Five Online Travel Trends Set to Explode
1.Get ready for a mobile-only world
The decade of mobile is FINALLY here. By 2015, IDC is forecasting that smartphone sales will reach 982 million and all research points to mobile use surpassing traditional desktop use within the next few years. Against this back drop there are numerous emerging trends the industry needs to keep pace with.
According to Marco Saio EyeforTravel’s Director of Global Research, we should ‘‘anticipate an even greater rise in the same-day mobile booking trend. Expedia reports that 65% of hotel bookings within this last 24-hour window are via mobile, and 15% for flight bookings. Vegas is a particularly striking example of this last-minute mobile booking trend with 32% of all bookings coming in via mobile,” he claims, adding that “the opportunity this creates for mobile revenue growth is both staggering and largely untapped”.
Expect also to see increasing numbers of mobile-only companies entering the fray. Mobile specialist HotelTonight has already done so and its mobile app recently hit the 3-million download mark. So does this mean that traditional travel companies and online travel companies should, if they haven’t already, rush into launching a mobile app? The short answer is no. Mobile apps are expensive to develop and there must be clear business-driven justification. HotelTonight’s Chief Executive Sam Shank, who believes hot trends “will be for on-demand services” like ‘uber’ and ‘hailo’, is clear on one thing: mobile services must fulfil a basic need. So apps may not be for everybody but firms should be optimising for mobile. Before doing so they must carefully consider their target audience.
You can’t really talk about mobile without thinking about social and of course local. If any further proof is needed: in March this year 350 million Facebook users (who are also consumers!) had accessed the social network via a mobile device.
Hotwire President Clem Bason argues that: “A number of companies have integrated social media into their mobile offerings, but no travel company has completely nailed it yet.”
In this respect there is still room for growth and innovation.
2. Four ‘C’s to think about: convergence, commerce, content and how these impact customer behaviour will be an ongoing theme
In an increasingly converged world, there is a risk that firms focus too much on one particular channel at the expense of others. Says Bradley Wilson, Chief Marketing Officer, Travelocity, North America: “There is a need to consider behaviour on our website as well as in other environments to have a better picture of our customers’ needs.” Consumers are after all using a range of different devices to plan, research, book and even review their travel experiences.
While reviews have been a positive development for consumers one area where innovation can and should happen “is in improving the framework within which consumers do their research thus creating more efficient channels,” says Priceline’s Todd Henrich, Senior Vice-President of corporate development.
Ultimately the objective is to achieve ‘the all important booking’. But what the industry really needs to do now is focus on how the customer got to that point, how they moved through and interacted with each channel and what role each channel played in getting the customer to book.
This brings us to m-commerce. “Any technology that makes commerce even easier on mobile devices is going to gain huge traction,” argues Jared Simon Chief Operation Officer at HotelTonight. Though still in its infancy it seems inevitable that people will become more comfortable transacting via mobile and some standards should start to emerge. People are becoming more reliant on mobile and the purchase window is shrinking. So one thing firms could focus on now is developing a mobile booking engine, bearing in mind that this is not the same as a normal website booking engine.
Getting the right balance with content – both user-generated and curated - will be another ongoing theme as Google’s recent acquisition of Frommers, a respected source of travel information which also offers travel deals, photos, blogs and user-generated content, has clearly highlighted.
Expedia is one firm that is across all channels and has been particularly innovative – and successful – in its experiments with content although even it “has a lot to learn”, Expedia USA’s Director of Public Relations, Sarah Keeling. This year the company worked closely with over 30 bloggers. “People who travel read travel blogs so this is such a rich community to mine and work with,” she says. So far this work has had some measurable success. One promotion -Kids in the City – focused on 12 US cities using 12 bloggers and the #ExpediaKids on Twitter generated over 4 million impressions in the first 18 days of the campaign.
3. Big data, personalisation and being relevant is key in the marketing battle
4. Revenue management: it may not be sexy but it’s essential
5. Think new markets. Think new customers. Think ‘glosolomo’
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