In a roundtable discussion last month, travel intelligence platform ADARA and PerformanceIN brought together travel marketing specialists from leading agencies, affiliate networks and hotel chains. The resulting conversation led the way for a series of Q&As and features- all of which you can download for free in our Travel Performance Marketing digital supplement.
In this extract we discussed the rise of mobile devices and the effect it is having on digital marketing in the travel industry.
What are the key mobile challenges facing the travel industry?
Peter Kelly (ADARA): Mobile technology is increasingly being used for browsing purposes with consumers often conducting research on their mobile before committing to purchase. This links directly to the biggest challenge in the industry, however, as travel companies need to understand the consumer path to purchase and ensure conversions to spend. Working out how to engage in relevant, one-to-one relationships with customers is key to completing the purchase cycle, but this increasingly requires consideration of multiple digital and physical channels.
Jim Banks (Cheapflights): Rising cost per click on advertising, limited advertising results being shown. Less consumer time for engagement on mobile. Usually consumers are killing time on mobile. Companies also need to keep up with tech developments, such as mobile attribution platforms. However, these need to be tailored specifically to each company, which is costly and takes a long time to create. Using indirect marketing channels means that it is difficult to track a single consumer and there are also issues associated with using the ‘last click’ attribution model, namely who should be paid.
How is the way we book changing with the increased use of mobile devices?
Louisa Lawson (DigitasLBi): Consumers are much more likely to book last minute on their mobile, compared with using their PC/laptop/tablet for research over a longer period of time.
PK: Statistics show that 25% of travel bookings are now happening on mobile devices in addition to consumers’ use of the channel to browse. As a result, having a mobile offering like a dedicated app or mobile site already gives companies an advantage. It does not necessarily impact the volume of sales but it does impact consumer behaviour and the number of touch points brands can use to maintain relationships with their customers. To make it easier for the customer to purchase it’s important that companies continue to innovate in order to make their channels as easy to use as possible.
Michael Long (Hotels.com): With the ability to book literally “on the go”, booking a hotel last minute gets more and more comfortable for travellers. The number of last minute bookings for stays of the same day increases constantly. What is important here is to offer a competitive and successful product even if it needs to be fast. Our mobile customers benefit from more than 20,000 mobile exclusive deals which helps them to find the perfect hotel for their individual needs for the best price even if it needs to be very fast.
JB: More people are comfortable booking on a mobile than ever before, but there is still an element of scepticism of security of credit card details that exists on mobile so many more people book on a desktop.
Do you envisage mobile overtaking desktop in terms of traffic and bookings in the near future?
AP: It is already occurring across various travel sectors, with desktop traffic slowing in growth and mobile growing two fold year on year.
LL: Yes, over the next few years as mobile sites become more and more developed and wifi/data becomes more readily available.
PK: Mobile devices are fast-becoming a necessity for travellers who are planning, booking or documenting their experiences abroad although the channel consumers use to book their travel can depend on their ‘mission’ for any particular trip. This suggests that while it won’t necessarily take over from other channels, it will have an increasingly important role to play.
The propensity for consumers in Europe to research travel online means that regardless of how they eventually purchase travel, digital multi-platform touch points are essential customer interactions .Mobile could potentially close the gap between digital research and planning to digital booking. As travellers become more comfortable purchasing train tickets, flights, accommodation and car rental via mobile, those bookings could result incrementally and new customer acquisition and not cannibalisation of online sales.
ML: The number of mobile booking increases constantly. 25% of all our bookings are already done on mobile devices. Our life gets more and more mobile so do hotel bookings. We expect that the number of mobile bookings will grow very much globally over the next couple of years.
JB: I can see travel becoming a mobile and app only method, but still feel consumers will want to complete the booking on a desktop. Travel is a major purchase and consumers feel “safer” on a desktop.
Is a lack of mobile-only travel publishers affecting tablet and smartphone bookings in the affiliate arena?
LL: I would say that this is a big factor in the affiliate landscape. There aren’t enough quality affiliates in the travel space in mobile. Aggregator partners such as Skyscanner and Cheapflights are doing this well, but more travel affiliates need to build sites which are relevant to consumers.
ML: This is certainly an area we have not seen large success in. As a travel advertiser we are interested in publishers driving sales through our app and m-site rather than simply mobile app downloads which is what the majority of mobile affiliates seem to focus on.
Is the customer experience and technology in place to meet the increased demand for mobile bookings?
JB: The customer experience and technology is in place, but I think the customers need to be educated as many of them are not aware the technology exists; mobile wallets, for example.
AP: Not yet given the majority of companies still think on the basis of platforms, while customers think on the basis of time of day and device of access.
PK: Whilst this will differ between companies, the increasing prevalence of smartphones, improvements in faster 4G coverage and an increasingly tech-savvy population have helped set a solid foundation for companies to invest and innovate in mobile platforms and technology.
The growth of mobile usage within the travel space has allowed for start-ups and smaller travel companies to create and develop innovative products based on customer demand to drive a richer user experience and acquire new customers in mobile bookings. However, at the moment, there is still a lack of travel vertical ad inventory available, compared to other verticals such as retail.
For further insight into marketing one of the industry's largest sectors download the complimentary supplement, available here.
You can find out more about contributing to any of our upcoming roundtables here.