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Mobile bookings: Winning strategies for hotels

  Posted in Resources  Last updated 29/05/2024

What are mobile bookings?

Mobile bookings are now a common method of securing hotel reservations. Guests can easily research and book travel from their smartphones, making mobile bookings incredibly convenient.

According to a recent study, the average person checks their mobile phone every 12 minutes, spending nearly a quarter of their waking hours scrolling, tapping, and swiping. Meanwhile, recent research found that on an average day, American users picked up their mobile more than 144 times. Over the course of a day, users on average racked up three hours and sixteen minutes of mobile phone use.

For hoteliers, this behavioural shift isn’t just a trend; it’s an opportunity. Imagine your potential guest, stuck in a never-ending meeting, daydreaming of a weekend getaway. They pull out their smartphone, and within minutes, they’ve browsed your rooms, compared rates, and made a booking—all without leaving the conference room.

That’s the magic of mobile bookings. It’s convenience meets spontaneity, wrapped up in a user-friendly interface that’s as inviting as your hotel’s lobby.

For the hotel and travel market, smartphones present a captive audience looking to escape the mundane routine of the everyday. Whether it’s reading hotel reviews, comparing promotion packages and prices, or checking availability, it’s increasingly being done on a mobile device.

In this blog, we’ll delve into how you can leverage this seismic shift in consumer behaviour to your advantage, ensuring that your hotel doesn’t just stay in the game but sets the rules.

Table of contents

Why are mobile bookings important for hotels?

The proliferation of smartphones has fundamentally altered consumer behaviour, making mobile bookings not merely an emerging trend but a cornerstone of modern hotel management strategy.

Research by Hotel Benchmark has found that booking revenue from mobile devices is almost 35%. This pattern is not confined to any single market; it is a global phenomenon, observed from the United Kingdom to Japan.

The implications for hoteliers are clear: adopting a mobile-first approach is no longer optional but imperative. This shift towards mobile optimisation is not merely about technological adaptation but about meeting the evolving expectations of your clientele.

As industry analysts have noted, the optimisation of mobile booking platforms has streamlined the booking process, enhancing user experience and, by extension, customer satisfaction.

Mobile bookings are not just a convenience but a necessity, shaping the future of the hospitality industry. The message is unequivocal: to remain competitive, hotels must integrate mobile booking strategies into their broader operational framework.

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Mobile trends and statistics

Expedia Media Solutions recently explored the opportunity that smartphones and tablets present for hotels and travel companies, and the statistics are not only very encouraging for our industry, but surprising too.

Of the 156 million people in the US who actively engage with digital travel content, 90% of monthly website visitors are browsing using their smartphone or tablet.

Two thirds of all UK travel website visitors are exploring using a mobile device, and interestingly 25% have abandoned their desktop altogether, opting instead to browse travel content online exclusively via mobile.

Half of all U.S. travellers plan to book with a tablet device at some point, and a significant 29% plan to book on a smartphone – statistics that historically curve upwards every six months.

Key statistics around mobile usage:

  • Mobile searches via Google surpassed those on desktop computers cementing the shift from PCs to smartphones
  • WiFi and mobile-connected devices generates most of all internet traffic and 70% of mobile searches result in an online action within an hour of the original search
  • Mobile websites represent the most employed technology by 66% of independent properties in the US
  • 75% of mobile users come from the smartphones category, with both Apple’s iPhone, and phones running Google’s Android operating system from vendors including Samsung, Huawei, and others, being the primary types of phones in people’s hands

How independent hotels have shifted to online mobile booking sites

Research from leading industry analysts Phocuswright, h2c, and SiteMinder looked at how independent hoteliers in Europe and the US are embracing and adapting to mobile technology in order to attract more guests within this captive market.

Nearly half (48%) of independent properties in Europe planned to use more social media for their marketing purposes in the future, while only 7% planned to increase printed advertising – a sign that a good proportion of savvy hoteliers already think mobile-first.

According to the ‘Independent Lodging Market Report’, mobile websites are well-established in both Europe and the US – with 52% in Europe employing a mobile-friendly site, and 66% in the States.

Mobile’s share of online direct bookings is expected to grow over the next two years for both the US and Europe, but the report from Phocuswright highlights some concerns that independent hoteliers raise when it comes to competing for market share effectively with mobile technology.

As many as 48% say they lack a solution, but despite this, one fifth of independent hotels believe their direct online revenue already comes from devices such as smartphones and tablets – proving that hoteliers who choose to dismiss mobile bookings as just a trend will be risking opportunities to secure vital revenue.

Examples of hotel mobile technology

One example of hotel mobile technology in action is the Hilton Hotels chain, where a guest can check-in on their phone, and walk straight to their room without having to pick up a key, as the phone unlocks the door.

Other hotels might start offering ordering services for food, drink, and entertainment directly from the phone, and with real-time location tracking, they would be able to deliver whatever was ordered, regardless of whether the person is in their room or relaxing by the pool side.

But most importantly, when the user is making use of their mobile to interact with a hotel, they are providing that hotel with data on their preferences, for example, how they use the hotel’s facilities.

This information can then be used to personalise the experience – perhaps by offering discounts to favourite services or hotel restaurants, or providing the customer with a favourite drink ready-chilled in the bar fridge on their return visit. This personalised level of service is shown to resonate with customers and improve their experiences.

Hotel mobile technology will require some investment, but it’s often not as much as you might expect.

For smaller hotels and chains, cloud computing such as SiteMinder’s Channel Manager and Booking Engine can handle a large proportion of the technical side of things for a low, flat monthly cost.

For larger organisations that might want to handle the technology internally, the ability for technology investment to strengthen guest loyalty, incentivise return customers, increase average daily rate (ADR), and improve the revenue from hotel services is a proven return on investment that can’t be ignored.

Benefits of a mobile hotel booking website for guests 

It should all start with a hotel’s mobile website. The experience delivered to guests before they’ve even booked a room is so important.

Fingertips are less accurate than a computer’s cursor and it can be annoying for guests wanting to click through the pages of your website, to find the information is far too small to read. 

Simplifying your guests’ mobile booking experience is key to positioning your hotel as a business that’s in tune with your customers’ needs.

Expedia’s research suggests that hotels working hard to perfect the mobile experience will unlock a great opportunity for future business. In the UK, 70% of those who successfully booked travel via a smartphone would do so again and in the US that figure rises to 80%.

Responsive website design, which changes how the screen behaves depending on the device being used, is the only way to ensure your website looks its best from wherever it’s being viewed.

As SiteMinder’s ‘Ultimate A-to-Z Guide to Beautiful Hotel Website Design’ explains, the way a hotel’s website responds to small devices is the key to mobile marketing success:

Responsive design is an essential component of modern website architecture. This design philosophy aims to deliver a seamless viewing and interaction experience, automatically adapting to the user’s chosen device.

The objective is straightforward: ensure that every element on your webpage is both visible and functional, regardless of the screen size. If a user has to zoom in to click a link on your mobile site, then the design falls short of being truly responsive.

Prioritising your users’ needs is as vital online as it is the moment they step into your hotel. A mobile-responsive website not only elevates the user experience but also capitalises on last-minute booking opportunities, catering to guests who are making decisions on the move.

Search engines like Google favours mobile-friendly websites

Google has been flagging mobile users as they search online. Not only do websites with a responsive design be placed higher in the list, a new piece of text also highlights a website in search results as ‘mobile friendly’.

Google is billing the changes as “significant” for mobile users and it could mean big repeat business for your hotel if you nail the mobile booking experience.

Expedia’s mobile booking statistics show that in both the US and the UK, alone, 90% of those who booked on a tablet device would happily go through the same process again.

And let’s not forget about the Chinese traveller phenomenon. According to iResearch, in recent years, there were over 600 million Internet users in China, including more than 500 million mobile users at a growth rate of nearly 12%.

Clearly, these are opportunities that can’t be missed. Mobile-first is now business-first, but securing guest attention when everybody is gunning for the ideal small device experience is difficult. How do you pull ahead?

Simple. With ‘micro-moments’.

Understanding micro-moments and how they can capture mobile bookings

Micro-moments are often talked about as a key area hotel marketers need to focus on. The more dominant mobile becomes in the travel search process, the larger part micro-moments have to play in a mobile hotel booking strategy.

In-the-moment inspiration and impulse decisions on smartphones are leading guests deep into the travel booking journey. Although final resolutions are still usually made on laptop or desktop, hotels have a chance to make a big impression on travellers during their research phase.

Google has been very insistent about the importance of micro-moments, going in-depth with its analysis across many industries.

Recently, a new micro-moments guide from the search giant unveiled how travellers in Australia plan their travel and what hotels can do to reach guests within these moments.

They defined four key moments in a consumer’s mobile behaviour and what hotels can do to remain visible throughout them.

I want to get away” moments

In Australia, 38% of travel site visits come from mobile, and even though for 60% of consumers travel is the biggest discretionary purchase of the year, one in three don’t have a specific destination in mind when they first consider taking a trip.

They’re happy to explore locations and take recommendations from friends.

Hotels are advised to be present when inspiration strikes. By doing a search of common queries you can see if your property features in any of the results and optimise your search engine rankings from there.

In millennial groups, up to 50% say they’ve discovered a new travel brand while researching on mobile.

Make a plan” moments

When a plan first begins to form travellers most often search for prices, hotel reviews and pictures, flight lengths, and available destination activities, with 69% of travellers worrying they’re not finding the best price and second-guessing their choices.

However, 85% say that information sourced on their smartphone helps them make decisions.

Be liberal with the information you display to mobile searchers. While you want to keep things simple, you also want to give them all the information they need to choose your hotel over a competitor. Compelling photos never go astray either.

Book it now” moments

This is where travellers are still somewhat reluctant to rely on mobile devices. Only 23% are confident they can find the same information on their smartphones as they can on desktop or laptop.

On top of this 54% of leisure, and 69% of business travellers say that mobile functionality issues contribute to them booking on another device.

You can ease the worries of guests by giving them the ability to cancel mobile bookings without incurring a penalty. You should also eliminate as many steps as possible on mobile and make it easy for people to contact you. For example, you could implement a click-to-call link or button.

Waiting to explore” moments

Travellers still turn to mobile even after they’ve begun their trip. Around 85% decide on their activities after they arrive and nearly nine out of 10 expect their travel provider or hotel to give them relevant information. 

They’re looking for weather-specific information, public transport help, exchange rates, and traffic updates along with other relevant news.

Given 67% of travellers feel more loyal towards a brand that shares useful information with them during their trip, it’s a good idea to offer travellers tips on what to do or where to eat while visiting their chosen destination.

Using these tactics and providing a service to travellers throughout the booking journey you can create a smooth process that builds long term loyalty for your hotel.

How to improve conversion rates for mobile bookings

A well-optimised mobile booking process can significantly boost your revenue, enhance customer satisfaction, and give you a competitive edge. Here’s how to make it happen:

1. Responsive mobile-friendly website

A responsive design ensures that your website adapts to the screen size of any device, offering a seamless user experience. This is the cornerstone of any successful mobile booking strategy. A mobile-friendly website not only retains the visitor but also encourages them to complete the booking process.

2. Clear call-to-actions

Your call-to-action (CTA) buttons—such as “Book Now” or “Check Availability”—should be prominently displayed and easy to find. A well-placed, clear CTA can guide the user effortlessly through the booking funnel, increasing the likelihood of conversion.

3. High-quality images and descriptions

Visuals play a crucial role in the decision-making process. High-quality images, coupled with compelling descriptions, can paint an inviting picture of your hotel. This can be the deciding factor for guests who are comparing multiple options on a small screen.

4. Secure mobile payment options

Security is a paramount concern for online transactions. Offering multiple, secure payment options will not only instil confidence but also add a layer of convenience for the user, thereby increasing the chances of a completed booking.

5. Abandoned booking automation

It’s not uncommon for users to abandon their bookings midway. Automated reminders or incentives can be employed to encourage these potential guests to complete their reservation. This recaptures lost opportunities and improves your overall conversion rate.

6. Visible on local search

Local search optimisation ensures that your hotel appears in search results when potential guests are looking for accommodations in your area. Being visible in local searches is especially important for mobile users who are often looking for immediate, nearby options.

What does mobile only price mean when booking a hotel?

“Mobile-only price” refers to special rates exclusively available to guests who book through a mobile device. These rates are often lower than those offered on other platforms, serving as an incentive to encourage mobile bookings. 

This strategy aligns with the industry’s shift towards a mobile-first approach, recognising the growing number of travellers who prefer the convenience of booking on-the-go. Essentially, a mobile-only price is a win-win situation: guests benefit from reduced rates, while hotels increase their mobile conversion rates and enhance customer loyalty.

By Dean Elphick

Dean is the Senior Content Marketing Specialist of SiteMinder, the leading technology provider delivering hoteliers unbeatable revenue results. Dean has made writing and creating content his passion for the entirety of his professional life, which includes more than six years at SiteMinder. Through content, Dean aims to provide education, inspiration, assistance and value for accommodation businesses looking to improve the way they run their operations achieve their goals.

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