Isabelle Pinson, columnist and Senior Director of Market Management for Northern Europe at Expedia Lodging Partner Services discusses how hotels can harness the growing influence of mobile technology.
The prevalence of mobile technology is increasingly noticeable, across all industries, and the hotel sector is no different. Consumers are using their mobiles more and more each year as the technology becomes available to make their purchasing lives easier.
And that’s what it is about – ease of purchase. Removing or reducing barriers to allow travellers to book when and, crucially, how they book hotels is the key to unlocking the future of bookings. An increasing number of hotels are working with us to embrace this technology and, importantly, understand how to implement it more effectively to grow their business.
So what are the key trends and developments for the year ahead?
Increase in online bookings
By 2015, mobile will account for one fifth of the overall European online travel market according to PhocusWright. In 2012, the average Brit spent £1,175 online*, and this figure is rising faster year-on-year. The rise of smartphone and tablet ownership, coupled with increasingly efficient mobile and responsive ecommerce sites, are two of the main reasons for this continued increase in mobile shopping.
The brands within Expedia group operate more than 150 mobile websites targeting travellers in nearly 70 countries and 36 languages. By the end of 2013 our mobile apps had been downloaded more than 80 million times by consumers in more than 220 countries and territories, with 200 downloads per minute.
Furthermore, according to PhoCusWright’s “European Consumer Travel Report – September 2013” more than one third of UK travellers shopped with a mobile phone for travel products like flights and hotels (up from 21% in 2011).
There’s no doubting that this trend is set to continue. And working alongside Expedia’s market management team, hotels can develop strategic marketing activity that specifically targets travellers based on where they are coming from, how they are booking and the periods in the week they need to build occupancy.
Last minute bookings
It is clear that more and more people booking on mobile are doing so closer to the time of stay (i.e. within two weeks, rather than months ahead). The latest trends on mobile devices indicate that a travellers’ ability to book travel from anywhere means they are taking more last minute trips.
Expedia research reveals that around 70% of mobile bookings are for the same or next day, and of these mobile bookings 36% are made on a Friday or Saturday. Furthermore, a quarter of all desktop bookings are made for more than two months in advance, compared to only 11.8% on mobile.
Against this background we can, for example, work with hotels to execute mobile only flash sales to help boost occupancy which can be particularly useful when a partner suffers a large group booking cancellation at the last minute.
With this rapidly growing mobile trend, we are working with our UK hotel partners to maximise the opportunity our investment in technology brings. Last year, we invested nearly £300m to enable our hotel partners to be visible to travellers in the way that they want to shop.
With the average consumer having just 20-30 apps on their phone, it is increasingly difficult for hotels to secure visibility through mobile devices, but by partnering with Expedia they are gaining a valuable and cost effective route to reaching travellers all over the world.
* OFCOM’s 2013 International Communications Market Report