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Mobile bookers more valuable than those on desktop: report

Mobile bookers are eclipsing the value of those who book via desktop, with consumers on smartphones 47 percent more likely to book more than three trips than their computer counterparts, according to a survey from Criteo and Phocuswright.

As leisure travel experiences a significant uptick among adult consumers, travel brands are attempting to pinpoint potential customers and methods of driving sales. The survey, undertaken by travel market research firm Phocuswright and performance marketing company Criteo, found that travelers are shopping for hotel deals and flights on smartphones and tablets more than ever, and tend to prefer purchasing from online travel agents than hotel Web sites.

“This research does show strong increases in mobile consumers (both smartphone and tablet) using these devices to book travel, and APP’s are the primary method to book travel when done on mobile devices,” said Marci Troutman, CEO of Siteminis, Atlanta, GA.

“The primary result of research urges all companies that deal in the travel business to pay attention to their mobile strategy (APP and mobile Web) the same way they look at their online efforts.”

Digital travel market
The study discovered that tablets and smartphones are slowly eroding desktop usage, with the incidence of travel shopping online in some markets resting as high as 85 percent. This means that travel marketers must offer mobile-optimized sites and applications to ensure they reach the maximum amount of potential clients.

“There are some sectors that see a higher transaction rate on mobile,” said Shuli Lowy, marketing director at Ping Mobile, New York. “Travel-related commerce is one of them.

“The reason for that is that mobile commerce performs best for transactions that are time or location sensitive, as consumers are more likely to make them when they’re on the go, connected primarily through their phone,” she said. “In 2013, Google was already reporting that more than 65 percent of same day hotel reservations were being booked through mobile.

“While much of the travel sector was working on rolling out its digital experience to mobile, many of the OTAs stepped in and created a superb user experience years ago. That speed to market allowed them to gain a competitive advantage and gain substantial market share.”

Consumers likely appreciate the simplicity of browsing flights on mobile, as the process can easily be completed by plugging in information such as preferred prices and schedule.

However, research showed that travelers do prefer desktops when shopping for a long-term hotel stay, perhaps as to make an informed decision by cross-referencing review sites such as TripAdvisor and looking at maps, photos and videos.

Flight shopping also leads the way for tablet users, suggesting that all airlines must offer seamless checkout on their mobile-optimized sites.

Online travel agents
Smartphone shoppers are three times as likely to purchase a hotel stay via an online travel agent, or OTA, than from a hotel site, proving that third-party apps such as Expedia and do have potency in the sector.

However, these shoppers’ information generally does appear to come from the hotel or travel brands themselves. Thirty-four and 32 percent subscribe to hotels’ and airline suppliers’ email and newsletter subscriptions, respectively, than they do to OTAs’.

“OTAs help hotels fill rooms and airlines sell tickets,” Ms. Lowy said. “They also take a 15-35 percent commission fee for their bookings.

“As an active marketer in the travel sector, I can tell you how crippling that commission can be to individual hotel properties and other travel merchants,” she said. “Needless to say, travel merchants have eagerly been looking for ways to regain control of the market.

“What we are now seeing is many travel-related brands work to revamp their mobile experience and provide value added services to loyal club members. Small features like keyless check-in and free upgrades are what keep members booking directly instead of through OTAs.”

Criteo and Phocuswright posit that OTAs typically rank higher than hotel standalone sites due to the aggregated content of various options, particularly for locations with many independent properties. The aggregated material also tends to look user-friendly on mobile channels, providing consumers with a quick look at their travel possibilities.

Furthermore, the ability to sort by price on third-party booking apps, such as HotelTonight, is an attractive feature to many young travelers, who prefer to purchase on mobile.

“Definitionally, mobile shoppers are ‘mobile,'” said Thad Peterson, senior analyst at Aite Group, Atlanta, GA. “They are demographically and economically better positioned to travel, as they are generally younger and more affluent than the mass market.

“Third-party apps allow a consumer to quickly and easily explore a number of alternatives, which is critical to success with the smaller form factor of a mobile device.”

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