The Mobile Revolution in the Travel Industry

Mobile Travel

There is a storm gathering in the travel industry, a storm that that every travel marketer was aware of; yet it still caught everyone with surprise with the speed at which it has approached our shores. We are talking about the mobile of course.

As the percentage of traffic from mobile devices see a quantum jump, as much as 500% in some cases within a year, digital marketers in the travel industry are scrambling to acquaint themselves with this onrushing phenomenon. Years of understanding that radiated from the desktop/laptop devices in terms of customer behavior, customer life-cycle and customer journey had brought in a sense of quiet confidence in our ability to understand new changes happening in the online space. Then, the mobile storm hit us. And many of our closely held beliefs seemed to blow away with the wind, almost overnight. For example, worldwide, digital marketers are struggling to understand why the conversion rate on mobile devices is still so poor compared to the desktop even though more and more traffic is originating from there.

It almost seems counterintuitive.

Today, we have many theories, no definitive answers. The same is true for many of our traditional understandings

But let us try and understand what we know and wrap our heads around the mobile universe.

What is a mobile customer?

To define this, we need to understand that mobile was, not very long ago, a device for just calling and texting.

How the world has changed!

Today, it has become the control center of everyone’s life. Especially with the launch of smartphones which are always on internet connections, consumers have started using mobile for literally everything – from watching videos to surfing information to reading books to setting reminders to planning holiday trips etc.

We carry an encyclopedia, an entertainment center and an efficient butler in the palm of our hands. The world is now a global town with everyone connected all the time.

In a nutshell, a mobile customer is one who uses all the features available to him on the smartphone, is available 24*7, expects services 24*7 and is always looking for a quick, integrated solution. This itself is a challenge that a previous generation of travel marketers did not have to grapple with.

Which brings us to the behavioral change that has occurred with advent of the mobile…

The Mobile behavior

Mobile devices are transforming behaviors across the board. A peek into some of them.

The first Private Screen in history

Mobiles and tablets allow consumers to transport themselves seamlessly between the physical and digital sphere – in real time, on demand and 24*7. It therefore becomes a control center of decision making, creating the First Ever Private Screen, a place where everything is customized for one person.

This becomes very important for digital marketers, as with people travelling on business 20 days a month, mobile becomes the primary source of internet and hence the device through which they communicate and transact.

Not just an intermediary

Today’s consumers expect a complete experience on the mobile. In past, whatever activities were done using different devices, are now expected from one device. On similar terms, the digital marketers now need to offer mobile sites which are able to woo customers and grasp their attention on the medium itself. Only a year back, best practices indicated that the mobile sites should only display the basic elements. How things change!

Impatience and last minute

Mobile users are goal oriented and they want the goals to be immediately fulfilled. They expect all their questions to be answered and queries to be resolved within a click.

This has given rise to the last minute booking phenomenon, more about which we will talk later.

But what is undeniable is that the typical customers who book on mobile look at reserving a room at the last minute and typically stay for less number of nights – mobile’s early adopters seem to be people who are busy and are looking to take decisions on the fly

Customized content

Mobile customers prefer content that makes use of the features of smartphones – e.g. pinch and zoom of pictures, full screen options, screen rotation etc. In fact, the mobile websites are starting to look more like mobile apps. The new mobile website for Lemon Tree Hotels is in fact modeled on the best travel apps and gives a seamless app-like experience each time you traverse through it.

Multi-device phenomenon

At one time, there was only the desktop. Then came the laptop, which was essentially the desktop on wheels. Internet portability had a new meaning but the screen essentially remained the same as laptops replaced desktops. Then came tablets, and not very later, the humble phone started to become the powerhouse it is now.

Circa 2014, we see the phenomenon of multi-device or multi-screen customers. The digital marketer in the travel space is still trying to figure out how exactly the interplay is occurring. But we know a few things already

No screen is exclusive

It seems that customers are using all their devices to come to a decision. They might start from a promotion they see on a laptop and end up searching for the promotion on their mobile and complete their sale by a call; or it can be the other way round.

There seems to be a preference play here, with some customer adapting to new technologies faster than others – many customers may search on mobile but are still comfortable buying from their trusted laptops while the early adopters are comfortable buying on their mobiles or tablet screens.

Same content everywhere

Gone are the days when mobile was considered a place where you put limited options and reserved the engaging and media rich content for only the bigger screen. Today, the customer expects the same information on all devices.

True, the presentation of the content needs to be optimized for the screen, but you can lose a customer if they find incomplete information on their mobile. If you have put a preference on mobile, they expect the same preference to reflect on the website version and vice versa.

A room booking made on the mobile site but not reflecting on the desktop site, will leave a very very bad taste. And there can be no doubt that the customer is lost

Touch vs click

Designers and marketers are still coming to terms with the change in behaviour of browsing the net – from a click dominated behaviour to a touch and swipe behaviour. The possibilities in the touch based design and e-commerce seems infinite as of now. Adaptability to new technologies and incorporating them to the design will be the key to survival in the future.

*This is the first part of the article. The second part of the article will be up next soon

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“Thinking Aloud” reflects the emerging trends and varied outlook of the rapidly evolving internet and communication sector. An IAMAI publication, this is a part of the market education initiative of the association.


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