For both leisure and business, the modern traveler stays plugged in. If we break the entire travel experience down into three phases—pre-travel, during, and post-travel—there is one common denominator that ensures the ease of travel: online mobility. The traveler is, by definition, mobile. Throughout the actual journey mobile devices are the most accommodating for navigation, check-ins, communication, and local information. Native smartphone capabilities allow for personalization and practicality during the customers journey, unparalleled by any other type of device.
With 86% of bookings made on a desktop, the impact of mobile accessibility seems less obvious in the pre-travel phase. However, with bookings growth up 121% on smartphones since January 2013, and over 25% of travelers using smartphones to look for hotels, pre-travel customer engagement on mobile devices cannot be overlooked. The average American traveler will visit 5 sites before booking, which indicates the research process is long, fragmented, and multifaceted. It is vital to recognize that travel browsing ought to be available on mobile devices—just as all other types of shopping has. While the big decisions throughout the travel process are generally made on the desktop, there is massive potential for the mobile phone to supplement the travel-shopping experience.
Usablenet’s work with Best Western is a strong example of how multi-channel experiences can enhance the travel journey and increase customer loyalty. Because the smartphone follows the traveler, the brand decided to use smartphone location capabilities to allow users to find nearby hotels. From there, Best Western integrated third party TripAdvisor ratings and reviews with booking. In building these applications for mobile, Usablenet adapted website functionality and content to reflect user context and interface.
In terms of customer retention, Best Western is seeing remarkable results: for the fourth time, Best Western is ranked No.1 in Brand Keys Consumer Loyalty Engagement Index for midscale hotels. Best Western’s comprehensive service, and the resulting superb customer loyalty, is completely contingent on its ability to provide consistent, integrated multi-channel services. The brand is present throughout every step of the travel process because it is available from every digital access point. Instead of logging into a different site for every separate trip task, the traveler is able to use one channel to meet all needs.
For companies in the travel and hospitality industry, the strategy should not be to completely replace desktop for mobile in the pre-travel process. Rather companies should make the transition between devices as seamless as possible. For the travel industry in particular, where the internet usage almost necessarily spans across more than one type of device, it is important that the brand is represented consistently from every vantage point.