Mobile Hotel Websites – A Thought Piece.
By buuteeq
Wednesday, 12th June 2013
Why Mobile? – An Executive Summary -

Mobile Internet use is exploding, but few hotels are optimized for mobile.

The use of mobile devices to make travel plans and book rooms is increasing every day, while desktop Internet use will soon be supplanted. Having a website is simply not enough anymore.

Online transactions are an important part of a hotel's revenue stream, and increasingly, these transactions are made from mobile devices. Because of this, hotels need to optimize their digital marketing presences for mobile and tablet devices quickly in order to be ready when mobile Internet use overtakes desktop use. Those that don't will be unable to compete in online market arenas.

buuteeq's Cloud DMS software allows hoteliers and hotel marketers to create, customize and publish mobile optimized hotel websites that conform to or exceeds all modern mobile website standards and performance expectations, delivering high-quality and attractive hotel marketing content to guests in a way that encourages increased direct reservations and last-minute mobile bookings.

This document refers to industry lingo. A glossary of terms is provided at the end of the document.

The Data

Mobile Internet use is increasing faster than all previous technologies, including radio, TV, PC and social media adoption.

  • Nearly half of all guests start their trip planning from mobile devices.
  • Nearly half of all guests book rooms from mobile devices.
  • Hotel websites discovered from mobile search are used more often than travel apps to perform travel research and make travel purchases.
  • Travel planning and purchasing from mobile devices is projected to increase and overtake desktop PC use by Q2 of 2013.
  • Travel planning spans multiple devices over a period of many days. The use of mobile devices consumes a significant percentage of this time.
  • A poor mobile experience is the primary deterrent guests experience when seeking to make a mobile hotel reservation.
Mobile Internet Use is Increasing

Not only is mobile Internet use increasing, but travelers are making plans and booking rooms from mobile devices. Google predicts that by Q2 of 2013, travel related search queries will increase by 68% from smartphones and 180% from tablets (Google, July 2012).

Properties optimized for mobile devices will receive prominence on search engines like Google. Optimized websites will receive more traffic, giving hotels more direct online reservations. Hotels that are not optimized will leave money on the table by losing more of their steady business as travelers switch to mobile computing.

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Google is experimenting with marking mobile optimized websites in search engine result pages (SERPS) with a mobile icon.

Guests Use Mobile Search

Today, 40% of leisure travelers and 36% of business travelers use mobile search engines to find hotels and book overnight accommodations from mobile devices (Google, July 2012). This percentage is expected to grow until more mobile bookings are made from mobile devices than from desktop computers (Google, Feb. 2012).

Last-minute bookings are impulse buys made on the spot, at need. Already, far more last-minute bookings are made from mobile devices than desktop computers. These consumers prefer to book directly from websites found via search engines than using any other method, including smartphone applications.

Hotel marketing identities that are not optimized for mobile today are missing out on last-minute bookings, handing this revenue off to competitors. This makes it critical that individual hotels have mobile optimized websites and booking engines in order to capture these customers.

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Travel Plans Start on Mobile Devices

Almost half (47%) of all travelers start their travel planning from a mobile device. Only 38% start from a PC, while currently, 15% start from a tablet (this metric is projected to rise significantly next year). (Google, September 2012).

Google's data demonstrates that guests use multiple devices during the lifecycle of a travel-related purchase. Many guests start their travel plans using mobile devices—this gives them a first impression, which guests use to immediately judge the suitability of a hotel property.

Therefore, it is exceedingly important that a hotel has a mobile optimized presence so that a guest's first impression is a good one. Even if the guest doesn't book directly from a mobile device, the first good impression obtained will follow them to their desktop PC, where they will likely make a reservation in the favor of a mobile optimized property.

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Travel Plans Continue on Mobile Devices

Not only do guests start making travel plans on mobile devices, but others that start from PCs continue from mobile devices. Of all possible web activities, travel planning took the highest percentage of people who continue on mobile devices after starting on PCs or tablets, beating out even online shopping.

This evidence shows that trip planning is a lengthy process that often spans multiple days across numerous devices, especially mobile devices. An optimized mobile presence, which includes a mobile website and a mobile booking engine, is imperative to ensure a consistently good research and booking experience for guests.

Properties optimized for the mobile behavior of guests will see an increase in not only last-minute bookings, but all bookings made as a result of trip planning.

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A Poor Mobile Experience Costs Bookings

Travelers and guests report that the primary thing that deters them from making a mobile overnight booking is that the hotel's website is not optimized for mobile. 36% said that difficult mobile navigation is the main deterrent, and 28% said that page load speed is the main deterrent (Google, July 2012).

This evidence indicates that mobile optimized websites need to have two primary characteristics: 1) A well designed information architecture that leads to intuitive, logical website navigation, optimized for fingers swiping instead of mice clicking, and 2) Optimized page load speed.

Properties that create mobile optimized websites that don't excel in these two critical areas will encourage more guests to immediately navigate away, reducing the number of direct online bookings and hindering property virality based on guest recommendation.

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Mobile Web vs. Mobile Apps

Mobile apps are important, but when it comes to hotel bookings, people still prefer to make online reservations directly from hotel websites instead of through smartphone applications. Nielsen reports that 69% of mobile users prefer the mobile web to find hotel information, while Google reports that only 12% book rooms from apps (compared to 40% from mobile web) (Google, July 2012; Nielsen, June 2012).

This is further evidence that each hotel needs an individual, personalized mobile-ready web presence first. Mobile apps should be considered as icing on the cake—something to be pursued after a basic mobile optimized online marketing presence is achieved.

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Agency vs. SaaS

Traditionally, hoteliers approached web design agencies to hand-craft custom mobile websites. These custom websites tended to be as expensive as or more expensive than a regular website. Agencies we have researched charge on average $1,500 for a simple 5-page mobile website. If the website integrates with a CMS like WordPress or Joomla, the fee skyrockets to upwards of $3,000-$5,000. Custom, static mobile websites begin to be depreciated the moment they are published, and they do not advance with technology over time.

buuteeq's Cloud DMS is a software as a service (SaaS) product, meaning the client subscribes annually and enjoys all technology innovations and adaptations during that time. buuteeq does research and improves its technology as technology advances and then passes those improvements on to clients at no additional charge. This ensures that clients' mobile websites are always modern, at the head of mobile technology, and always up-to-date.

Additionally, buuteeq's mobile optimized websites are integrated into their own proprietary CMS, called the Cloud DMS. Clients can log-in and make changes to their marketing materials any time, any place, and publish them instantly to their mobile device.

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The benefit of working with an agency is high-touch, personal, one-on-one interaction. SaaS, on the other hand, focuses on the product and the results that product delivers. Instead of an experience provided by an agency, hoteliers enjoy a superior, innovative product produced by SaaS.

With SaaS, one is investing in living, breathing technology. buuteeq does research and makes new product innovations, delivering these advances to customers.

Working with an agency is an investment in a person or a small group, which delivers high-touch work for the moment, but produces technology that suffers to deprecation over time.

The comparison is apples to oranges, and one is encouraged to choose a solution that best fits one's priorities.

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