The late 90s saw the start of a trend that would change the way we purchase holidays forever. Websites such as Expedia were set up to encourage consumers to go online for their travel needs and now, less than 20 years later, online channels account for 45% of bookings made in Europe, according to Phocuswright. The market is now amidst another major trend as mobile device usage is soaring in the travel sector.




The mobile tipping point

In the travel sector, search queries on mobiles increased by 48% and tablet queries rose by 16% year-on-year, while desktop queries declined by 2% according to Google Q1 Data 2015. As Google is promoting mobile-friendly sites in its mobile search results, and with customers expecting a seamless experience across devices, brands that don't have a mobile strategy in place are in danger of being left behind in an ever-changing search landscape.


Despite Euromonitor expecting over 30% of online travel bookings by 2017 to be made on mobile devices, many brands are yet to see a significant number of bookings via smartphones. Diligent marketers will understand that when evaluating the value of mobile it pays to look beyond simple conversion metrics. If driving mobile traffic isn’t achieving direct conversions, it isn’t necessarily a waste of time (and money).


Many brands still rely on last-click attribution models, which create pitfalls when evaluating the value of mobile. For example, in a pay-per-click campaign, mobile adverts could be driving high volumes of traffic but with a low conversion rate, as people lack confidence in purchasing over a mobile device or are being let down by the experience.


With a last-click attribution model, this would look like wasted advertisment spend, whereas those mobile clicks could be driving conversions through other channels in the form of calls, site purchases from a PC, or visits to a physical shop. This trend is something Google highlighted in its 2014 Travellers Road to Decision study, finding that of the people who used a smartphone for holiday inspiration, 70% went on to book via a computer.


The study also discusses how smartphones are used for holiday inspiration during ‘snacking moments’. These moments are when people find themselves with spare time spent commuting, waiting, watching TV and so on. Consumers want information on their own terms, and brands that are visible (and mobile-optimised) when those moments occur will gain the first-mover advantage and potentially capture the sale early on in the customer journey.


Customers’ paths to purchase are becoming increasingly complex. In fact, nine in ten consumers start an activity on one device and finish it on another. With the rise of mobile phones, customers may interact with an ad to learn more about a holiday and then call the business, download its app, or finish their purchase on a different device altogether.


It can be easy to devalue mobile when it’s difficult and expensive to get a full understanding of how it has played a role in conversions. Using estimated cross-device conversions can help advertisers to measure more activities from mobile and create data-informed bidding decisions, leading to better return on investment.


Trends suggest the share that mobile devices have in the travel search market is only going to increase further, while the smartphone and tablet devices industry itself is only going to produce faster, more user-friendly products. The role of mobile should be a key consideration when planning advertising and content marketing campaigns.

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