Travel Industry Ad Spend To Shift Towards Mobile

With mobile use constantly on the rise, it is no surprise that advertisers of any shape and form are going to refocus their efforts towards smartphone and tablet users. And according to a recent report by PhoCusWright, the travel industry is no different.

Analysing the results of its study for digital ad spending during 2013, the research firm sees that mobile accounted for a fifth of all travelling ad spending last year. Smartphones had a slightly bigger share - 11% of overall spending - while tablets accounted for 9%. Desktop still got the bulk with 80%, but the trend, according to PhoCusWright, is soon going to shift in the other direction.

The main reason behind the researchers' forecast is the growing importance of mobile devices during the trip planning life cycle of travellers. Out of the 1,658 participants who participated in the study, 22% said they had selected a destination via a tablet, and 35% did so over a smartphone. A similar number of respondents - 21% and 34% respectively - shopped for a vacation over said devices.

Where mobile numbers seem to drop significantly, is the booking stage - 12% of respondents used tablets, and 19% used smartphones. Meanwhile, desktop usage stays above 80% for all of the above mentioned stages of the cycle, booking included. PhoCusWright attributes users' hesitance to actually book vacations via mobile devices to two factors: poor user interfaces for such devices and a lack of personal preference.

In order to increase the share of mobile purchases - and also increase the return on investment (ROI) from mobile - travel companies must deliver better mobile experiences to users, explains Tom Powell, research analyst at PhoCusWright. Such experiences can come only from apps and websites optimised for all types of devices and browsers. Without that, he explains, advertising on mobile would remain ineffective.

Currently, mobile devices' biggest contribution to travel companies' marketing agendas boils down to sharing on social networks. This is the part of the trip life cycle where smartphones really pick up - 41% of participants make trip-related posts on social networks via them. For comparison, 15% did so with tablets, and 57% via desktops (which is a significant drop from the 80% that these devices have at every other step of the cycle).

When it comes to ad spend, PhoCusWright doesn't see only the importance of mobile growing, but also search ads losing share. Right now, search ads account for about 40% of travelling ad spend, but this is expected to drop down to 37% by 2015. The research firm grounds this forecast on its expectations for advertisers to allocate spending to different channels.