Imagine for a second that someone is trying to make a reservation for that same evening, but has already left the house so all they can use are mobile devices. Will your hotel's website be able to let that person make a reservation from their smartphone? What if it was a tablet instead?
Fewer tourists are using their computers to access travel information, and, according to the IDC (International Data Corporation), by 2015 more users will access the Internet through their mobile devices than anything else.
This means that hoteliers have important questions to ask themselves regarding how they should conduct their digital marketing strategy. Should you have an application for your hotel, or an optimized version of the website? Should you have a regular version and a mobile version or three versions (regular, smartphones and tablets)?
Optimized website or App?
Percentage of travelers that use a mobile device to search for travel information. Source: The 2012 Traveler, Google and Ipsos MediaCT
Not only are potential customers using their mobile devices to access the Internet, but to plan their trips as well. Google's recent study, The 2012 Traveler, says that since 2009 the number of leisure travelers using their mobile devices for travel information has increased by over 450%.
A great deal of these users ends up making their bookings via mobile device. 40% of leisure travelers book using mobile browsers, while only 12% book using apps. 36% of business travelers book using mobile browsers while only 17% book using apps. This signifies a greater importance of optimizing your website for mobile devices, than the creation of apps.
The greater importance for mobile optimized websites is good for hotels. Optimized websites are time and cost-effective. Furthermore, the optimized website is instantly available to the user no matter what device they might be using, is much easier for users to find as its pages can be displayed in search results, and is easier to share across platforms.
Tablets vs. Smartphones
Reasons for not booking on a mobile device. Source: The 2012 Traveler, Google and Ipsos MediaCT
Of the seven reasons that led potential customers not to make a booking from their mobile devices, four of them were due to the website's lack of quality, another due to a lack of trust in the security on mobile devices, and the remaining two due to factors outside of hoteliers' control.
This translates into a necessity for great looking, and also mobile optimized websites. Websites for both smartphones and tablets have characteristics in common. They both need to load very quickly as customers don't want to have to wait. But this commonality, does not mean that a mobile website will work for both kinds of devices.
While smartphones and tablets share characteristics like touch interfaces, there are great differences between the two devices that translate into changes in design. Smartphones are much smaller, and their displays can be low resolution (as low as 240×320 pixels). Tablets are bigger, and typically have high-resolution displays, similar to a notebook (Retina displays can have resolutions as high as 2560×1600). A high resolution means that the lower resolution mobile websites don't look good, and that the normal websites can have their links and texts be too small.
It's also important to realize that these two devices aren't usually used in the same manner. People tend to have their smartphones always with them and use them regularly throughout the day, while tablets are often used after work for leisure. This translates into smartphone bookings being last minute. In a study conducted by GuestCentric with over 300 hotels, a whopping 60% of smartphone bookings were for same night or next night stay.
With a market that is in a constant change and the inability to effectively predict how consumers search, hoteliers need to choose a technology strategy that will adapt to consumer behavior.
In a multi-channel, multi-device World, the problem lies in how can hoteliers afford to have multiple versions of their website, i.e. should hoteliers build two extra mobile versions for smartphone and tablet users, on top of the regular version? With tablets expected to rise by 180% and mobiles 68% in 2013, hoteliers certainly need to cater to this channel, but they also shouldn't make three website versions if they don't have the resources to make them all at the necessary level of quality.