Guest Post: Six pitfalls to avoid when building your mobile business

Guest Post: Six pitfalls to avoid when building your mobile business

By Helen Maher, director, market management, Expedia Group on how to cut through the clutter and reach the right customers

By Helen Maher, director, market management, Expedia Group on how to cut through the clutter and reach the right customers

If you haven’t heard it yet: mobile phones are taking over our lives, which means businesses are faced with a consumer engagement crisis. Getting your property in front of your target audience, at the right time, in the right way is a bigger challenge than ever before.

Not convinced? One study found that the average person checks their phone 110 times per day, rising to up to 900 times for more addicted people. So how does a hotelier cut through the clutter to reach the right customers? Here are some of the biggest pitfalls to avoid when setting a mobile strategy and how hoteliers can make the most of mobile:

Underestimating the importance of mobile

Mobile is playing a big part in our economic landscape and expected to generate 5% of GDP, or £3.5 trillion, by 2022. If you haven’t started tapping into mobile as a tool for your own customer acquisitions, you are missing out on a fast-growing segment of travellers.

In the travel space specifically, travel searches made on mobile hit 26% share in the US, and it gets even higher across the globe – 47% in Europe, 40% in Asia, 38% in Middle East and Africa, and 34% in Latin America. Expedia Group data reveals that one in three booking transactions are made via mobile and over 50% of traffic now arrives via mobile. This mobile penetration is a global phenomenon; among Expedia Group’s top mobile markets, South Korea leads with the highest share of demand from mobile bookings, followed by the US and the UK.

The “build it and they will come” strategy

When it comes to mobile apps, assuming travellers will automatically download yours is a naïve approach to building a mobile strategy. Today’s consumers are flooded with choice and 49% of smartphone users download zero new apps per month. Making your way into one of those coveted spots on a traveller’s phone is an uphill battle – one fraught with potentially high churn and uninstall rates.

So, what attracts people to download and engage with their mobile apps? The answer: Apps need to be fast, useful, and have a multitude of features that give users a reason to continue engaging.  Travellers want their apps to provide them with practical and useful information such as airline check-in and mobile boarding passes. They rely on their apps to get convenient and fast information anywhere.

While some travellers admit that loyalty programs from hotel chain/airline does motivate app usage, travellers tend to reduce their app usage if the user experience is limited. It is therefore important to think about how consumers can benefit from your app beyond searching and booking. Ultimately it may not be worth investing in a dedicated app and instead, focus on building a responsive mobile web and look to leverage third-party apps.

Misunderstanding mobile usage behaviours

This is one of the most common mistakes businesses make. While many understand that mobile has limited real estate, navigating what does and doesn’t resonate with users including what content to prioritise on mobile can be tricky. We know that on average, 30-35 images are typically viewed before a transaction occurs and photos generate more than half of the engagement.

Given today’s mobile-dominant landscape, businesses should consider designing for the smaller screen size first. If you can get the information right on the small screen size then expand to desktop, you’ll likely meet the needs of the vast majority of travellers. At Expedia Group, we have found that intuitive icons rather than descriptive words allow you to provide more in a smaller space, enabling mobile users to navigate and find what they need easily.

Leveraging mobile as the last resort

Mobile has long since been touted as a source of same-day bookings and the go-to tool only when hoteliers need to fill rooms last minute. However, Expedia Group data shows that mobile booking windows span the full spectrum.

In certain major holiday destinations like Lanzarote, Spain the booking window for mobile stays average 65 days – the same booking window average as non-mobile stays. Long booking windows aren’t just limited to resort island and beach destinations either. Cities and destinations around the world such as Venice, Italy (52 days) and Okinawa, Japan (46 days) also generate mobile bookings well over a month in advance of stay.

Mobile travellers are equally valuable when filling rooms for extended periods. Even in resort destinations such as Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic where non-mobile trips are booked on average for 5 days, mobile stays averaged a comparable length at just over 4 days.

Assuming a ‘browse versus buy’ mentality

There’s a common misconception that mobile is used purely for research and not a conversion tool. However, across most parts of the world, mobile now accounts for more than half of the online transactions, and in-app sales dominate. Latin America is emerging as the fastest-growing region for mobile transactions – with their share up 50% year-on-year while Europe is growing at 28%, and the US is increasing by 22%.

For hoteliers, the big opportunity is in mobile deals. Our data reveals that seven in 10 mobile bookings come from deals. The use of deals is high for customers across the globe, up to 91% for American and Canadian travellers, 88% for Chinese and Brits, 80% for the Japanese, 70% for the French and 68% for Germans. Enticing travellers with mobile-exclusive deals continues to play to traveller preferences.

Even if mobile is not the final platform for the transaction, cross device compatibility is just as important to influence customers throughout their journey. In order to engage travellers, your platforms need to complement each other to allow for cross browser, cross device and cross session shopping.

The ‘set and forget’ approach

Let’s face it – hoteliers are under the pump, and the constant innovations in technology that make things easy for consumers can sometimes actually put more of a squeeze on hotel resources. Very often, hoteliers fall into the trap of establishing a great mobile strategy but then crossing it off the list and failing to continually test, learn and evolve.

It might sound like more work, but instead, we’re seeing savvy hoteliers really utilising the assets of their technology partners to get big results for little input. As an example, the Partner Central mobile app allows hotel partners to better manage their business across Expedia Group’s portfolio of travel brands and supports hotel’s engagement with their guests anytime, anywhere.