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Smartphones grabbed 29pc of US travel bookings in Q1: report

Mobile booking is continuing its seemingly unstoppable rise, as evidenced by smartphone-enabled travel and transportation purchases making up 29 percent of United States sales in 2016’s first quarter and a prediction that bookings will surge even higher this summer, per a new report from Criteo.

Criteo’s latest “Travel Flash Report” credits state-of-the-art applications for generating the highest amount of mobile bookings, suggesting that consumers are increasingly treating their smartphones as personal travel agents and maintaining allegiance to their favorite platforms. Marketers in the transportation and hospitality industries that do not have booking processes optimized for smartphone users will find themselves at a severe sales disadvantage, especially with online travel agencies best-positioned to take the largest share of hotel room purchases, according to the report.

“Mobile accounted for 29 percent of travel bookings in the U.S. last quarter, which goes to show that, more and more, consumers are leaving behind traditional desktop searches when it comes to travel research and booking,” said a spokesperson for Criteo. “Any brands that aren’t optimized for mobile are going to miss out big this summer as smartphone bookings are expected to surge by about 20 percent between April and July.”

Mobile shares’ meteoric growth
Mobile accounted for 29 percent of U.S. travel sales made in the first quarter of 2016. This figure does not include sales made from apps, but does take into account those made on smartphones and tablet devices, the increasing screen size of which was likely part of the purchasing impetus for many people.

Consumers’ growing adoption of smartphones with larger screens is projected to contribute to the rapidly growing pace of digital commerce, with mobile-enabled sales volume projected to reach 2.05 billion by 2020, according to a recent report from Ovum (see story).

Mobile-enabled sales are also subject to a degree of seasonality, with last year’s shares jumping by 21 percent in the popular travel months between April and July. Criteo expects this same pattern to occur this year, indicating that travel marketers should be armed with plenty of booking incentives and mobile-optimized campaigns to capture the attention of warm-weather fans.

Smartphones also dominate the scene when it comes to travel subcategory bookings. Smartphones grab more than half of flight bookings, clocking in at a 53 percent share. Hotel-centric online travel agencies fuel 32 percent of mobile bookings, while hotel suppliers generate just 11 percent.

United States-based hotel OTAs are also capturing bigger shares of mobile sales, particularly among spur-of-the-moment travelers. Sixty percent of last-minute bookings made via hotel OTAs were made in March 2016.

Meanwhile, hotel suppliers are still lagging in this respect, with only 30 percent of last-minute bookings made via smartphones.

This suggests that they are missing out on opportunities to drive impromptu sales by offering incentives that can help fill open rooms.

Giving apps their due
Although mobile-optimized sites are imperative for any travel marketer, apps with strong calls-to-action still matter more than ever. Per a recent study by Fuel, 31 percent of U.S. leisure travelers have leveraged at least one mobile app when planning their journeys, while 52 percent have used an app to buy additional services during their trips.

“Apps generated 57 percent of mobile bookings in Q1, up from 40 percent in Q3 2015, so brands should heavily invest in and promote state-of-the-art applications if they are not doing so already,” Criteo’s spokesperson said.

“These strategies are especially important for hotel suppliers, which, according to the data, receive a comparatively low share of last-minute mobile bookings.”

Additionally, cross-device tracking can help travel advertisers better understand smartphone users’ purchasing behavior, especially as 52 percent of total U.S. travel bookings involve mobile or multiple devices.

“Brands must offer a fully optimized mobile environment to consumers – this means across all devices, including smartphones and tablets – so that they can easily navigate Web pages to find information and make purchases,” Criteo’s spokesperson. “To successfully track cross-device behavior, travel advertisers need to utilize technology that will help identify and match specific users, even when they jump from platform to platform.

“However, what’s also important is what they then do with that information, which should be to offer hyper-personalized ads to each consumer. For instance, if a person is browsing flights to Rome on her smartphone, they should advertise Rome travel specials the next time she is on her tablet to ensure the brand is present along her entire consumer journey.”