Key takeaways from Google’s Micro-Moments research

In Google’s six-part series Travel Micro-Moments Guide: How to Be There and Be Useful for Travelers, the online travel journey is described as one of fragmented “micro-moments.” These short and focused bursts of online activity include any specific moment where a traveler turns to the internet (whether on desktop or mobile) to research something related to travel. Google categorizes these moments into four distinct phases: dreaming, planning, booking and experiencing.

For hotels, understanding how consumers behave during these micro-moments has huge implications, not least because each moment represents an opportunity to influence their final booking decision. The following guide includes five of the report’s most significant takeaways and the key implications for hotels, focusing primarily on Google’s “Time to make a plan” and “Let’s book it” moments.

google-travel-micro-moments
Source: Think with Google

1) Mobile search is heavy in the research phase

The travel journey is increasingly becoming a mobile one, and this is especially true in the research phase. According to Google, 70% of travelers with smartphones have conducted travel research on their mobile. With the freedom to carry out research anywhere and anytime, travelers can now quickly consult countless online resources to inform their ultimate booking decision. Typically, these bursts of activity are fleeting in duration, taking place over multiple sessions over a course of weeks or even months.

Key takeaway for hotels

During these “micro-moments” of travel research, customers are often on the move and in a hurry. Given that their time is limited and attention span often stretched, providing a great user experience is essential, which is why having a mobile-friendly website is crucial.

google-traveler-smartphone-apps
Source: Think with Google

A website that isn’t optimized for mobile requires customers to pinch and zoom to see text and images—a frustrating experience that can lead them to abandoning the site altogether. Mobile-friendly sites should also be responsive so that they’re optimized for all devices and screen sizes. As well as ensuring the best possible user experience, mobile-friendly websites are favored by Google and are more likely to be placed higher up in their search results.

2) Search requests are specific

Google’s study found that search via search engines is the most common method travelers use to find the brand they eventually book with. These initial searches also frequently involves travelers entering a specific destination, such as “hotels in Miami.” When it comes to hotel search on mobile, a significant amount of travelers are also looking for specific amenities. As of March 2016, 70% of these types of smartphone search either featured the phrase “hotel with an indoor pool” or “hotel with jacuzzi in room.”

Key takeaway for hotels

Hotels need to invest in a good SEO strategy to ensure their hotels appear in specific keyword searches on both mobile and desktop. Take the time to find out the kind of amenities guests like most about your property. The information you gather can then be used to inform your SEO strategy, helping you to rank for keywords that your target customers are searching on.

Making sure you accurately list amenities also has another big benefit. Recently, Google Hotel Finder added a filter that lets travelers check out a hotel’s amenities using a simple dropdown menu. This means travelers now have a quick and easy way to filter out hotels during these increasingly frequent amenity-based searches.

One way to make sure your amenities show up in this filter is by keeping an up-to-date verified Google business listing. This simple step will give you far more chance of attracting potential customers as they conduct their search with a specific kind of hotel in mind.

3) Travel research involves hundreds of touchpoints

Google’s research also revealed the sheer number of online resources people consult during the planning phase of their trip. Over a 3-month period, Google monitored the decision-making process of a traveler named Gina to see just how involved this process was.

Source: Think with Google

In just three months, Gina had 850 digital travel touchpoints, which included looking at maps (24%), carrying out search (19%), checking out events and activities (13%) and looking at restaurants (9%).

Key takeaway for hotels

Google’s observations reveal that the research phase of the average traveler is both extensive and varied. As such, it’s important to make sure your hotel is present throughout this crucial planning stage, influencing decision-making long before customers are ready to book.

Maintaining a regular blog is just one way to provide helpful and inspiring content to get travelers excited about your destination. This might involve posting about the best beaches, the most secluded nature spots, or the funkiest bars in your neighborhood. Beyond blogging, there are a host of other ways you can build out a content market strategy that sparks a sense of wanderlust and helps travelers plan their trip, potentially leading them back to your site.

4) Price shopping happens mostly on desktop

Despite the fact mobile plays a huge role in the travel process, many travelers are reverting to desktop to complete their booking. When it comes to hotel bookings, Google found that 50% of travelers switched from mobile to desktop because they wanted to compare prices.

Key takeaway for hotels

Clearly, hotels need to find ways of instilling consumer confidence in pricing. While this might seem a pretty big challenge, booking hesitancy can be reduced to a large degree by integrating a price-matching tool into the hotel website.

By providing real-time price comparisons with OTAs, customers have the ability to compare rates all in one place. When a hotel’s rates come out favorably, it gives customers the confidence to complete their booking knowing they’re getting the best possible deal.

leisure-travelers-information-check
Source: Think with Google

As well as facilitating price comparison, the presence of an independent price-checking tool enables hotels to convey transparency. This comes with a significant benefit: if travelers perceive a hotel to be open and honest, they’re more likely to feel a sense of brand trust and loyalty. This in turn can help alleviate a certain amount of hesitancy that’s leading many customers to reconsider booking on mobile.

5) Too many steps reduces conversions

Mobile customers want information fast. Google’s research revealed that 45% of travelers said they’d switch to desktop if finding relevant information or making a booking involved too many steps.

This impatient mindset is understandable. During fleeting micro-moments, travelers are often on the move and want information quickly. Mobile has also cultivated a last-minute booking trend that inherently involves a greater urgency in the minds of travelers.

Key takeaway for hotels

Hotels need to make the mobile booking process as streamlined as possible. First, customers should easily be able to find relevant information to inform their decision-making. Room features, amenities and prices should ideally be clearly displayed in one view to eliminate unnecessary back and forward navigation.

The checkout process should also be as simple as possible. People hate filling out online forms at the best of times, but form filling on mobile is especially frustrating. By only asking for essential details such as a customer’s name, address and credit card information, conversion rates on mobile stand to significantly benefit.  

traveler-smartphones-sites-apps
Source: Think with Google

While a frustrating mobile experience may lead a customer to book on the hotel’s desktop site instead, it could lead to them abandoning their booking altogether. When travelers want to complete a booking quickly, removing unnecessary obstacles in their path to conversion is essential to reduce the chance of this happening.

A new era, a new customer journey

Thanks to mobile technology, consumers have instant access to an online world full of travel inspiration and booking options. From the dreaming phase to the booking phase, they’re interacting with hundreds of digital touchpoints and being influenced in countless ways.

Drawing upon Google’s research, hotels now have access to a wealth of insights that reveal exactly when, where and how decisions are formed along this long and often complex route. By considering this digital landscape in its entirety, hoteliers can then connect and influence customers by providing useful, relevant and timely content at every step of the travel journey.

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.

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