Google recently published an insightful series of articles on the customer journey in the travel industry, emphasising how it revolves around what they call "micro-moments". These are "intent-rich moment(s) where a consumer turns to a device to act on a need to know, go, do, or buy" (Think With Google, 2016).
Our smart devices have fundamentally changed the way consumers consume products and services. Here are 9 things we've learned about how mobile has changed the way we travel.
1. It has allowed people to do more research
Having a mobile device is akin to having the world's directory in your hands, a directory that is with you anywhere you go and available any time of day. Google found that 60% of searches for information about a travel destination are done on mobile devices.
They also found that "Best time to visit [destination]" searches are also common, and more likely done on mobile. As of March 2016, smartphone searches like this have increased by 50% per year.
2. More research equals more informed decisions
According to the research report, "over 40% of travellers say they bounce back and forth between dreaming about and planning their next trip—zooming in on the details for one destination and then zooming out to reconsider all the options again."
More people actively search up places they've been inspired to visit and can easily do so via mobile. What more, they compare different destinations to make sure they get the best value for their money. So what makes your destination and your company stand out?
3. Videos are becoming a major part of travel marketing
Here are some statistics for you:
- YouTube receives over 100 million unique visitors each month.
- They also report that mobile consumption of video rises by 100% every year.
- Google found that 64% of people watched travel-related content when thinking about their next adventure.
- Another 3 in 5 travelers watching travel videos use it to decide on the travel brand to hire, the next destination to explore, or the tour or activity to join.
Taken together, one can clearly see how videos are becoming an essential marketing tool. Pearl Island Bahamas, a TrekkSoft customer I wrote about (read the interview here), shared a video showcasing their brand new island on their social media sites. It's a great example of the power of video in travel marketing.
4. Travellers want relevant and precise information
A micro-moment is where consumers actively seek out information about a brand and company to meet their needs, and it doesn't last long. Once the dreaming is over and people have made up their minds on where to go for their next adventure, their searches online become more specific, like "[brand name] + [location]".
More than half of these searches are done on mobile, making travel shopping a lot easier than before. Remember that travellers are only searching through sites that are relevant to their needs, and are making informed decisions faster than ever before. Don't waste their time.
5. Conversion is growing on mobile despite shorter sessions
The report also highlights that 40% of U.S. travel site visits come from mobile but the time spent browsing those sites has shrunk by 5%. "With more frequent and shorter sessions you might conclude that consumers aren't finding what they want on mobile. Yet, by March 2016, bookings made on mobile has grown by nearly 10% on mobile travel sites."
What's happening here? People are getting better at finding the information they're looking for. This is mainly because we've got much more sophisticated search engines that are getting better at recognising what consumers need.
6. While travellers are still getting used to mobile, they already expect mobile booking capabilities
Here are a few more statistics for you:
- 94% of leisure travelers switch between smart devices as they plan or book a trip.
- 46% of travelers with smartphones say they make their decision on mobile, but then book on another device.
Why are travellers switching back and forth? Google cite two reasons: the anxiety factor and the limitations of mobile booking sites and apps.
The Anxiety Factor
The Anxiety Factor kicks in when travellers do not believe that they are getting the best possible deals on mobile sites or apps. Therefore, 2 out of 3 travellers are likely to double-check prices on a desktop after searching on a smartphone.
Limitations of Mobile Booking
"54% of leisure travelers and 69% of business travelers say that mobile limitations or mobile usability are their main reasons for booking on another device."
Another "45% would switch if it takes too many steps to book or to get desired information".
Overall, "80% of travelers with smartphones would switch to another site or app if yours doesn't satisfy their needs". That's 4 out of 5 customers.
With a terrible mobile booking system, or without a mobile booking system, you exacerbate the booking process by having customers switch to a desktop to complete the booking. What more, you're very likely losing customers to competitors with better mobile capabilities.
Tips for a better mobile booking experience:
- Offer assurances on mobile booking
- Eliminate unnecessary steps on mobile (45% would switch if it takes too many steps to book)
- Ensure your mobile site loads fast
7. Last-minute bookings happen on smartphones
"Mobile has fostered new last-minute booking behaviors. For example, 85% of non-branded hotel searches on Google related to "today" or "tonight" happen on a smartphone.Take cues from how your customers are finding you, and build for that experience."
Got last minute spots you need filled? Promote your tours or activities on last-minute deal sites or on whichever OTA you work with to get the most out of your mobile presence. TrekkSoft customers can use the Channel Manager to promote and manage last-minute deals on OTAs.
8. Travellers use mobile to research and book in-destination activities as well.
Did you know that 85% of leisure travellers decide on activities only after arriving at a destination? Just because you've secured a booking doesn't mean your job is done when it comes to serving your customers' needs.
Instead, continue to provide useful information in these particular micro-moments to "build your brand, drive word of mouth, and increase loyalty among travelers".
"Be there for mobile travellers on their trip. Travellers increasingly rely on mobile to get their bearings when they arrive (at) a new destination. Smartphone searches at hotels increased about 30% in the last year. Since smartphones are location-aware, we often see people (including travellers) search for "things to do near me." For example, search interest in queries related to "places to eat near me" has more than doubled in the last year."
As a tour or activity provider, be extra useful to these customers. Create visual or written content, like videos and PDF guides for people to download and refer to later, and make sure it looks good on mobile.
- Look for yourself. Consider the most common searches performed by travellers in each phase of their customer journey and identify which ones are most relevant to your business. What does your company look like on mobile? Do you like what you see? Is your website optimised for mobile? (TrekkSoft can help you out if it isn't!)
- Check out the competition. To see where you may be falling short, work to identify the searches you need to be there for in each stage, compare it to the competitor benchmark for your category. Are you happy with how you compare to the competition? More importantly, are you happy with the number of travellers you're there for in these key moments?
- Consider the right tools. Think about what other platforms travellers are using to make decisions including YouTube, Google Flights, and Hotel Ads. Pick those that fit your business. Are you there when they look for video content related to your destination? Are you showing in the results for relevant flight routes and hotel searches, and when people want to book a hotel?
- Evaluate your content. When you look at your content, do you feel that it speaks to travellers' needs and answers their questions in key decision moments?
- Determine consumer needs. Are there unmet needs that you can develop helpful content for?
- Account for consumer context. What situation are your customers in and how can you help?
Further reading: Learn more about how to effectively market at each stage of the travel customer journey here.
What did you think of this article? How else can tour and activity operators leverage off this growing trend?
Written by Nicole Kow
Having graduated from the UK, Nicole travelled around Europe before joining TrekkSoft's marketing team. She is now based in KL and regularly blogs about her travels at Next Train Out.