This is a guest post from Jess Bahr.
According to Phocuswright’s Traveler Technology Survey 2014 published last month, “one in four leisure travelers used their smartphone to book leisure in 2014, up from only 15% in 2013.”
The Google 2014 Traveler Study indicated that almost 40% of travelers report having made travel-related purchases through a mobile device in Q1 of 2014, with mobile only bookings experiencing an 84% uplift from the previous year.
The data, as always, tells a story. If you look closely, the increase in users accessing sites through mobile and tablet devices is far greater than the decrease seen in desktop traffic and bookings, indicating that users are using mobile and tablet devices in conjunction to desktop to book travel, not replacing the desktop experience with a mobile or tablet.
The same report shows 47% of users begin their trip planning process on a mobile device, with 45% of those users moving to a desktop and 3% to a tablet to continue the booking process.
While non-desktop traffic is cannibalizing desktop traffic, what we are really seeing is the development of a cross-platform experience where the user is accessing the same site from multiple devices in order to complete the booking process.
Users are beginning the booking journey on mobile and tablet devices, searching for location, hotel amenities, and available rooms. For the user, the goal of this non-desktop activity is determining the best location and place to stay. For the brand, the goal should be helping users find pertinent information that will influence the decision to stay at one property or location over another.
The user then enters the same travel site through a desktop with the intent to make a reservation at a property or location they have already researched. For the user, the goal of this visit is to verify the decision previously made and then complete the booking process. For the brand, the goal should be to usher the user through the reservation funnel, reducing friction as much as possible.
Winning brands will adapt a cross-platform optimization strategy which evaluates the psychology of the user on each specific device, developing an experience which speaks to a plethora of users and use-cases instead of optimizing one site to meet broad user needs across multiple devices.