Technology

Opinion: Agents need to keep up with mobile booking trends

Pressy Sankaran

The Australian summer has drawn to a close and Autumn blues start to take hold, so the travel is on the mind of Australia.

It’s one of the busiest times of the year for Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) and travel suppliers; in fact, new Criteo data saw a huge spike in travel booking activity at this time – up 65 per cent in Q1 2018 compared to Q4 2017.

In an increasingly competitive industry that is quickly being dominated by digital platforms, businesses looking to capture the audience’s attention need to have a more holistic view of the path the purchase.

With mobile usage figures on the rise across the board, consumer reliance on mobile devices and apps is key for travel players, especially at this time of year.

Mobile booking is on the rise

There’s a mobile phone in almost every pocket in Australia, which means there are literally millions of potential customers for OTAs to reach.

The use of mobile devices varies across the wide range of travel categories, including booking flights, accommodation, transport and activities, but mobile now accounts for nearly half (45 per cent) of bookings for OTAs.

While desktop remains the primary OTA booking source (55 per cent), travellers are a highly mobile audience and the number of car and hotel bookings made on mobile devices has seen a significant jump in the last 12 months.

According to Criteo data, 40 per cent of car bookings and 39 per cent of hotel bookings are made via mobile device – both figures up 10 per cent year-on-year.

The use of mobile for travel bookings is not industry-wide however; travel suppliers see a much smaller portion of bookings from mobile than OTAs – a mere 16 per cent, compared to 84 per cent of desktop bookings.

The importance of understanding cross-device

When someone is shopping online for a new pair of shoes, it’s unlikely they’ll be looking at just one pair on one website from one device.

This is compounded for travel where people will be spending hundreds of dollars on flights, accommodation, and activities.

People are going to be spending more time shopping around, so understanding their journey is crucial when monitoring customer behaviour and prioritising marketing spend.

Maximising customer spend and ensuring high levels of customer engagement comes from having an accurate view of the devices they’ve used to reach each point.

28 per cent of OTA bookings are preceded by a click on another device; for suppliers, this figure is even higher.

Despite a lower share of mobile bookings, suppliers have a larger share of cross-device transactions (32 per cent), highlighting the value in data collaboration between companies, which has the potential to make up for lower mobile performance.

Apps are soon to be the preferred method of booking

With the use of mobile devices on the rise, it seems obvious that the use of apps would rise similarly and, travel players with booking apps make nearly two-thirds (60 per cent) of their transactions on mobile devices.

Whether it’s the availability of the booking apps or simply increased consumer confidence, this figure has jumped a massive 41 per cent over the last 12 months.

For OTAs and suppliers looking to capitalise on last-minute bookings, app optimisation is the key.

We know that 41 per cent of last-minute traffic and touchpoints are made on apps and an incredible 89 per cent are made on mobile devices.

Beyond committing to booking on apps, our data also shows that mobile travellers are spending more via apps than they would booking on desktop.

In fact, travel advertisers with an app are likely to see a conversion rate five times higher than through a mobile browser.

Ultimately, the modern traveller is confident in booking via apps, but still uses multiple devices throughout their purchase journey.

The key for OTAs and suppliers in 2018 will be taking steps to ensure a seamless customer experience across all devices.

With customer mobile confidence on the rise, these modern travellers have the potential to drive higher value business for organisations who take the time to understand and interpret their customer data.

Pressy Sankaran is the Head of Criteo ANZ

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