Nobody travels without their smartphone, but to what extent do mobile sites make it possible for travelers to confidently use their devices when researching their trips, booking their flights and accommodations, traveling to their destinations, enjoying their trip, and sharing the experience after they return home? According to research that Usablenet conducted with travelers in the US and the UK, the answer varies at every stage of the travel experience. Let’s take those stages one by one.
Our study found that 41% of travelers do not use mobile devices for researching their trips. Given the ubiquity of phones and their near-constant use for everyday tasks, this is a sizable number. Compare it, for example, with the fact that a whopping 87% of respondents said they used their tablet for researching trips. We learned that many travel sites are not optimized for mobile; it’s hard to view photos and video on small screens, navigation is often difficult, and filtering is insufficient.
Once the research is done, it’s time to book the trip. This is when the money gets committed, the time off from work becomes official, and the planning begins. It’s a critically important stage and yet our research found that 58% of travelers are apprehensive to book on a mobile site. Respondents told us that they are frustrated by slow load times and fearful of losing the connection in the middle of the transaction. And then there is the security issue: 51% told us they were not likely to use mobile payments because they lack trust in providing their credit card number over open and unsecured wifi connections.
One area of the travel experience where the smartphone clearly trumps the tablet is on the trip itself. We found that 75% of travelers do not use their tablet while traveling. Likely this is due to the convenient size of mobile phones. So how can brands leverage the ubiquity of their guests’ phones? Given that people tend to keep their phones in the same locations on their person that they do their keys, functions like mobile check-in and keyless entry are a natural. In fact, 54% of travelers told us they would like to take advantage of mobile check-in.
The travelers have arrived and they want to go on an adventure, sightsee, shop, have dinner, and take in the local color. Rather than carry dog-eared guidebooks, or rely on concierges they can’t take with them, travelers want to be able to use their mobile phones to aggregate information about the local area and help them plan their days and nights. We found that 61% of travelers value local information on a brand’s mobile site. And when they return to the hotel, they’d like to be able to use the same device to order room service, request housekeeping, and access other amenities.
Whether a trip lived up to expectations or not, travelers always return home with stories to tell. But to what extent do they use their smartphones to do that sharing? Not many, we learned. Fewer than four out of 10 travelers shared the photos they had on their phone on social media. And nearly all said they would not be inclined to share their travel experience on a brand’s site unless it was convenient or beneficial to them. Possible incentives include offering discounts and special offers to guests who post photos on the brand’s mobile site or social media page.
What should brands do?
Improving the user experience of your mobile offerings throughout all these stages improves the travel experience of your guests and helps to ensure repeat business. For example, to help with researching trips, brands should pay special attention to basic UX elements such as filters (consider a “save this search” option), intuitive navigation, and high-quality visual content. Make sure users know that the same offers they see on the desktop are available on their smartphone, and keep content consistent across multiple screens. Also, structure the content so as to draw the user’s eyes to the most important elements.
To make users feel more secure about booking a trip on their mobile phone, brands should add UX elements that emphasize security, such as progress bars, security logos, and feedback messaging. Offering prefilled forms provides ease and the appeal of personalization, while posting review (both good and bad) increases credibility and trust.
Arriving guests should be able to choose between mobile self-serve and human interaction. For guests who are ready to go exploring, utilize contextually relevant content about the local area and refresh it frequently. Other opportunities include creating apps that focus on specific use cases, such as Virtual Concierge, Food & Beverage, Beauty Services, or Banqueting; expanding loyalty programs to encourage onsite enrollment and enable travelers to redeem points on future trips; and deep-linking third-party services (such as Uber) within apps.
Finally, there are memory-making tools that can be deployed to encourage travelers to share their experience once they’ve returned home. For example, Ritz Carlton has a program whereby travelers upload their photos to Twitter or Instagram and tag them #RCMemories; the photos then appear in the Ritz Carlton app. This keeps travelers engaged with the brand and provides prospective travelers with credible confirmation of the value of the experience.
For more on how to improve your mobile site and bring it in more in line with travelers’ needs and wants, view the Travel webinar here.