Brands that don’t consider the growing influence of mobile and voice search risk losing customers, says Sébastien Pichon, Google UK’s industry manager of travel
Even when you travel alone, you’re rarely ever actually alone.
Whether it’s our friends, our families or our emotional-support peacocks – at some point we turn to those we trust for assistance.
Increasingly for consumers, this assistant comes in the shape of a smartphone. With our phones acting as supercomputers in our pockets, we can find, learn, do, and buy whenever the need arises.
Recent research found that three in four smartphone owners turn to search first to address their immediate needs – and I can anecdotally support this figure with my recent experience in a somewhat heated pub debate over what the capital of Brazil is, in which my companions quickly turned to their smartphones to investigate and ultimately confirm that I was correct.
But the impact of this behavioural change extends beyond establishing harmony amongst friends to present a huge opportunity for travel brands and marketers.
We’re a decade into the smartphone era and mobile’s meteoric growth shows no signs of abating.
Ultimately, what’s driving people’s passion for mobile is the power that smartphones and other connected devices give us – we have been empowered to expect what we want to be instantly and effortlessly available.
For travel businesses, providing a fast and seamless user experience has become a must for improving customer satisfaction and bottom-lines.
Google research shows that 36% of smartphone users already turn to their mobile phone for travel-related activity and 67% use mobile sites over apps.
But with 53% of mobile visits being abandoned if a site takes longer than three seconds to load, brands need to seriously look at how their mobile pages load (one way to do this is using our Speed Scorecard feature) , and implement changes that can help reduce mobile load times.
Kempinski Hotels illustrated the importance of designing their website from the ground up to be mobile friendly.
Using Google’s site speed tools, Kempinski implemented changes to their content management and delivery network with the goal of maximising performance across all devices. The result was an remarkable uplift of 11% in conversion rates.
As well as wanting information quickly, smartphones have made travellers more impulsive. In the US travel-related searches for “today” and “tonight” on mobile have increased by 150% over the past two years.
Booking.com created an app to capture last minute travel intent, finding that one in two customer journeys start on mobile and three-quarters of same day bookings come through mobile devices.
The OTA imported the data and learnings from this app into all of its mobile experiences. Now, more than one in three of its reservations are made through mobile and it is the main driver of traffic acquisition.
With its early use of online booking, the travel industry stands as one of the pioneers of digital marketing – and particularly in voice search there is a new frontier for travel brands to embrace.
The rapid development of natural language processing technology has allowed voice search to emerge as a powerful tool for connecting brands and audiences.
Google’s research found that 45% of people perceive voice to be the future of search, as it will help all of us search for things more quickly than we do now.
The nature of voice search means consumers regularly ask questions in natural language. Google search data illustrates this, with queries for “best” growing more than 80% in the last two years.
For instance, travellers using voice search are more likely to ask “where’s the best place to stay in Dublin?”, rather than the traditional approach of searching through strings of keywords, like “Dublin Accommodation”.
By making your brand easily discoverable and understanding when, where and how people are searching for guidance, you can ensure you’re there with the right advice whenever people need you.
A useful way for businesses to leverage voice search is to explore the full range of things that people will want to know, and in doing so position your brand as a trusted adviser.
However, to be there in the right moments for your customers, you have to value those moments appropriately. It’s vital to recognise the impact of all the touchpoints in the customer journey, and then be there with the best available information whenever they need it.
An example of this in action comes from German tour operator Berge & Meer, which used data-driven attribution to evaluate how travellers use different keywords across devices on search throughout the travel journey.
They found that customers started with more generic search terms, but as generic keywords are relatively expensive to buy and bookings were only being associated with the last click, investments earlier in the customer journey weren’t being correctly valued.
The solution for Berge & Meer was to move from last-click attribution to a new attribution model.
Data-driven attribution allowed the business to analyse all click paths based on its own AdWords data and attribute conversions based on the contribution of each keyword.
This enabled the company to iterate and identify new keywords, and during the two-month test period bookings increased by 26% on mobile.
This really demonstrates how crucial having a comprehensive data strategy is – it’s the prerequisite to greater personalisation of your brand’s digital experiences and increased effectiveness of your marketing messages.
In today’s constantly evolving digital landscape, the winners will be businesses that are ready to embrace technology and be truly assistive, providing relevant information to customers quickly and easily.
Brands that don’t consider the growing influence of mobile and voice search might soon be yelling at the backs of their customers, as they travel elsewhere.