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Why travel hasn’t solved its mobile problem

Kurt Weinsheimer

It seems as if every year since 2010 has been proclaimed as the “year of mobile” for brands across the spectrum. But this year, more than ever, having a mobile strategy for your ad spend has evolved from nice to have to being a necessity.

This need is driven by consumer adoption of smartphones. On average, consumers spend 1 hour and 40 minutes a day on their mobile devices, which is 60% more time than in 2015. After all this time, 2017 has been hailed as the year when mobile “grows up.”

As with most things, the challenge to growing up comes in transforming these thought-leadership pieces and attitudes into everyday action. That is, while the consensus is to ensure that your advertising efforts are mobile-friendly, when it comes to actualizing that idea, adoption seems to be slow.

Sojern’s recent collaborative report with Google reveals travel’s struggle to capture mobile consumers. Our report looked at the entire path to booking a hotel room, from the search engine to the booking engine. We saw that when it comes to hotel searches, the lower end enjoys the highest percentage with 73% of all searches for economy hotels being done through mobile devices.

On the other end of the spectrum, 45% of all searches for luxury hotels are on mobile devices. For the rest of the hotel segments — midscale, upper midscale, upscale and upper upscale — roughly half of searches are on mobile devices.

Although luxury hotels see the lowest share of mobile searches, this doesn’t mean they can avoid having a solid mobile strategy. In fact, we see that the luxury segment is experiencing the greatest growth in mobile searches world.

WhileWhile the searches are there, they aren’t necessarily translating into bookings.

When we look at mobile searches across a week, for example, we see that they are fairly evenly spread among the days of the workweek (Monday through Friday). On the weekends, mobile searches boom as people move away from their desktops at work and go out into the

searches soar, the same cannot be said for bookings. In fact, mobile bookings are consistently low throughout the week. Mobile is, then, the device for dreaming but it has yet to become the device for booking.

Why is that? Why are people booking hotels so reluctant to use mobile devices all the way through to their purchase?

We see two challenges. First, people often search via mobile but then convert on desktop once they are back at work and have further considered the decision; and second, they tried to book via mobile, but the experience was subpar, driving them to a desktop or to a competitor.

A large part of the problem is that running a strong mobile strategy only works if you think about the whole funnel, or the whole path to purchase. Your ability to identify and serve ads to an in-market traveler on their mobile device is certainly no easy feat. But if you’re spending on the tech and/or mobile media to drive people to websites with purchase paths that aren’t mobile-friendly, you don’t have a full-funnel mobile strategy.

Travel, in particular, faces a challenge in terms of creating a friction-free mobile experience.

Shopping for shoes, for example, only requires so many clicks and swipes. The right color, brand and size, and you’ve got your purchase. When it comes to a hotel room, you have to select your days, your room type, any add-ons or packages, add family members or additional rooms and then check to make sure that’s the room, at the location, on the date you need it.

If you want to start comparison shopping, doing so on mobile becomes a real challenge.

We’ve talked before about the complexity of the traveler’s path to purchase, and right now the mobile experience is faltering when it comes to the booking stage. More than ever, and more than most, travel marketers need to seriously re-evaluate their mobile experience. Creating a mobile strategy that ignores the user experience at the point of purchase is just creating a leaky pipeline.

Maybe, instead of making this the year that mobile grows up, we should work to make it the year that mobile converts.