Tablet Adoption Changing How Guests Search (and Book)!

I’ve written previously about the increasing impact of social and mobile on consumer behaviour in general, and of course in the travel space in particular. More data came out last week with a report in Mobile Marketer on the effects of the continued rapid adoption of tablets.

The headline that caught my eye was “Tablet Paid Search Overtakes Smartphones in Q4”. Originally authored by Marin Software, the report stated that

“During the fourth-quarter of 2012, paid search spend on tablets eclipsed smartphones for the first time.”

Specifically, what they saw was that “advertisers significantly increased their investment in paid search on tablets last year, with spend share growing from 4.8 percent to 10 percent in 2012.”

I know; you’re asking yourself why should I care about online advertising spend moving around a bit? The answer is that it’s just one more indication of consumer (‘guest’) behavior shift. As referenced in an earlier post, it’s not the tech itself, it’s what people are doing with it that impacts your occupancy (positively or negatively).

Here’s the shift. The share of Google paid-search clicks from mobile devices rose from 14.2 percent to 23.4 percent last year. Paid search ads are those ads you see at the right and on top of your results page when you search in Google. Google can see, and reports to all of us who monitor our websites and ads via Google Analytics and AdWords exactly what platform, device and even operating system it came from (so yes they know if we’re still on Windows 98 or IE 3).

They also report on when you search and by what keywords (what you entered in the search box). Google had earlier reported that they could see patterns indicating people searched during the day on their desktop computer, over lunch on their smartphone, and in the evening on their tablet. Sound familiar? It’s often not even that distinct. How many times have you found yourself in an email conversation that you started on your desktop, and did portions of on your smartphone and/or tablet…seamlessly answering the next message on whatever device you happened to have in your hand?

The takeaway is that today’s ‘Connected Consumers’ have become device agnostic. They expect to be able to find and interact with your website on any appliance they happen to be using. They expect to complete their booking the same way. If your website and booking engine aren't ‘responsive-design’ to enable them to resize to display and work properly on a smartphone or tablet, it’s probably costing you bookings.

Responsive-design, and using search engine optimization (SEO) to make your website as ‘findable’ and useful as possible are now pretty much table-stakes. With Smith Travel Research (STR) showing that a minimum of 37 percent of an average hotel’s revenue comes from online sources (OTA’s, Brand.com and GDS), it’s imperative to be visible in as many places as your potential guest may be.

The key learning from the ‘tablet’ advertising stat I started the post with is that savvy advertisers move dollars with consumer movement. The spike in paid search volume on tablets (part of the “mobile” category) is a clear indicator that this platform is now hitting an inflection point. If you’ve been putting off evolving your website and booking engine to be responsive-design to capture mobile guest bookings… no time like the present to give this serious consideration.

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