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HotelTonight exec: Mobile search will gain traction with app indexing

NEW YORK – A HotelTonight executive at the Mobile Marketing Association’s SM2 Innovation Summit 2015 claimed that mobile search is imperative for the hospitality brand, and will continue its upward trajectory as paid search, application store optimization and app indexing take off.

During the “Staying Relevant in the Ever-Changing Mobile Search World: A Startup POV” session, the executive discussed the crowded hotel market in regards to mobile and posited that search is an ideal fit for the San Francisco-based startup. The company leverages a variety of mobile advertisements to reach app users, its only target audience, as it fights off competition from major online travel agents such as Priceline and Expedia.

“It’s a really crowded market,” said Chris Creel, head of search and growth marketing at HotelTonight. “How do we stick out? It’s really the strength of our product

“Our users aren’t interested in loyalty programs, they want what’s best in the city they’re staying in, right now and right there.”

Booking apps and search
Booking applications are arguably some of the most plentiful customers tapping mobile search capabilities on Google, as well as within app stores. An increasing amount of consumers are turning to mobile to find last-minute hotel deals, due to the constant connectivity and geolocation that their personal devices offer.

Mr. Creel revealed that 25 percent of hotel rooms are booked the day of the desired stay, while each night, 40 percent of rooms in the United States go un-booked. This leaves a wide berth of opportunity for targeting traveling consumers as well as ensuring that ads appear in visible locations if a user happens to search for a property nearby via a smartphone.

The three main areas of mobile search that HotelTonight hones in on are SEM paid search, app store optimization and SEO app indexing.

App install ads can be particularly powerful for the brand, but also possess some limitations. Marketers are unable to write these types of ads as they can with standard search ads.

Google’s tendency to truncate them means that companies must put the most important text in the first sentence.

Brands seeking to engage in app store optimization must use high volume and niche keywords to stand out. It is important for any hospitality marketer to conduct research on best practices for search, due to increasing competition from travel conglomerates such as Priceline and Expedia.

Online travel agents spend hundreds of millions of dollars on search each year.

“Our big challenge as a startup is budget,” Mr. Creel said. “It’s really a stacked deck against us.

“We have to find ways to be more thrifty and innovative.”

A plethora of customer reviews may also help in app indexing. Brands should use the appropriate tools to track user reviews and rectify any issues that unsatisfied consumers may have had.

Google versus Apple
While app indexing is an imperative strategy for hospitality marketers, the growing rift between Apple and Google means that the companies will continue maintaining very different views about what a search experience is.

The share of mobile search traffic will keep growing, but Apple’s decision to engage in ad-blocking may throw a wrench in some companies’ marketing efforts.

However, HotelTonight remains committed to fending off competition from other brands in the competitive travel sector by rolling out new mobile-first initiatives that provide more customization for users.

This past July, it led the charge for third-party booking marketers trying to personalize their applications by piloting a concierge feature enabling users to request information about their final destinations and ask for hotel amenities from the front desk (see story).

“We don’t do anything on desktop,” Mr. Creel said. “Mobile marketing is what we do at HotelTonight.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely, editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York