From hotels to car rentals to holidays, the global travel industry is now worth trillions of dollars, writes Jeremy Crooks, managing director of digital performance marketing company Criteo in Australia and New Zealand.
In Australia alone, international and domestic tourists spent over $100 billion across the 2013-2014 financial year and more than 13 per cent of the total 2.1 million businesses in the country operate within the industry.
But while Australians are more in love with travel than ever before, the way we travel is changing. It’s no secret that long gone are the days when the only option for planning a holiday was a trip to the local travel agency. More and more, we’re heading online to plan and purchase holidays, whether it’s a weekend getaway or a year abroad, and we’re increasingly using our smartphones and tablets to do so.
In fact, Criteo research shows that the share of travel bookings made using mobile devices in Australia has grown from 5.7 per cent to 28.8 per cent from January 2014 to January 2015. Whether it’s the convenience, flexibility or access to special discounts, the popularity of smartphones and tablets for bookings is growing rapidly and the travel industry should pay close attention.
Mobile devices dominate for most of the online travel industry growth
Growth in the global online travel industry can be largely attributed to mobile device use, with a 20 per cent increase of bookings during the first half of the year, compared to only two per cent for desktop bookings. Specifically, the percentage of hotel bookings in Australia by mobile grew from 15 per cent to 37 per cent, with growth in the Air and Packages categories less noticeable.
Interestingly, when it comes to the more expensive purchases such as all inclusive packages, users still seem to feel more comfortable booking on desktops, closely followed by iPads, where all the relevant information clearly at hand.
Both tablets and smartphones play a key, but different role
Tablets are now an established way of booking travel and in Australia iPads account for 11 per cent of flight bookings and 15 per cent for hotels. Desktop traffic tends to shift to tablets during evenings and weekends — it seems that after a hard day’s work, users prefer to grab a tablet and relax back on the couch or around the kitchen table to plan their trips with friends and family.
So what about smartphone use? Smartphones don’t have such a smooth ride, unfortunately, as there can be a number of barriers to booking. These include small screen size, lack of mobile optimised websites and patchy internet connections. It is now well understood that smartphone bookings are mostly done last-minute and during the holiday, when there are no other convenient options (think car rentals on the way to the airport or accommodation bookings at baggage claim). Criteo research shows that more than half of Air Bookings made from smartphones are last minute, and for hotel bookings, 44 per cent of iPhone bookings are last-minute compared with 36 per cent of desktop bookings.
For this reason, it’s no surprise that the average value of Air Bookings is significantly higher on smartphones than desktop or tablets.
With all of that said, what now? Tablets and smartphones may make travel marketing (slightly) more complex, but they also provide new ways to reach consumers that simply weren’t available before. As customers spend more time on mobile, and move seamlessly across all their devices, advertisers need to develop marketing strategies that reflect this. These are a few things that it is clear marketers need to be thinking about when targeting holidaymakers:
- Optimise their sites for tablets, using technologies like responsive design, high quality images and touch-optimised controls.
- Simplify and streamline the booking experience for smaller-sized mobile devices, mostly used for last-minute, short stays.
- Integrate with mobile-friendly payment systems, to speed up the path to booking on smartphones.
The winners in the future will be the brands that adapt best to their customers changing habits, and take the necessary, bold steps forward.