21% of online bookings and nearly 19% of roomnights are generated from non-desktop devices (smartphones + tablets), while 54% of web visitors and nearly 40% of page views come from tablets and mobile devices (HeBS Digital Research).

According to Google Research, nine out of ten people are "cross-device" Internet browsers and researchers, using multiple devices sequentially (moving from one device to another at different times). Smartphones are by far the most common starting point for sequential activity: 65% of users start their research on a smartphone and 60% continue on a desktop device. As an example, 55% of users use multiple screens sequentially when researching pricing information in travel.

The explosion of cross-device user engagement presents a monumental challenge to hotel marketers: creating and managing a digital presence across three distinct distribution and marketing channels (desktop, tablet and mobile), and engaging this new cross-device travel consumer at every "touch point." Hoteliers must invest in and take advantage of this rapidly developing multi-channel, multi-device world.

The Shift from Desktop to Mobile and Tablet is Monumental:

Across HeBS Digital's hotel client portfolio, consisting of thousands of hotel properties, we saw this shift occur in every data category.

Sources of Traffic and Revenue by Device Category in the first half of 2015:

Notable developments in the first half of 2015:

  • Nearly 21% of bookings, 19% of roomnights and 17% of revenue came from non-desktop devices, i.e., tablets and mobile devices. If we include voice reservations originating from the hotel mobile website, more than 30% of bookings and revenue originate from the non-desktop channel.
  • 45% of web visitors and nearly 40% of page views were generated via non-desktop devices (mobile and tablet).
  • Tablets generated nearly 50% more revenue and 20% more roomnights than "pure" mobile devices.
  • The iPad outperformed all other tablet devices and was responsible for 92% of tablet revenue and nearly 90% of bookings and roomnights.

Compare this to just two years ago, the first half of 2013:

  • Non-desktop devices (mobile and tablet) generated:
    • Less than 12% of bookings, roomnights and revenue
    • Less than 30% of web visitors and 28% of page views 

The Disruptive Shift Continues Year-over-Year:

We are witnessing unstoppable year-over-year growth in the mobile and tablet device categories, while desktop traffic, bookings and revenue lose ground.

Mobile vs. Desktop: Percent Increase/Decrease in First Half 2015 vs. First Half 2014:

Here are the most notable developments in the first half of 2015 compared to the same period in 2014:

  • Almost all desktop metrics are on the decline, year-over-year, including bookings, revenue, and website traffic.
  • Bookings on desktop websites declined by nearly 6%, while increasing by 122% via mobile.
  • Mobile revenue increased by over 135%, an indication that travel consumers are becoming comfortable transacting via their smartphones.
  • Mobile roomnights had the greatest YoY increase of nearly 156%, an indication that mobile bookings are becoming mainstream and moving away from last-minute, spur-of-the-moment  booking decisions.

Hotelier's Action Plan to Take Advantage of the Monumental Growth of the Mobile Channel

What should hoteliers be doing to meet the challenges created by this dramatic shift from desktop to mobile and tablet? To begin with, hotel marketers should view these challenges as new opportunities for revenue generation and customer engagement across all three "screens:" desktop, mobile and tablet.

Here are a few actions steps to help hoteliers address this multi-device user behavior we are seeing today:

1. Optimize the Hotel Website's Presence on the Three Screens: Desktop, Tablet, and Mobile

Hoteliers should optimize their presence on all three channels to provide the best user experience on each device (desktop, mobile, tablet). These three screens are only the beginning. We have yet to tackle the new threats and opportunities arising from wearable devices, connected car devices, etc. In the very near future we will be talking about a 5-, 6-, or 7-screen digital marketing and distribution world.

Invest in your property website. Optimize your presence on the three screens.

If your property website is two or more years old, does not offer responsive or adaptive design, does not support the best user experience on the three "main" screens, and crucial targeting capabilities like dynamic content personalization, or does not have state-of-the- art merchandising and reservation abandonment prevention capabilities, it is time to upgrade.

Invest in a Content Management System (CMS) with revenue-driving technology.

Choose a CMS technology that supports both responsive and adaptive design and empowers you to seamlessly manage your website presence on the three screens via a single dashboard while engaging users and maximizing revenues from the direct online channel.

Choose Responsive or Adaptive Design wisely

The main difference between Responsive and Adaptive Design is the type of content as well as the manner in which web content is served on the different devices: desktop, mobile and tablet.

Traditional Responsive Website Design serves the full (and same) website across all devices (desktop, smartphone, tablet) by modifying and reshaping the exact same website to fit into each screen size, from large desktop screens to small smartphone screens. The intent is to optimize the "viewing" experience regardless of the device being used by the website visitor.

  • ChooseResponsive Design for simpler websites that do not need more than 15-25 pages of content: restaurant websites, and websites for select-service to midscale-service properties. Design should be simpler and content should be kept minimal so the user experience is not compromised.

Adaptive Website Design – aka Responsive Design on the Server Side (RESS) – customizes website content and the overall user experience to the device (desktop, mobile, tablet) the website visitor is using. This is achieved from the same Content Management System (CMS), and ensures the maximum user experience, relevancy of information and conversions by device.

  • ChooseAdaptive Design for premium, luxury, boutique, upscale and full-service properties, multi-property and brand websites with deeper content, extensive imagery, and a complex product offering and content sections.

2. Optimize the Hotel Website for the Google Mobile-Friendliness Algorithm Update

The Google Mobile-Friendliness Algorithm Update, which Google instituted back in April 2015, gave preferential rankings to websites deemed by the Googlebot as being "mobile-friendly." The search engine's all-powerful algorithm now favors sites that are configured properly for display on mobile devices, taking front-end design and back-end development considerations into account. Google assesses whether or not a page is mobile-friendly on a pass/fail basis. If a page or site satisfies its front- and back-end requirements, it receives a passing grade and could earn higher rankings on search engine results pages, as well as a special "Mobile-Friendly Badge" to identify the content for its mobile user-friendliness.

Perform a Website Technology Audit:

Audit whether your property website's content management system (CMS) is engineered to comply with the latest Google Update. Using industry-leading technology as the backbone of your hotel website is the best way to ensure your site stays compliant with Google's mobile-friendliness requirements. For example, HeBS Digital's award-winning CMS technology – the smartCMS – provides the flexibility and responsiveness so that when such algorithmic updates occur, we are able to immediately act on them and roll out automatic updates to ensure mobile-friendliness, even as Google's requirements evolve.

Perform a SEO Technology Audit:

Performing an SEO audit of your website, including a full audit of link structure, re-sizing of images, reconfiguring design elements, or replacing Flash with crawlable, search-friendly code, allowing the Googlebot to crawl CSS and JavaScript, is vital to ensure your website complies with Google's mobile search requirements.

Make Sure Your Property Website Has User-Centric Content & Website Design:

In addition to running your hotel website on an adaptable and mobile-friendly CMS technology, remembering to create and display content with the user in mind is critical. Google's emphasis on mobile usability should only reinforce the importance of designing and developing websites and creating content that benefits the user and serves a valuable purpose.

Boost Website Download Speeds:

Audit your website's download speeds, especially on mobile devices. Slow mobile download speed is "killer" of mobile usability and a big no-no, according to Google's latest Mobile- Friendliness Algorithm Update.

3. Optimize Your Digital Marketing Efforts and Embrace Multichannel Marketing

Multichannel Marketing is essential to reach customers throughout their travel planning and booking journey.  According to Google research, the average travel consumer goes through a very laborious journey before making a booking decision that involves eight research sessions via various devices and 18 site visits:

Keeping the consumer engaged at multiple touch points and reaching them multiple times throughout their journey (through which you will also be competing with the OTAs and other hotel websites) requires using multiple channels on multiple devices to tell your hotel's story. This is where multichannel marketing becomes very handy, indeed.

Each of the three screens (desktop, mobile and tablet) must be integrated in the hotel's marketing strategy. Multichannel marketing should become the centerpiece of every hotel marketer's overall marketing and distribution strategy in order to reach consumers at every touch point.

In conclusion, hoteliers must optimize their presence on all three screens to provide the best user experience and maximize customer engagements on each device (desktop, mobile, tablet). The three screens are only the beginning. We have yet to tackle the new challenges and opportunities arising from wearable devices, connected car devices, and others. In the very near future we will be talking about a 5-, 6-, or 7-screen digital marketing and distribution landscape.


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Max Starkov

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    NextGuest provides hoteliers with everything they need to thrive in the digital world, with bespoke technology solutions developed to meet the needs of luxury hotel clients coupled with elegant design capabilities that bring brands to life. We marry the power of data with brand discovery to uncover unique strategies that apply to everything from website design, content marketing, CRM, and more, helping the world's top hotel brands maximize ROI as they acquire, convert, and retain guests throughout the travel planning journey. While each of our services is available on its own, the integrated technologies, marketing, and consulting offerings work together to increase digital engagement and generate revenue for hoteliers, allowing them to focus on what matters most — serving their guests. | [email protected]

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