Mobile devices boost online travel bookings

The growth of mobile is showing no signs of slowing down. And, at the same time, online travel spending is at an all-time high; in the US alone, online travel spend is predicted to surge 37% between 2012 to $166.2 billion next year. Online travel companies have a lot to be thankful for when it comes to mobile usage, as it seems the boost in spend is largely down to the new "device-of-choice".

Indeed, mobile penetration trends in Latin America, Asia and Europe also mirror the mobile numbers in the US. According to a recent report by Phocuswright and Millward Brown Digital, reports Travel Weekly, consumers across the world are using mobile to "shop around", before turning to their desktop to book their trips. In 2014, this "shop-to-book" conversion rate jumped 7% for online travel agents.

Douglas Quinby, vice president of research for Phocuswright, believes that today's traveller has become "a little bit more focused, a little bit more qualified and have honed in on what they want when it comes time to actually make that purchase."

So, why do people turn to their mobile devices for research and reservations? Using a smartphone or tablet, perhaps from the comfort of a sofa, is generally considered a "leisure act". Laptops or desktops, on the other hand, are much more task-based. However, more and more people are realising that completing the bookings through their mobile device is now an easy and viable option.

According to Tnooz, the reasons people turn to their smartphone for travel arrangements are "convenience, flexibility, discounts and special offers." The category booked most on a smartphone is accommodation, as this is often a last-minute decision or carried out "on the road via branded apps."

Today, mobile devices are in nearly every consumer's hands, so travel marketers need to think carefully about creating a highly-effective, omni-channel marketing experience. Essentially, this means making sure the entire consumer experience – from banner ads to checkout carts – is optimised for mobile.

Tnooz suggests three things to think about in order to effectively target travellers:

  • Optimise sites to be present on tablets, embracing high quality images, responsive design and touch-optimised controls.

  • Make the booking experience more streamlined and simplified for the smaller-screened mobile device, which are mostly used for short-stays and last-minute travel arrangements.

  • Integrate all of the above with mobile-friendly payment systems; this will speed up the path to booking via smartphones.

It is clear that there is now a strong case for marketers to invest in mobile. Those who are quick to address the above areas are the ones with the highest chance of capitalising on the booming mobile market.