Commentary

Mobile Bookings Spike As On-Call Economy Becomes The Norm

Mobility opens up a whole new set of behaviors and expectation that even veteran watchers of the space never anticipated. The location parameter was always foremost in our minds as digital interactions increasingly went to phones.

Proximity awareness was always something we knew would transform relationships between marketers and customers. The time component was not as clear, at least to me, years ago. Mobility has exacerbated the “now factor.”

The travel industry was the leading indicator of this. Years ago, we started hearing, with some surprise, that the number of people booking rooms same day was rising noticeably. This had as much to do with ubiquitous connectivity as it did with mobile phones, at first. It was easy enough now to make same day or next day reservations from any laptop or PC as you approached a destination.

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But mobility seems to have helped make same-day booking an expectation and a habit. Expedia-owned Hotels.com reports this week that one in four of their transactions in 2014 occurred on a mobile phone. Even in travel that is an impressive figure given an ongoing lag in m-commerce.

While changing, our behaviors on mobile are still constrained by a general reticence to tap the buy buttons here and an ongoing cumbersomeness to ordering on devices. But for Hotels.com this m-commerce growth is substantial and fast, representing an 80% increase in mobile bookings year-over-year.

According to the company, this mobile growth is being driven especially by same-day and next-day bookings. And this itself is an interesting phenomenon. It reflects foremost a new savviness about how these Internet business models work. Consumers understand the economy of remnant room inventory, and they bring to market an expectation that it will be able to serve up an affordable room at a moment’s notice just about anywhere.

Formerly, many of us would have been worried about being “stranded” in a strange city with no place to stay if we tried to book at the last second. Now, the expectation is that the system will serve us.

We like to say that all of these digital innovations like Uber, same-day delivery, inventory checks, Yelp user reviews, etc. are “consumer-centric” and add to the convenience factor. But they also collapse our traditional senses of time and space.

In the past, services of all kinds were still associated with specific places. You not only needed to go to a store for items, but even calling a cab or making a hotel reservation anchored us to certain places (even a landline phone or a taxi stand) and a built-in expenditure of time. The idea that not only information but goods and services come to us rather than us going seems to me packed with potential unexpected impact.

Getting what we need here and now is the expectation. Anything that requires special investments of time or movement are “friction.” 

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