How's Your Mobile Experience?

Last month, I wrote about the rise of mobile travel guides (and some of the problems they face). Researching travel on your mobile device is a no-brainer – the convenience and level of detail are great for exploring new places – but what about purchasing travel? Do consumers trust mobile for purchasing flights, hotels, and the like? 

In July, eMarketer profiled research from mobile ad platform JiWire that outlined consumers’ propensity for making “travel-related purchases” via mobile devices. The results were interesting; while the laptop was still the clear winner for purchases (63% of those surveyed purchased via laptop), 39% purchased travel via tablet, and 27% purchased via their mobile phone. Breaking these numbers down further, the study found that almost half (47%) used multiple devices to book travel, while only 6% booked via smartphone only. 



Consumers are still a little skittish about making bigger purchases via smartphone, though this is changing across industries (especially in retail). Generally we’ve seen the reluctance to purchase via mobile blamed on trust: the fact that consumers just aren’t convinced that their data is secure enough to purchase items via their phones. But what if that’s not entirely the case? Are consumers not booking travel via mobile because they don’t trust mobile yet for big purchases? Or are they not booking travel via mobile because the mobile experiences they’re having are just not good enough? 

While the trust issue is a much harder one to solve – though I’m convinced that consumers’ comfort with major purchases via mobile will continue to improve quickly – the mobile experience is well within our control. Not that it’s easy, mind you. Responsive mobile sites and/or apps take time and resources to build, manage, and update (I’ll leave the mobile site vs. app debate for another time). But think about the implicit message you send to prospective customers when they have a poor mobile experience with your brand. 

The act of travel is completely about experience – you’re not buying a tangible physical thing that sits in your home, you’re buying a series of events and encounters that will ideally change you in some way or give you “a new way of looking at things,” to quote Henry Miller. In short, you’re buying an experience. If a prospective customer’s first experience with your brand via smartphone is a series of cluttered, virtually unclickable calls to action with no imagery and no brand tone and/or feel, how likely are they to trust you with giving them the kind of travel experience they want? 

The eMarketer study also indicates that 48% of smartphone users research travel on their devices – that’s about the same as tablets (49%) and just below laptops (56%). So almost half of the audience is researching on their phones, but only about a quarter are booking. That’s a pretty significant gap. If mobile is their first point of entry in the travel planning process, and they’re inspired to visit your mobile site only to be presented with a poor experience, chances are they won’t coming back – regardless of how good the experience on your other channels might be. 

The “Mobile First” evangelists out there are right. As marketers, we tend to get pummeled by groupthink (“Gmail tabs are going to kill us!”) and lofty pronouncements (“Social is going to bury email!”), so we’re right to be skeptical – but mobile isn’t going away. Inspiration strikes us at all times of the day, not just when we’re sitting in front of a computer. And what one device do we have at our sides all day long? That’s why your customer experience should be mobile first as well. Build an experience for prospective customers that they’ll remember and return to when they’re inspired to book their travel; chances are they’ll be booking that travel with you.

1 comment about "How's Your Mobile Experience? ".
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  1. Todd Wilson from Salesforce , September 10, 2013 at 9:43 a.m.

    Thanks for your comment Paula. With our clients, we're seeing an increasing amount of customers willing to book major purchases on their mobile devices as they become more comfortable with the channel. The explosion in mobile banking - especially among Millennials - are increasingly managing (and spending) money on mobile devices.

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