Mobile Paves a Path to Hotel Booking

SAN FRANCISCO—Mobile has gone from a nice-to-have feature—hotel-branded apps, mobile check-in and keyless entry—to a must-have in terms of facilitating the guest journey, from research to booking to post-trip reviews. What’s driving this shift is consumer behavior, access to evolving technology and a growing confidence in mobile as a primary resource for travel.

Sojern, a performance marketing platform for travel brands based here with offices in the U.S. and Asia-Pacific, partnered with Google on an interactive report examining trends in the hotel space. Some of the report’s findings were unexpected—mobile search is growing at a rapid clip for luxury hotels, and the fastest rising hotel brand for hotel bookings is Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants—and then, one not so much—mobile is the dominant channel for hotel searches.

“One thing that didn’t surprise me was that mobile is now crossover with 50% usage as far as search volume. It’s exciting to see that happen. People have been saying ‘It’s the year of mobile’ for over a decade and we’re here now,” said Kurt Weinsheimer, SVP of property solutions, Sojern.

A breakdown of the mobile search and booking activity by hotel type shows that for economy hotels, mobile is now 73% of all searches. For luxury hotels, it’s only 45% of all searches.

“I was surprised at the discrepancy between those two, but also interesting to see is the pace at which luxury mobile searches are gaining. There is a 23% growth in luxury mobile searches,” said Weinsheimer. “It’s not that luxury will never move into a mobile world; it’s a more considered purchase for an upscale property. You can see that the movement would be a little slower.”

Weinsheimer correlates these advances to travel catching up with consumer behavior. Travelers are spending more time on smartphones, and using larger mobile devices to explore, research and book hotels online.

“As smartphones get bigger, it’s easier to do thing like read articles and discover travel, and it becomes a much more interesting experience in a larger phone environment versus a smaller phone,” he said. “People are relying more on their phones for everything they do. There’s this idea you don’t have mobile users or desktop users, you have cross-device consumers. You can no longer have a mobile-only strategy like in the early days when they said mobile users were early adopters versus your typical desktop user. That’s no longer true. We see that it’s the same person using a desktop at work and mobile at home.”

The proof is in the data: Mobile makes up 20-30% of all hotel searches, with the weekends seeing an uptick as people log off their work computers and pick up their personal mobile devices. Mobile bookings represent 9-15% of all bookings on any given day, according to the report.

In terms of the fastest rising hotel brand in hotel booking, the Kimpton brand is up 88% in the upper-upscale segment and Home2 Suites is up 41% in the upper-midscale segment.

Anecdotally speaking, Weinsheimer explained the Kimpton brand has done a few things right—creating unique experiences in major cities, driving customer loyalty and staying ahead of trends. Home2 Suites is also holding its own in its segment. An increase in openings for Kimpton and Home2 Suites has increased their footprint and exposure for both brands.

“I stay at Home2 Suites in Omaha, NE, quite often and they do a terrific job. They definitely cater well to business travelers. They’re very efficient, friendly and the rooms are well appointed,” he said. “The brand has ticked a lot of the boxes for the budget business traveler.”

It’s about the audience, not the tool. Hoteliers need to make sure all of their digital platforms are providing a useful, informative, value-driven experience or risk losing business.

“When it gets to the booking process, it’s really important to be aware and learn,” he said. “The top players are very focused on mobile experience, including the major chains, OTAs and meta players.”