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Not Going By The Book

HEDNA Study Warns Against Thinking Of Desktop And Mobile In The Same Way

Monday, July 03, 2017
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by Keith Loria

Recent data shows that more than half of all digital travel booked in 2016 was done with the use of a mobile device, proving that mobile distribution has replaced desktop as the leading way in which consumers research and book travel.

Furthermore, according to Forrester Research, 55 percent of adults are likely to abandon their online transaction if they cannot find a quick answer to their question or problem.

In an effort to limit those “giving up,” new research conducted by the Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association (HEDNA) concluded that hoteliers need to resist the temptation of translating their desktop strategy to mobile.

“There are differences in how a guest interacts on a mobile device than a desktop computer,” said Donnie Schumann, HEDNA mobile working group chair and HotelTonight Sr. strategic partnership manager. “While most desktop channels measure engagement by how long a guest stays on their site, with the goal being to make it longer, mobile online distribution should get the guest through the transaction funnel as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

Schumann recently presented HEDNA’s white paper on the subject, “Mobility, Distribution and Customer Friction,” at the organization’s annual conference in Dublin.

The HEDNA Mobile Working Group, which was created last year when Schumann came on board, explores mobile technology’s value and helps solve barriers to mobile entry in the hospitality industry. The group evaluates mobile’s role in customer acquisition and forecasting as well as how mobile can lead to a better understanding of the guest.

“HEDNA thought it was important to put this group together because of the obvious growing rapid space in mobile with distribution. The group wanted to come together to identify existing mobile technology that benefits hotel distribution and suggesting and identifying gaps in existing technology,” he explained. “We were able to come up with the idea for this study to try and understand what those barriers to converting on mobile are. Distributors care about conversion and we thought about how can we collectively come up with best practices to enhance distribution.”

The HEDNA Mobile Working Group is comprised of members representing suppliers, distributors and intermediaries that are committed to achieving the goal of facilitating the distribution of hotel rates, availability and reservations through mobile interfaces.

What the study found was that in a race to provide multichannel booking solutions, too often the organizations ported or mirrored their existing online desktop user experiences to mobile devices without taking things like screen size and form factor into full consideration.

Schumann said that Brand.com and OTA organizations that adapted their desktop distribution models to mobile channels have in many cases created unintended friction unique to mobile booking and it is the mobile group’s belief that such mobile distributions produce barriers to consumers trying to complete their booking goals.

“The biggest finding from the study was that on mobile, you simply cannot translate a desktop experience,” he defended. “We saw a lot of issues where there was high friction and chances for customers to abandon transactions.”

For example, traditional desktop upsell mechanisms designed to increase consumer choice and engagement were found to be counter-intuitive to helping a guest achieve their goal of completing a simple transaction on a mobile device.

“When we think of a desktop, a lot of channels analyze engagement and how much time a guest spends on that channel and it’s seen as more positive for the guest experience,” Schumann said. “What these results point to is the goal for mobile should be to get the app to get the guest in and out as quickly as possible and help them accomplish their goal, which is simply to book a room.”

To overcome this friction, he surmised, hoteliers must proactively reimagine the booking flow through a simpler, more guest-centric focused lens.

In regards to upselling, the study suggests doing it pre-transaction on mobile is creating a ton of frustration. The HEDNA Mobile Working Group suggests limiting choice and reducing upsell to binary options or even targeting the guests after the sale—selling an upgrade later in the transactions.

Another thing that was found to be unfavorable in the mobile process involved information collection. “Over 80 percent of the apps that we tested requested information multiple times during the transaction,” Schumann said. “We now live in a world of Apple Pay and Google Wallet, so this shouldn’t be happening anymore. It was alarming to see how many apps had this as a booking flaw.”

One surprising reveal from the study is that Brand.com seems to be doing things better than OTAs, especially when it comes to reducing choice. The OTAs, he noted, generated a higher number of advertisements, pop-ups and cross-selling opportunities up-front, causing immediate friction, unnecessary clicks and loss of focus.

“Across the board, where we saw the least friction was for channels that did solely focus on selling the room and didn’t try to provide too many overwhelming options to the guest,” Schumann said. “Focusing more on allowing the guest to complete the objective of booking a room allows them to have a positive guest experience.”

Other findings of the study included: 55 percent of hotel applications demonstrated a high reliance on customer driven process steps, some of which were considered arbitrary or counter-productive for the evaluator to proceed forward in the process; 65 percent of the applications evaluated did not properly leverage known information to aid the evaluator in the transaction; and 60 percent of participants utilized extensive forms and/or broke forms down into multiple pages across the application, increasing time online and customer inputs and adversely affecting evaluator sentiments.

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