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Mobile Mania!!

At last week’s annual Expedia conference they were all fired up in regards to mobile. Here’s why.

Thursday, December 13, 2012
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The leisure travel consumer is changing. They’re booking closer to their trip and have become increasingly tech savvy as new technologies have been invented. Lucky for hotel industry professionals there are a lot of smart folks out there keeping ahead of consumer trends.

Last week at Expedia’s Annual Partner Conference, Expedia executives focused a great deal of time chatting about the mobile universe. Yes, it is just that important. That’s because consumers aren’t just using mobile technologies – duh! – they are using each of the myriad types of devices differently.

Essentially consumers are researching hotels and using sites like Expedia in different ways depending on what type of product they are using. That makes total sense and is surprising we didn’t think of this sooner. During the event, Expedia executives constantly hammered home this point and it makes sense. According to them folks are using tablets, for example, to spend more time researching hotels as they do other activities like watch television. When they’re on their mobile phone chances are they are looking to book a hotel nearby real quick or are taking a cursory look at hotels available close to where they currently are or at their dream destination.

Check out these crazy Expedia stats from Laurens Leurink, President, Expedia Partner Lodging Services. He said the company has seen unprecedented growth in revenue and reservations coming from mobile channels such as those aforementioned tablets and cellphones.

For same day or next day booking the company saw a massive 68 percent quarterly growth from Q3 2011 through Q3 2012. And more interesting is 81 percent of mobile customers are booking their room less than 10 miles from the selected hotel. Wow!

“[Consumers] are not spending days, but a couple of minutes deciding where to stay,” said Leurink, in regards to last minute bookings.

That’s the sort of thing that is going to get a lot of executives rethinking their customer acquisition strategies.

Though we’re still in the early stages of the emerging mobile revolution, the introduction of tablet computing and smarter smart phones (yes, I said that) has the potential to upend the status quo; much like the introduction of the internet at the end of the 20th century.

And just like the nascent days of the internet it looks like we are at the start of something transformational.

“This is just the beginning,” said Brian Doyle, Strategy ESPN Mobile and a speaker at the Expedia conference. “There has been $7 billon of capital invested this past year in mobile start-up companies.”

He said 28 percent of people are already shopping via mobile technologies and that number is growing.

Sarah Bernard, VP Global Product Development, Hotwire said since they debuted their mobile app – a downloadable program for a device – 20 percent of all its orders are now coming via mobile sources. That app has been downloaded more than 10 million times, she added.

John Kim, SVP Global Products, Expedia, said the company is seeing a lot of differing behavior depending on the device being used.

“We are seeing the phone is starting to become the primary device. If they [consumers] can’t do something on that we get an email on it. It is important to realize we cannot get over focused on commerce activity but how our customers utilize [our sites]. It’ a very subtle difference,” said Kim explaining the company needs sharp design discipline to maximize opportunity by presenting information in the way customers want to see it.

“We have a real focus on design discipline. It is very easy to let this escape you and we spend a lot of time thinking how we can get a constant way to improve the product,” Kim said.

“You have to keep it simple and personalize it. And make it just a couple of clicks to purchase,” said Doyle.

Kim added that customers have been looking more and more for an easy and convenient way to book travel packages that include airfare, ground transportation, hotels and activities. They are also looking at functionality such as electronic itineraries to take advantage of the data they have while simplifying the customer’s travel experience.

Nigel Pocklington, CMO, Hotels.com said they want customers to shop for and book hotel rooms no matter the device they want to use. “The phone user is looking for a booking very close… while tablets tend to be generally speaking looking more like web customer. However, they are skewed to a more upmarket audience that spends more money on hotels,” said Pocklington.
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