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It’s not just mobile: Understanding the omnichannel traveler

Mobile continues to have a growing influence on how consumers plan and book trips. Yet the travel journey remains very much a multi-device journey. According to a report by Eye for Travel, most people aren’t truly devoted to one device but instead switch between desktop, tablet and mobile.

In recognition of this omnichannel mentality, hotels simply can’t afford to view their mobile and desktop channels as separate units. Instead, a broader approach is required that involves strategically marketing to consumers through each stage of a fragmented online experience.

The following post highlights some of the key points identified by Eye for Travel and offers hotels actionable tips based on the latest industry findings.

A reliance on desktop

Perhaps surprisingly, travelers remain highly dependent on desktop and laptops. In a survey of British and German travelers, 49.9% and 62.1% of this group respectively used desktop to book their accommodation.

Studies have also revealed that a large percentage of people who start their research on a mobile device still switch to desktop when they book. In the UK, only 35.1% of those who predominantly researched on a smartphone booked on smartphone. In sharp contrast, 80.7% of those who predominantly used a desktop or laptop to research used this same device to book.

Potential reasons for this desktop dependence include the fact that browsing and booking on a larger screen is easier. Also, a study on perceived risks of using a mobile for travel bookings found that consumers are more wary of security issues when using a smartphone to make major purchases.

Conversion rates are higher for desktop

Consumers are also much more likely to convert on desktop than other devices. Last year in the US market, a survey by Jumpshot found that hotel conversion rates on mobile were just 1.25% while desktop conversion rates stood at 9.87%.

While the gap was smaller, the same study found that desktop conversion rates were higher in all other countries surveyed (the UK, Germany, Brazil and India).

But that doesn’t mean mobile should be ignored. Far from it. Mobile usage is rising around the world, particularly in emerging markets. For instance in India, two thirds of online traffic to major travel websites come via mobile sources.

In the coming years, this move to mobile will continue. The Eye for Travel report reveals that younger generations are far more likely to own and use smartphones than older demographics, and this is especially true when carrying out travel research. So it naturally follows that conversion rates on mobile will improve.

But the overriding message to remember is that right now, consumers are engaging with travel brands across different devices at different stages of the travel journey. For advertisers, understanding this online behavior is essential to target consumers with the most relevant message at the right place and right time.

With that in mind, here are a few ways to create an effective marketing strategy based on an omnichannel approach.

Marketing to the omnichannel traveler

omnichannel hotel marketing

To build a strong omnichannel presence, it’s important to first create in-depth guest profiles. Along with knowing preferences and spending habits, hotels also need to understand how guests search online, connect with the hotel brand, and the reasons they choose to book, or indeed, not book.

Broadly, most people seem to favor using mobile for research and planning, then switch to desktop when they book. Knowing this makes it possible to market strategically by targeting consumers with more relevant advertising. But optimizing for the omnichannel traveler also requires creating personalized content.

In a saturated marketplace, the brands that consumers are invariably drawn to are those that tailor their marketing to meet unique personal tastes, needs and desires.

In order to personalize content and truly influence the path to purchase, hotels need to pool together data from multiple sources. And the easiest place to start is by using the data you already possess.

Harnessing own-brand data

It’s possible to glean invaluable customer insights from a range of internal sources including booking data, loyalty programs, and spending habits from previous stays. Combined, each element can be used to flesh out a unique and highly detailed guest profile.

The key is to be observant when a guest stays at your hotel. Consider every interaction as a chance to learn something new and valuable. By paying attention to things such as how much a person spends at the hotel restaurant, whether they order room service or book a spa treatment, you can quickly establish what makes them tick.

Instead of a scattergun approach based on guesswork and assumption, this bedrock of personal data will help you segment your audience and influence decision-making through more tailored marketing.

Build out guest profiles using third-party data

Alongside own-brand data, you can gain a wealth of information by partnering with third-party platforms. This strategy lets you track how guests interact in a wider online context, revealing how they connect with your brand at various touchpoints and which devices they use.

In the Eye for Travel report, Riko van Santen, VP Digital Strategy & Distribution at Kempinski Hotels, describes how the brand builds upon its own “micro-information” by using third-party sources such as the Facebook API. This integration allows their team to look at search habits, track when people search, and identify how they reach (or don’t reach) the Kempinski website.

By widening the lens, hotels such as Kempinski can see which channel guests come from, the steps that led them to book, and the obstacles that might have prevented them from doing so. This data-driven approach underpins what the omnichannel approach is all about: understanding a consumer’s preferences and their unique digital journey in order to market to them with greater precision and personalization.

Rethinking analytics and attribution

It’s also no longer sufficient to rely only on “last click attribution” to gain insights into consumer behavior and decision-making. This approach only tells the end of the story and neglects to consider all the incremental steps taken along the way.

So, what’s the alternative to relying on traditional KPIs?

Christian Tommerup, Head of Paid Media at Nustay, believes marketers must shift away from using traditional metrics (such as cost-per-click and conversion rates) and use the wealth of data at their disposal to understand and uniquely interact with users across all channels.

By assigning customers with a unique numbered ID, a brand could recognize each user on third-party platforms and incrementally build up a more accurate customer persona. This data would then support “custom algorithms” that identify users on all channels and target them with personalized ads.

Moving beyond single-channel mentality

Despite the continued surge in mobile usage, consumers remain highly dependent on desktop, especially when it comes to booking. Fragmented and often circuitous, the digital journey of the omnichannel traveler is one all hotels need to get to grips with.

To reach this modern digital consumer, marketing messages need to be consistently delivered across devices and channels. Instead of being generic, ads must be highly contextual, tailored to a person’s preferences and timed to match the specific stage of their path to purchase.

By understanding the unique needs of guests, and then integrating with systems that send them timely and relevant deals, hotels can rise to the omnichannel challenge.

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