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Smartphones: changing the online travel industry – why being mobile-friendly matters to travel shoppers

Google’s new Travel Dashboard, a series of infographics presenting travel search data, announces "Wherever travellers go, they're online". And unsurprisingly, travel shoppers are increasingly reliant on the most portable device of all: their smartphones.

It's no secret that the online shopping revolution is well and truly underway, with online sales now accounting for a fifth of non-food retail sales in the UK. However, it's becoming increasingly important for marketers to hone in on exactly which devices their users are utilizing to access their sites, and to tailor their offering accordingly.

Econsultancy cites a compelling statistic: 71% of mobile users bounce back to their search results if the link that they follow isn't mobile optimized. While some customers may make a note of the site and return to it on their laptop, hoping for this is hardly best-practice marketing.

For important, costly purchases such as holidays, users have traditionally chosen to complete the booking at home on their laptop. However, eMarketer predicts that 2015 will be the tipping point for mobile dominance. Their research forecasts that:

  • In 2015, 54.6% of the 128.8 million US consumers who research travel online will do so from a mobile device – the first year that mobile will take the majority.

  • In 2016, that figure will rise to 62.2%, reaching 71.3% by 2018.

  • In 2015, 37.7% of online travel researchers will actually book their travel on a mobile device.

  • In 2016, that figure will rise to 43.7%, reaching 55% by 2018.

These figures indicate that although shoppers may still feel uncomfortable making weighty financial transactions on their phone, that attitude is unlikely to survive into the next decade. This makes it particularly crucial for brands to begin rethinking their strategy now.

Writing for TNnooz, Susan Lietz warns that "a hotel may see customers book rooms on its website and conclude its mobile ad spend is not working. But cross-device insights reveal how many of those desktop conversions took place after the user was exposed to an ad on their mobile device, and actually may have been a key driver in the action taken."

Modern customers will likely use multiple devices in their holiday booking process, and the quality of the user experience needs to be consistent throughout. Mobile websites must be easily navigable, demonstrably secure and reassuringly familiar for customers already acquainted with the brand's desktop offering. As Econsultancy says, "Successful marketing to drive visitors to your website will be in vain if visitors have a bad user experience, causing a large proportion of these visitors to leave."

For marketers, this means aiming towards a multichannel approach that tracks the shopper's journey across multiple devices. While mobile optimization is the top current priority for many travel companies, the next crucial stage of the process will be personalization, tracking each user's path from general research, to narrowing choices, to finally booking.

At censhare, we're helping businesses to build multichannel offerings that enable them to deliver a consistent, high-quality experience to their customers across multiple devices and touch points. To find out more, take a look at our range of engagement solutions, including an Editorial System and Online, Mobile and Social Channel Management.