What ‘the year of the three-screen hospitality’ actually entails

I recently read an interesting article by Max Starkov called 2013: The year of three-screen hospitality which has raised some questions in my mind. With the immense changes predicted for 2013 digital consumer behavior, it can be a challenge to know how to properly prepare. This article sparked my curiosity, in particular about mobile trends, what to expect from the multi-screen world and how hotel marketers should be responding.

Which is more effective for mobile sites – straight-to-the-point or content rich?

At one point in the article, Starkov states that a mobile website – which in his terms only classifies a site for smartphones – “requires short, slimmed-down and straight-to-the-point content: hotel location, maps and directions, summary of the hotel product, easy to use mobile booking engine, and a click-to-talk property reservation number.”  Yet later on in the article, he explains that “without a well-optimized, content-rich, property-specific mobile site, [consumers] would go to the competition or to online travel agencies.” So which one is it – the slimmed-down essentials-only website or the content rich and engaging one?

Expedia ComScore Study

The answer, from what we see, is that a proper and functional mobile website requires all of the above. Although hotel contact information and directions are convenient and necessary features, they’re most relevant for travelers who are already traveling to your property, while rich content is particularly helpful in the pre-booking, research phase. You need to first grab consumer attention during the shopping journey with a content rich website to inspire a desire to visit your hotel. Rich media content is just the way to accomplish this.
In fact, a recent Expedia and ComScore study found that 2 in 3 people use their mobile devices at least once a month to dream of travel trips. Furthermore, 55% of travelers have said photos are helpful when looking for travel ideas, and 21% said the same for videos.₁

Basically a mobile website needs to address the needs of travelers throughout the entire shopping journey – pre-booking, booking, while traveling and post travel.

How important is tablet optimization?

The article states, “Tablet users require deep, visually enhanced content about the property, its product and destination, etc. This is why all hoteliers serve their desktop website content on tablet devices today.” I agree it is certainly important to provide tablet shoppers with a visually appealing shopping experience, but using your desktop website is not the most ideal way to achieve this and should not be interpreted as an alternative to creating a tablet optimized website.

Instead, hotel marketers need to assess the consumer behavior and preferences of tablets shoppers then build an optimized website that caters to these needs. According to a Google survey some of the top demands include, a search bar that is easy to find and use (78%), a page that fits their screen dimensions (76%), non-scrolling forms (73%) and big finger friendly buttons (69%).₂ Each of these demands involves the website to be designed specifically for tablet capabilities – a desktop version just does not meet these requirements and ultimately, consumer preferences.

What impact does Wi-Fi or carrier mobile browsing make to consumer behavior?

Again, some interest arose in my mind with Starkov’s statement that studies “show that 85% to 90% of tablet browsing happens via a Wi-Fi connection, while mobile devices use telecommunication carriers to access the Web.” This is contrary to our analytics (using SiteCatalyst) which state that consumers access all mobile galleries and property level mobile (smartphone) websites, equally between Wi-Fi and carrier. Another observation I have made is that there is no difference in the amount of media consumed when on Wi-Fi or carrier. However, we do see an 88/12 split between Wi-Fi/carrier on tablet devices which better aligns with his findings.

What are the barriers to mobile booking?

Finally, I disagree with the reasoning behind this point, “Very few people are comfortable entering their credit-card information into their phone in a public place. Very few hotel mobile websites provide an alternative to guaranteeing your booking without entering your credit card.”
This is a misconception brought up by not bearing in mind the whole situation. You need to consider the entire shopping journey – not just the point of conversion when analyzing statistics. As stated earlier, 48 % of people are using their mobile devices during the early stages of their shopping journey for travel inspiration and initial research. At this stage, they are browsing for options and aren’t ready to book yet. Strictly comparing your page views to booking transactions does not account for those who are in the research and shopping stages, therefore it’s not an accurate measurement of success.

Expedia ComScore Study

People are not hesitant to make purchases on smartphones, and the fact that the US alone spent $1.6 billion through theirs this year should be enough proof.₃ If you provide mobile shoppers with an appealing and engaging shopping experience that includes an optimized booking engine, you are strongly increasing your chances of getting their booking in the end.

There’s no doubt in my mind that mobile and the ‘three-screen world’ is approaching reality that hotel marketers need to address and adapt to. What is really crucial to hotel marketers’ success is ensuring they are educating themselves on the proper mobile marketing best practices.

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