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Tim Peter Thinks

Tim Peter

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June 11, 2019

Hey, Hotel Marketers: What’s Holding Mobile Bookings Back?

June 11, 2019 | By | No Comments

What's holding mobile bookings back? Guest shopping for reservations on mobileLooking to drive results for your business? Click here to learn more.


If anyone you're talking with describes 2019 as "the year of mobile," or some other such similar statement, I'd like you to smile at them, nod your head politely, and casually walk away. Why? Because that individual has no idea what they're talking about. 2019 is decidedly not the year of mobile. Not even close. The "year of mobile" has already passed us by.

In reality, we're not in the year of mobile; we're in an era of mobile, of shifting behaviors and business models alike. Uber and Airbnb and Venmo and Instagram all grew up in a world where mobile is the norm, not the new. And if you're genuinely committed to driving direct reservations for your hotels, you must accept mobile as the norm too. Whether you work for a property owner, management company, or brand, you must focus on providing an outstanding experience to guests – current and potential – on mobile all throughout their journey.

In case you missed it, a key data point underscores this reality. Mobile internet activity exceeded desktop internet use in October…2016, over two full years(!) ago. In fact, according to Stone Temple Consulting, mobile traffic now accounts for roughly 63% of all internet use, which is truly astonishing. Most hotels are seeing mobile traffic represent at least 35% of their total traffic and my own experience shows mobile traffic accounting for well over 40% of all sessions. And this shift creates significant opportunities for hotel marketers. Because one area where mobile has not bypassed desktop is its success — or more properly, its lack thereof — in delivering reservations.

Data from SmartInsights suggests that mobile conversion rates average only around 0.7%, compared with well over 2% on desktop. That's a significant decline relative to desktop with real-world consequences for reservations and revenue.

Consider a hypothetical hotel company that receives 12,000 site visitors per period (that period could encompass an entire year for a small hotel or a single day for a decent-sized hotel group; you can choose whichever is appropriate to your situation). If this hotel received only 40% of its traffic from mobile, it would potentially give away 62 reservations each and every single period (for you math wizards in the room, 96 desktop reservations from a 2% conversion rate minus 34 mobile reservations from a 0.7% conversion rate equals 62 "lost" reservations to mobile behaviors). Obviously, these numbers would be higher if your share of mobile traffic is higher. Given an average reservation value of $200, that's the equivalent of $12,400 in lost top-line revenue every period. Even if, by some miracle, 100% of those guests end up picking up the phone or booking your property via an OTA — which would be amazing…and unlikely — you're increasing your cost for those reservations by either the cost of the call or the OTA margin. That's not good. Like, seriously, not good. And that also ignores the fact that you already paid for the performance media or SEO efforts necessary to get that traffic to your website in the first place.

So, why are we losing bookings on mobile relative to desktop? What's holding mobile bookings back? Several reasons come immediately to mind.

Ineffective Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Even with increasing competition from hotels and OTA's, organic search typically represents a significant driver of traffic for most hotel websites. But beginning in March, 2018, Google began splitting its search index into separate versions for desktop and mobile, favoring sites for mobile searchers that specifically take mobile usage into account and penalizing those that work poorly in a mobile context. In fact, mobile-first is now the default for new sites Google finds.

While this change doesn’t directly affect conversion rate, it impacts your business all the same. Google's split of its index has left hotels providing a subpar mobile experience in a sad state, losing traffic and, of course, reservations.

Slow Web Performance
Your website's overall speed also plays a significant role both in SEO rankings and in your guests' website experience. Research from Akamai shows that "…fifty-three percent (53%) of mobile site visitors will leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load" and that "…bounce rates were highest for mobile phone shoppers." And Google has publicly acknowledged that they now use site speed as part of their mobile search ranking algorithm. The search giant offers more favorable placement in mobile search results to hotels featuring websites that load speedily and help guests find the answers they need quickly and conveniently.

Poor Mobile Web Usability and Design
Of course, poor mobile experience isn't a negative solely from Google's point of view; it's bad for guests and bad for your business too. Many hotels are seeing significantly higher bounce and exit rates from guests visiting their site on mobile devices. Wonder where your low conversion rates come from? It should be apparent that guests bouncing off your site aren't converting. Again, speed plays a crucial role. But the need to improve usability and decrease bounce rate overall should be equally apparent.

Lack of Trust
As has been true for the better part of two decades, trust continues to play a key role in influencing conversion online. Slow, insecure websites with limited or outdated content – or most any subset of these issues — frequently fail to convert visitors to bookers. Screen real estate on mobile is limited and valuable. It must be used wisely to assure guests that you are the right choice for their stay and a trustworthy partner who will protect their information and payment details. Along with other elements, Google has also announced that trust plays a significant role in driving SEO ranking. OTA's invest heavily in content designed to reassure guests at each stage of their journey, but especially during the booking decision. Clear rates, quality content, and high-resolution images focused on answering guest questions represent key components in helping site visitors choose your property. Great hoteliers make guests feel comfortable no matter the situation. Helping guests feel comfortable that you represent a reputable option for their next stay is key to providing hospitality online. It deserves your full attention.

Complicated Checkout and Few Payment Options
Even given the current woeful state of mobile usability, checkout and payments present a particularly vexing challenge for users. The checkout process on mobile for many hotel websites remains far too difficult. A recent review of mobile booking engines showed that hotel websites typically require guests to fill in no fewer ten to fifteen form fields across three or four separate screens while completing a reservation. Given that the average guest must manage this while holding their credit card in one hand, a several-hundred-dollar piece of aluminum and glass in another, and type in these fields with, I don't know, a third hand, that's hardly the height of positive user experiences. Why are we making it so hard to do the one thing we most want guests to do?

Further, Booking.com's head of product marketing Morten Larsen recently wrote that "…one in five Booking.com customers don’t complete a reservation due to unavailability of their payment method of choice." Mobile wallets, such as those from Apple Pay, Google, Pay, PayPal and others can streamline the checkout process and can increase the options available for your guests. So, why are these so infrequently offered?

Improperly Configured Analytics
A fair percentage of guests visiting your site on mobile are likely to book via voice since, after all, they are holding a phone in their hands. But are your analytics properly configured to track clicks-to-call? For that matter, is your site properly configured to support click-to-call at all? Now, in fairness, this is less about improving conversion rate and more about measuring alternative reservations channels. But experience suggests that you may be receiving more reservations on mobile than you know, which can be skewing not only your metrics, but also any decisions you're making based on those skewed metrics about media spend or marketing efforts.

How to Make Mobile Drive Bookings for Your Hotel

Once you've identified the issues limiting your mobile website's effectiveness at driving direct reservations, you must establish an appropriate plan to correct these limitations.

First, focus on three key areas:

  • Site speed
  • Quality content
  • Rate parity

Why these three? Well, as discussed, site speed helps with both Google's mobile search index and improves overall usability — or at least perceived usability — by helping guests find the answers they need quickly. This often helps improve your search rankings and traffic, as well as helps lower bounce rate, retaining more of the traffic your site receives and lowering your costs for guest acquisition.

Quality content, both text and visuals, further enhances the guest experience. Content provides answers to the questions your potential guests may have and helps demonstrate the quality of your product. Clear, relevant content also builds trust among site visitors by addressing concerns they may have about your property and its fit for their individual stay. Content also plays an important role in overall search engine optimization and, if properly targeted and authored, may help your site rank better for specific guest queries.

Rate parity delivers multiple benefits for both you and your guests. The diffusion of disparate rates has taught guests that, if they keep looking, they're likely to find a better deal. Offering varying rates across OTA's, metasearch, and hotel websites damages trust in your direct channels by reinforcing the benefits for guests of continuing to shop around. And, when guests continue to shop around, you not only increase the likelihood that they'll book your hotel on a higher-cost channel, you also increase the risk that they'll book a different hotel altogether.

At the same time, make sure that your mobile site displays your reservations phone number prominently and that your phone number works correctly when a guest attempts to click-to-call. While many web browsers automatically convert phone numbers to clickable links, not all do. Automatically converted phone numbers may also fail to match your site's style and typically lack any tracking that shows whether they're being used. Work with your website developer and booking engine provider to put the proper code in place for your guests and for your business benefit.

Finally, work with your IBE providers to incorporate mobile payments and seamless checkout from digital wallets such as Apple Pay, Google Pay, PayPal, and the like. Experience shows not only a better mobile experience overall, but also conversion rate increases for each new payment option added.

What's Holding Mobile Bookings Back? Conclusion

We've clearly entered "the Era of Mobile." Mobile represents a large and growing segment of your site visitors. And guests expect a quality, seamless, and, yes, hospitable experience when researching on mobile. They're not going to book your property directly on mobile until and unless you can satisfy their needs there. Google recognizes this fact and actively penalizes poor mobile experience. And OTA's have invested heavily to provide guests with the information and experience they demand. Your mobile web experience — in terms of site speed, quality content, trust, and usability — must meet or exceed their expectations. Or you can continue to muddle along and keep losing traffic and transactions to OTA's and others who do take mobile seriously.

Hotel owners, management companies, and brands alike have a vested interest in addressing these concerns if they're legitimately concerned with increasing direct bookings for their properties.

Mobile bookings aren't "next year's problem." They're not a trend you can afford to ignore. Lost mobile bookings dramatically influence your business right now, pushing guests towards OTA's as their first, last, and only choice for bookings, and driving up the cost of guest acquisitions both in the near-term and down the road. Fixing the problems takes work. But it's work that's well within your capabilities. Plenty of effective solutions exist in the marketplace to help you address these needs. But you've got to begin. Right now. Because if you continue to ignore the importance of improving your guests' experience on mobile, the thing holding back mobile bookings might just be you.

Past Insights from Tim Peter Thinks

If you’re looking to learn even more about how changing customer behavior will shape your marketing going forward, be sure an register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also want to check out these slides I had the pleasure of presenting recently about the key trends shaping marketing in the next year. Here are the slides for your reference:

Finally, you might enjoy some of these past posts from Thinks to help you build your e-commerce strategy and your digital success:

A version of this article originally appeared on Hotel News Now as "The Distribution Trend You Care About Most in 2019"

Tim Peter

By

April 15, 2019

What Digitally Native Companies Do Best (Thinks Out Loud Episode 245)

April 15, 2019 | By | No Comments

What digitally native companies do best: Workers brainstorming new services for customersLooking to drive results for your business? Click here to learn more.



Many businesses struggle to keep up with the changes brought about by digitally native companies in their industry. But why are they so successful? What is it that digitally native companies do best? This episode of Thinks Out Loud offers some insights. Here are the show notes for you:

What Digitally Native Companies Do Best (Thinks Out Loud Episode 245) – Headlines and Show Notes

Subscribe to Thinks Out Loud

Contact information for the podcast: podcast@timpeter.com

Past Insights from Tim Peter Thinks

You might also want to check out these slides I had the pleasure of presenting recently about the key trends shaping marketing in the next year. Here are the slides for your reference:

Technical Details for Thinks Out Loud

Recorded using a Heil PR40 Dynamic Microphone through a Cloud Microphones CL-1 Cloudlifter Mic Activator and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack USB recording interface into Logic Pro X for the Mac.

Running time: 18m 33s

You can subscribe to Thinks Out Loud in iTunes [iTunes link], the Google Play Store, via our dedicated podcast RSS feed )(or sign up for our free newsletter). You can also download/listen to the podcast here on Thinks using the player at the top of this page.

Tim Peter

By

November 14, 2018

How Will Digital Change Your Business? (Thinks Out Loud Episode 233)

November 14, 2018 | By | No Comments

How will digital change your business? Man pushing button to start the futureHow Will Digital Change Your Business? (Thinks Out Loud Episode 233)
Looking to drive results for your business? Click here to learn more.


How Will Digital Change Your Business? (Thinks Out Loud Episode 233) – Headlines and Show Notes

This episode of Thinks Out Loud asks “How will digital change your business next year — and beyond?” Even better, it offers a series of answers to get you started. Here are the full show notes:

Subscribe to Thinks Out Loud

Contact information for the podcast: podcast@timpeter.com

Past Insights from Tim Peter Thinks

You might also want to check out these slides I had the pleasure of presenting recently about the key trends shaping marketing in the next year. Here are the slides for your reference:

Technical Details for Thinks Out Loud

Recorded using a Heil Sound PR 30 Large Diaphragm Multipurpose Dynamic Microphone through a Cloud Microphones CL-1 Cloudlifter Mic Activator and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack USB recording interface into Logic Express 9 for the Mac.

Running time: 14m 36s

You can subscribe to Thinks Out Loud in iTunes [iTunes link], the Google Play Store, via our dedicated podcast RSS feed )(or sign up for our free newsletter). You can also download/listen to the podcast here on Thinks using the player at the top of this page.

Tim Peter

By

November 6, 2018

What Won’t Change: The Trends Shaping Digital Next Year (Thinks Out Loud Episode 232)

November 6, 2018 | By | No Comments

Looking to drive results for your business? Click here to learn more.
Trends Shaping Digital Next Year: Man holding large-format tablet computer


What Won’t Change: The Trends Shaping Digital Next Year (Thinks Out Loud Episode 232) – Headlines and Show Notes

Subscribe to Thinks Out Loud

Contact information for the podcast: podcast@timpeter.com

Past Insights from Tim Peter Thinks

You might also want to check out these slides I had the pleasure of presenting recently about the key trends shaping marketing in the next year. Here are the slides for your reference:

Technical Details for Thinks Out Loud

Recorded using a Heil Sound PR 30 Large Diaphragm Multipurpose Dynamic Microphone through a Cloud Microphones CL-1 Cloudlifter Mic Activator and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack USB recording interface into Logic Express 9 for the Mac.

Running time: 14m 56s

You can subscribe to Thinks Out Loud in iTunes [iTunes link], the Google Play Store, via our dedicated podcast RSS feed )(or sign up for our free newsletter). You can also download/listen to the podcast here on Thinks using the player at the top of this page.

Tim Peter

By

July 24, 2018

6 Insights Into How Technology is Changing the Hotel Industry: Hospitality Marketing Link Digest

July 24, 2018 | By | No Comments

Looking to drive results for your business? Click here to learn more.


How is technology changing the hotel industry? Abstract view of hotel and tech

Late last year, we took a look at 10 tremendous insights into the trends driving hotel digital marketing in 2018. An overarching theme of the piece was the critical role that technology plays in driving changes in guest behaviors and hotel revenues, especially revenues of the direct booking kind. I suspect that’s a topic still near and dear to your heart and especially important as you start gearing up for next year. Given that, it seems fair to ask, how is technology changing the hotel industry? And how can you use those changes to benefit your hotel?

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to take a look at these questions in detail. But here are a few thoughts to get you started:

  1. Key Hotel Technology Stats Worth Watching. Obviously, there’s lots of change going on. How much change? Well, this set of 15 mind-blowing stats about digital trends in travel and hospitality from CMO.com offers critical insights. Among the most interesting?
    • Some 43% of guests use smartphones to research their hotel/accommodations — underscoring why it’s time to stop calling mobile a trend. To be fair, only 25% use their smartphone to book, which signals that the guest experience during booking still needs help. But let’s not forget: With most guests carrying one or more smartphones, tablets, and laptops during their journey, you host more devices each night than guests — and that’s shaping the way they plan, book and experience travel every single day
    • J.D. Power says that hotel mobile apps don’t get downloaded very often, and get used even less for check-ins/checkouts; but guests that use those apps are more satisfied — and more loyal
    • Data from Adobe suggests that half “…of travel and hospitality companies today are gathering and using real-time data”
    • Another Adobe stat says that fewer than one in five “…executives at travel and hospitality brands said they believe their company is a digitally mature organization.” That’s a huge benefit, because it suggests you’ve got plenty of runway to improve relative to your competition — at least if you choose to take advantage of it.
  2. It Ain’t Just About Technology. Sure, technology is important. But it’s secondary. It shouldn’t be a secret that great marketing technology won’t save you from a bad hotel marketing strategy. Your success depends not only on having the right tech, but on having an excellent strategy and effectively executing that strategy. It’s fair to ask, “how important is technology to hospitality marketing?” but if you’re focused solely on the tech, you’ve got your carts and horses the wrong way ’round.
  3. Guests Continue to Take Ownership of their Experience. PhocusWire put together a must-read piece that explains why hotel rooms belong to guests, not hoteliers . As you might imagine, guests have clear expectations of the experience they’re looking for each time they step into “their” room. The technology that they encounter — whether hands-on or through a front-desk agent or concierge — influences their overall guest experience. Guest will remember waiting to check-in, order room service, or schedule a spa treatment because your system is too slow. Similarly, Amazon launched a version of its Alexa system for hotels at HITEC this year, which is particularly interesting given that Booking.com says business travelers are ‘warming’ to chatbots. Your guests are getting accustomed to technology serving their needs. Is your service growing along with them?
  4. Want to Get There Fast? Plenty of Potential Partners Exist. Does all this talk of tech leave you terrified? Well, you don’t have to go it alone. For starters, Skift put together a great round-up of its top travel startups to watch, which can help you figure out the tools and tech to help you excel. While some aren’t yet ready for prime-time, entrants like the (somewhat) more mature Fornova, Journera, and MisterFly might fit nicely into your overall strategy and help your properties get ahead of the curve next year. And, of course, there are plenty of exceptional hotel marketing/distribution consultants and agencies out there who can help you put the pieces of the puzzle together to grow your business.
  5. Troubling Trend: Too Many Hotels Continue to Sit on the Sidelines. You’d think given the facts outlined above that hotel marketers would be racing to assemble that puzzle for themselves. But SiteMinder offers a very thoughtful report showing many hoteliers remain in a ‘holding stage’ assessing the best tech trends. That’s a shame, given how important technology is to your overall hotel marketing and distribution strategy. What are you waiting for? Don’t forget, the OTA’s surely aren’t in a holding pattern. Booking.com went shopping for more metasearch capabilities and landed HotelsCombined to go along with its earlier pickup of Momondo, Cheapflights, and Mundi last year, as well as FareHarbor this April. And Expedia has made a huge move into packages in just the past few weeks with its Add-On Advantage offering. This isn’t about the future. This is about what your guests experience — and expect — right now.
  6. Even More Change is Coming. Finally, don’t forget that the changes in hotel technology we’re all dealing with are just the beginning. Whether it’s virtual reality, augmented reality, blockchain, AI or something else altogether, the next major disruption is right around the corner. For instance, there are all kinds of reasons why AI will change hospitality marketing forever and why voice, VR, and AR might be more hope than hype in the next few years. Keeping on top of these trends matters. What’s most important is for hoteliers to stay focused on the benefits of digital marketing for their property, and to stay in touch with how digital changes guest expectations and behaviors. Because no matter how much technology changes the hotel industry, your guests will continue to expect a great experience. And that will never change.

If you’re looking to learn even more about how changing customer behavior will shape your marketing going forward, be sure an register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also want to check out these slides I had the pleasure of presenting recently about the key trends shaping marketing in the next year. Here are the slides for your reference:

Finally, you might enjoy some of these past posts from Thinks to help you build your e-commerce strategy and your digital success: