Mobile booking; smartphone or tablet for your customers?

It’s never too late for your online travel website to go mobile, but how are your customers using smartphones and tablets?

When we talk about mobile strategy in travel marketing, we often group smartphones, tablets and any other non-desktop devices together under the all-encompassing “mobile” label. However, the daily users of these devices may differ somewhat, and, significantly, the way these devices are used means a specific strategy is needed for each.

We don’t need to review the stats to know that smartphones easily live up to their ‘mobile’ status; to be carried on our person at all times, whether home or out and about. But what about the tablet?

Though by definition a mobile device, it isn’t exactly pocket-sized. However, it is by no means a failed concept and its adoption by consumers and professionals is significant enough that we must cater our online services to the screen-size.

So how exactly does the tablet user interact with their device?

The mid-sized device seems to have taken on the natural role of the middle sibling between smartphone and computer – more versatile than the smartphone, yet easier than booting up the laptop and carting it to the sofa. In the office it is an object of convenience, keeping professionals connected in meetings – without the stigma associated with tapping away on your phone while someone is talking.

While it is important that your website renders properly on all screen sizes, it is important to understand which tasks are carried out on which devices. Only by doing this can you ensure you are providing the service that users and customers expect.

So what can this tell us about the consumer traveller?

Are they browsing or booking?

Smartphone screens fundamentally require less information and both designers and consumers alike understand this. Overcrowding only leads to cognitive overload and a poor user experience.

As a result, the mobile experience is expected to be straightforward and transactional – i.e. the consumer is more likely to use their pocket-sized gadget to actually book their trip.

For the richer information required during the travel research process, they are much more likely to seek the larger screen size of a tablet, or, let’s face it, their work computer (don’t pretend you don’t know what we’re talking about!).

This is not to say that tablets are not used to make a booking, but that special offers and marketing content may be better placed on these devices than their smaller counterparts.

The rise of the Mobile Travel Agent

Say your travel company specialises in trade sales, you might assume that your travel agent customers work solely on their computers during office hours. However, the competition of direct and online bookings has brought about a call for more flexibility from agents.

To stay relevant in a world where consumers are increasingly taking a more DIY approach using online booking sites, the travel agent has had to step up her customer service game. This means providing a round-the-clock service to their clients, searching and booking travel arrangements even after they’ve logged off and gone home, using their smartphone or company-issued iPad.

In this case, it is important that the agent has as much information as possible to feedback to their client and they will likely strive to find the best deal – meaning that the ease and research-friendly nature of a larger screen-size may be favoured.

Though these are good starting points, the best way to ensure you are providing the right experience is to regularly monitor activity on your site with analytics and usage statistics.

Once you know how your site is being used, you can better optimise your mobile strategy.

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