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10 reasons why hotels must embrace mobile optimization

Today, mobile devices are the preferred method for accessing internet information, so ignoring this important marketing and communication tool is no longer realistic. If you want your hotel or hospitality business to grow, you must embrace mobile users and optimize your hotel website for smartphones before you are left wondering where your guests went. Here is a hint…they all went to your competition!

1. Nearly everyone owns a smartphone now

Today, the majority of Americans now have at least one mobile smartphone. According to a Pew Research report in 2015, nearly two-thirds (64%) of U.S. adults own a smartphone. This is almost double the number (35%) who owned one in 2011, and the total number of smartphone users in the U.S. is expected to reach 236 million by 2019. There are approximately 2 billion smartphone users around the world, and by 2019 it is anticipated that China alone will be home to 690 million smartphone users. It is clear that smartphones are here to stay, so learning how people are using these devices is essential to understanding how your hotel can optimize for mobile users.

2. More people access the Internet from mobile phones

With the first iPhone released in 2007, everyone knew it was going to be a game changer, but most people probably underestimated by how much. That first multi-touch interface screen that made interacting with the internet so accessible and user-friendly has changed the way we live our daily lives and is changing how businesses operates. In May 2015, Google announced that more searches are taking place on mobile devices (not including tablets) than desktop or laptop computers in the U.S., Japan, and eight other countries. And according to Cisco, global mobile data traffic grew by 74% in 2015 due to an influx of new devices and connections introduced in these areas.

3. Smartphones have changed mobile users’ expectations

With the rise of the smartphone, people have changed their behaviors and how they view businesses based on their mobile experiences. Users now expect a high level of responsiveness, ease of use, and access to information quickly. Rather than the bulk of information that is available on a traditional website, mobile users want the quickest route to achieve a particular goal. This is difficult to provide if your hotel website is not mobile optimized. According to Netbiscuits, 76% of consumers will not even try using a website from their phone that is not mobile-friendly. Gone are the days when users might zoom in and search for links to book a room at your hotel. If your site is not smartphone ready, your customers are going to look elsewhere, and faster than you think.

4. Mobile users are highly impatient

mobile users impatient at non-mobile friendly sites

While you already know you only have one opportunity to make a first impression, you now have less than 15 seconds to make it a good one. Mobile download times can significantly help or hurt your hotel’s bottom line before your customers even get to the booking page. Mobile users expect the same web-browsing experience as they do with their desktops when it comes to speed. According to Kissmetrics:

  • 19% of mobile users will abandon a page that does not load within 5 seconds
  • 30% of mobile users will abandon a page that does not load in 6 to 10 seconds
  • 16% of mobile users will abandon a page that does not load in 11 to 15 seconds

Even for those users who are willing to wait for your page to load, they have already formed a negative opinion of your site because of the perception that your hotel does not care about their time.

5. Slow loading times equal lost revenues

Unfortunately, slow loading times are the norm rather than an exception to the rule due to the slow adoption of mobile optimization tools for many websites. According to Kissmetrics:

  • 73% of mobile users said they have encountered a slow mobile website
  • 51% have encountered a site that crashed, froze, or gave them an error message
  • 48% said they have visited sites that had formatting issues, making it hard to read

Because of these negative mobile experiences, users will search for another site that is mobile optimized rather than waste time trying to figure out one that is not. With just a one second delay in page response times, your hotel could be losing a 7% reduction in booking conversions. For sites that earn $100,000 per day, that one second delay will add up to $2.5 million in lost sales for the year.

6. Looks matter on your mobile site

Whoever says that looks do not matter does not own a smartphone. Even if you do have mobile optimization tools in place, mobile websites need to look as good as they work. Your mobile landing page must also embrace the less-is-more aesthetic. Headlines should be no more than five words, call to action buttons must be big and bright, forms need to be easy to complete, and aside from your logo or single photos, there should be minimal to no distracting visual elements cluttering up the page. Pinch and manual zoom actions will drive users away, so keep everything button-friendly and auto-zoom optimized. Above all, it must be responsive to look and function beautifully on the more than 500 different mobile device screen sizes out there today. While this might seem like a lot of work, it is worth it to keep the 30% of visitors who will abandon a transaction due to a poorly optimized site.

7. The competition is winning your bookings

When a mobile user abandons a site due to a lack of mobile optimization, slow download times, or poorly designed pages, they go straight to the competition. While you can continue to ignore the facts and rely on the desktop, laptop, and tablet users only, your mobile-optimized competition will be more than happy to take those mobile revenues. According to Mobify, 18% of total digital travel transactions are completed on mobile devices, and that is projected to double by 2017. Aside from the initial booking process, savvy travelers now expect specialized mobile services, such as hotel check-in functions, in-destination booking services, and quick access to reliable customer services. Of luxury hotel brands, 84% are now providing mobile optimization.

8. Last-minute travelers use mobile devices

travelers use mobile for last-minute bookings

You might think the majority of mobile users who visit a hotel site on their smartphone are searching for last minute deals. According to Phocuswright:

  • Nearly 25% of hotel searches via mobile were for same or 1-day dates
  • Approximately 20% of hotel searches via mobile were for 2-7 days out
  • Nearly 30% of hotel bookings via mobile were for same or 1-day dates
  • Approximately 25% of hotel bookings via mobile were for 2-7 days out

While these trends are good and will continue to grow as mobile users increase and hotel mobile booking sites improve over the next few years, it is not the full story.

9. Pre-travel planners use mobile devices too

People who are planning future trips are also starting their searches on mobile devices. This is because mobile users tend to use multiple devices to accomplish a goal, like planning a trip. According to Google, 90% of people will move between their smartphones, tablets, desktops, and laptops to complete an online task. Users may start doing research on a smartphone, but will then move to a different device to continue their research and finalize transactions. According to Phocuswright:

  • Approximately 25% of hotel searches via mobile were for 8-30 days out
  • Nearly 30% of hotel searches via mobile were for 30+ days out
  • Approximately 25% of hotel bookings via mobile were for 8-10 days out
  • Nearly 20% of hotel bookings via mobile were for 31+ days out

While there is no real difference between last minute and long term booking conversion rates, users most likely interacted with your mobile site at some point in the planning stages.

10. Google loves mobile-optimized sites

If you are still not convinced that your hotel site will benefit greatly from mobile optimization, maybe a little extra incentive from Google will push you in the right direction. Google, Bing, and Yahoo are all big fans of mobile searches. In April 2015, Google updated their ranking algorithm, jokingly referred to as Mobilegeddon, to improve search results for mobile-friendly sites. While the changes were not nearly as earth-shattering as the nickname would have you to believe, it was a significant move forward in the world of mobile optimized site rankings. As it stands, Google will either reward or penalize you based on your website’s mobile-friendly status.

Mobile optimization is the future

Bottom line, if your hotel or travel business does not have a mobile optimized site or is using a poorly designed mobile site, it is time to reevaluate your priorities before it gets left behind. Rather than losing out to your competition, it is time to take advantage of these mobile opportunities and be the site that users go to after another site has driven them away following a negative mobile experience there.

Steffan Berelowitz

Steffan Berelowitz

Steffan is the SVP Enterprise E-commerce. A pioneer in all things web and mobile, Steffan has spent more than 20 years in online services and technology. He loves traveling, the planet Earth, and his amazing wife and sons. Contact him at steffan@pegs.com.

3 thoughts on “10 reasons why hotels must embrace mobile optimization

  1. Dear Steffan,

    as a fan of mobile devices, I truly agree with everything you mentioned in your post. I also collected several stats that support and little bit extend your article. You can find it here: http://blog.roomassistant.com/say-yes-to-mobile-apps/

    Would you recommend any way how to persuade hotel managers that mobile technology is a must these days?

    Thank you for your insights.


    Lukáš Kakalejčík

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