Last month I had the pleasure of speaking at an event in Minneapolis organized by the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI), an organization committed to growing business for hotels and their partners, about the impact mobile devices are having on how consumers research and purchase online travel services. These changes, which are profound and taking place at a rapid pace, present both challenges and opportunities for those in the hospitality sector. I thought I would share a few of the key insights from my talk in the hopes of highlighting some pathways to success amidst the backdrop of a fast-moving and disruptive environment.
1. Mobile Media Usage is Not a Zero-Sum Game with Desktop
As I’m sure many are now aware, mobile devices have reached a mass level of adoption in the U.S., with more than 140 million smartphone owners (+30% vs. year ago) and 60 million tablet users (+57% vs. year ago). Astoundingly, usage of these devices now accounts for more than half (52%) of all time spent online by consumers. However, looking at changes that have occurred over the past three years, we see no evidence that mobile devices have cannibalized use of the desktop in terms of total consumption of digital content. Rather, use of mobile devices has resulted in a marked increase in the total time spent with digital content. Specifically, from April 2010 to April 2013, Comscore MMX Multi-Platform shows that total time spent online has almost doubled (+90%), and while smartphones and tablets have contributed to most of that growth, time spent online using a desktop device has also increased (+7%). In other words, it’s not a “zero sum game of devices”. Instead, the size of the pie is expanding:
When looking at time spent on travel sites, we also see no evidence of cannibalization of desktop time by mobile devices, although the growth in time spent on travel sites over the three year period (+57%) is not as high as we saw in the case of total time online (+90%):
2. Mobile Represents An Incremental Audience
So, where do these mobile trends leave the online hospitality industry today? While the specific answer depends to some degree on the type of content being read or viewed by the consumer, it’s clear that mobile has arrived in a major way. Let’s start with consumer access of hotel sites. Shown below is the monthly number of people visiting the largest hotel properties, broken by whether the visitor used a desktop device exclusively, used a desktop and mobile device or exclusively used a mobile device:
The importance of mobile-only visitors is readily apparent, as they represent an incremental 48% to the number of site visitors who use a desktop to visit the typical hotel property. The implication is clear: hotel sites need to ensure that their web sites are finely tuned to the unique needs of mobile visitors or else risk losing ground to more mobile-friendly rivals.
3. Media Consumption Patterns Vary Considerably by Category of Content
Another perspective on the role of mobile can be obtained by examining visitation patterns to content that is particularly important to the travel industry, namely weather and maps:
The smartphone has clearly become the device of choice for obtaining weather and map information, accounting for 55% of time spent on weather sites and 78% of time on Maps sites. So, it’s vital that digital ad campaigns for the hotel industry that are placed on this type of content be delivered to mobile devices. Desktop-based delivery is simply not sufficient.
4. Mobile is Being Increasingly Used for Transactions
Let’s conclude with a look at how consumers are buying travel services online. Comscore data show that in Q1, 2013 consumers used desktop devices to spend $28 Billion across all types of online travel services (up 8% vs YA):
As highlighted in our Q1 State of the U.S. Online Retail Economy report, Comscore’s new m-Commerce measurement service shows that the use of mobile devices to book online travel added $2.4 Billion (+8%) to the desktop number of $28 Billion and grew at a rapid rate of 30% vs. year ago, nearly four times faster than the desktop sector:
Mobile Strategies for Success
In conclusion, it’s clear that mobile devices have emerged as vital devices that consumers are using to both research and buy their travel services online. In response to this, the Hospitality industry needs to ensure that:
1) Their web sites are optimized for mobile visitors
2) Their digital advertising campaigns are reaching prospective buyers via their desktop and mobile devices
3) They devise marketing strategies that account for differences in consumer behavior by category of content
4) Purchasing of travel services via mobile devices is made as seamless and user-friendly as possible
Doing so will not only ensure that hospitality brands remain relevant with their consumers, but also promises to deliver new opportunities for long term brand-building and monetization that will drive their businesses forward in this new digital environment.