The importance of mobile in any organisation’s digital strategy is very clear, with 2013 being declared by some as the year of mobile. In terms of the tourism industry, the trends are moving in the same direction, with mobile browsing of travel websites at a high and mobile travel apps becoming increasingly prominent.
However what finally matters to a DMO is how these numbers contribute to actual bookings made. Tnooz explored online travel planning and booking patterns, and identified the need for distinctive strategies within mobile.
Smartphone vs Tablet
The Digital Tourism Think Tank previously highlighted the difference in video consumption patterns between smartphone and tablet users, and the need to adapt mobile strategies in line with these findings. The same applies to travel planning and booking behaviours.
eMarketer reported in 2012 that as many as 62% of online travel bookings included at least one purchase made via smartphone or tablet. Smartphones account for a much smaller proportion of this figure; Tnooz finding that PCs as well as tablets are more commonly used in making final transactions. When smartphones are used for this purpose, it tends to be for last-minute hotel bookings. Therefore the smartphone is a largely transactional device, and is used in bookings when a traveller is already on the road and for example wanting to extend a hotel stay.
Tablets, on the other hand, are ideal for browsing and research, given their mobile-in-the-home as opposed to the smartphone’s mobile-around-the-world nature. They are used in the same manner as the PC has traditionally been used. Considering that 70% of casual travel bookings are made following online search, tablets are an essential space for travel sites to target.
Developing mobile strategy according to the user’s intent when accessing travel information on their different devices is key. Following the usage patterns identified, smartphone sites should offer a simple, transaction-friendly interface, while tablet sites should be more formatting-inclined. That is, while smartphone booking is facilitated by ease of browsing, and quick, direct access to reservation information, tablet strategy should focus on permitting extended researching. It should differ from the PC experience in terms of being formatted with touchscreen browsing taken into account.
Additionally, tablets are often used as a second screen alongside watching TV, which could be factored into digital strategy by extending TV promotions to the tablet site. This could turn a browsing session into a commercial-inspired immediate purchase session.
In terms of apps, regardless of the mobile devices running them, travellers generally prefer to make bookings via web portals. Therefore travel organisations should focus first on device-dependent site usability and then on apps when it comes to aiding and encouraging final transactions.
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