Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on the blog of the hospitality digital marketing company, buuteeq, prior to its acquisition by Booking.com in June 2014. The opinions expressed here are specific to buuteeq, though many of the technology insights remain relevant to customers and admirers of our new business, BookingSuite, a unit of Booking.com. Visit suite.booking.com for our latest thought leadership in the hospitality digital marketing space.
The use of mobile devices to make travel plans and book rooms is increasing every day, while desktop Internet use will soon be supplanted. Having a website is simply not enough anymore. Online transactions are an important part of a hotel’s revenue stream, and increasingly, these transactions are made from mobile devices. Because of this, hotels need to optimize their digital marketing presences for mobile and tablet devices quickly in order to be ready when mobile Internet use overtakes desktop use. Those that don’t will be unable to compete in online market arenas.
buuteeq’s Cloud DMS software allows hoteliers and hotel marketers to create, customize and publish mobile optimized hotel websites that conform to or exceeds all modern mobile website standards and performance expectations, delivering high-quality and attractive hotel marketing content to guests in a way that encourages increased direct reservations and last-minute mobile bookings.
This document refers to industry lingo. A glossary of terms is provided at the end of the document.
The DataMobile Internet use is increasing faster than all previous technologies, including radio, TV, PC and social media adoption.
- Nearly half of all guests start their trip planning from mobile devices.
- Nearly half of all guests book rooms from mobile devices.
- Hotel websites discovered from mobile search are used more often than travel apps to perform travel research and make travel purchases.
- Travel planning and purchasing from mobile devices is projected to increase and overtake desktop PC use by Q2 of 2013.
- Travel planning spans multiple devices over a period of many days. The use of mobile devices consumes a significant percentage of this time.
- A poor mobile experience is the primary deterrent guests experience when seeking to make a mobile hotel reservation.
Mobile Internet Use is Increasing
Not only is mobile Internet use increasing, but travelers are making plans and booking rooms from mobile devices. Google predicts that by Q2 of 2013, travel related search queries will increase by 68% from smartphones and 180% from tablets (Google, July 2012).
Properties optimized for mobile devices will receive prominence on search engines like Google. Optimized websites will receive more traffic, giving hotels more direct online reservations. Hotels that are not optimized will leave money on the table by losing more of their steady business as travelers switch to mobile computing.
Google is experimenting with marking mobile optimized websites in search engine result pages (SERPS) with a mobile icon.
Guests Use Mobile Search
Today, 40% of leisure travelers and 36% of business travelers use mobile search engines to find hotels and book overnight accommodations from mobile devices (Google, July 2012). This percentage is expected to grow until more mobile bookings are made from mobile devices than from desktop computers (Google, Feb. 2012).
Last-minute bookings are impulse buys made on the spot, at need. Already, far more last-minute bookings are made from mobile devices than desktop computers. These consumers prefer to book directly from websites found via search engines than using any other method, including smartphone applications. Hotel marketing identities that are not optimized for mobile today are missing out on last-minute bookings, handing this revenue off to competitors. This makes it critical that individual hotels have mobile optimized websites and booking engines in order to capture these customers.
Travel Plans Start on Mobile Devices
Almost half (47%) of all travelers start their travel planning from a mobile device. Only 38% start from a PC, while currently, 15% start from a tablet (this metric is projected to rise significantly next year). (Google, September 2012).
Google’s data demonstrates that guests use multiple devices during the lifecycle of a travel-related purchase. Many guests start their travel plans using mobile devices—this gives them a first impression, which guests use to immediately judge the suitability of a hotel property.
Therefore, it is exceedingly important that a hotel has a mobile optimized presence so that a guest’s first impression is a good one. Even if the guest doesn’t book directly from a mobile device, the first good impression obtained will follow them to their desktop PC, where they will likely make a reservation in the favor of a mobile optimized property.
Travel Plans Continue on Mobile Devices
Not only do guests start making travel plans on mobile devices, but others that start from PCs continue from mobile devices. Of all possible web activities, travel planning took the highest percentage of people who continue on mobile devices after starting on PCs or tablets, beating out even online shopping.
This evidence shows that trip planning is a lengthy process that often spans multiple days across numerous devices, especially mobile devices. An optimized mobile presence, which includes a mobile website and a mobile booking engine, is imperative to ensure a consistently good research and booking experience for guests. Properties optimized for the mobile behavior of guests will see an increase in not only last-minute bookings, but all bookings made as a result of trip planning.
A Poor Mobile Experience Costs Bookings
Travelers and guests report that the primary thing that deters them from making a mobile overnight booking is that the hotel’s website is not optimized for mobile. 36% said that difficult mobile navigation is the main deterrent, and 28% said that page load speed is the main deterrent (Google, July 2012).
This evidence indicates that mobile optimized websites need to have two primary characteristics: 1) A well designed information architecture that leads to intuitive, logical website navigation, optimized for fingers swiping instead of mice clicking, and 2) Optimized page load speed.
Properties that create mobile optimized websites that don’t excel in these two critical areas will encourage more guests to immediately navigate away, reducing the number of direct online bookings and hindering property virality based on guest recommendation.
Mobile Web vs. Mobile Apps
Mobile apps are important, but when it comes to hotel bookings, people still prefer to make online reservations directly from hotel websites instead of through smartphone applications. Nielsen reports that 69% of mobile users prefer the mobile web to find hotel information, while Google reports that only 12% book rooms from apps (compared to 40% from mobile web) (Google, July 2012; Nielsen, June 2012).
This is further evidence that each hotel needs an individual, personalized mobile-ready web presence first. Mobile apps should be considered as icing on the cake—something to be pursued after a basic mobile optimized online marketing presence is achieved.
Agency vs. SaaS
Traditionally, hoteliers approached web design agencies to hand-craft custom mobile websites. These custom websites tended to be as expensive as or more expensive than a regular website. Agencies we have researched charge on average $1,500 for a simple 5-page mobile website. If the website integrates with a CMS like WordPress or Joomla, the fee skyrockets to upwards of $3,000-$5,000. Custom, static mobile websites begin to be depreciated the moment they are published, and they do not advance with technology over time.
buuteeq’s Cloud DMS is a software as a service (SaaS) product, meaning the client subscribes annually and enjoys all technology innovations and adaptations during that time. buuteeq does research and improves its technology as technology advances and then passes those improvements on to clients at no additional charge. This ensures that clients’ mobile websites are always modern, at the head of mobile technology, and always up-to-date.
Additionally, buuteeq’s mobile optimized websites are integrated into their own proprietary CMS, called the Cloud DMS. Clients can log-in and make changes to their marketing materials any time, any place, and publish them instantly to their mobile device.
The benefit of working with an agency is high-touch, personal, one-on-one interaction. SaaS, on the other hand, focuses on the product and the results that product delivers. Instead of an experience provided by an agency, hoteliers enjoy a superior, innovative product produced by SaaS.
With SaaS, one is investing in living, breathing technology. buuteeq does research and makes new product innovations, delivering these advances to customers.
Working with an agency is an investment in a person or a small group, which delivers high-touch work for the moment, but produces technology that suffers to deprecation over time.
The comparison is apples to oranges, and one is encouraged to choose a solution that best fits one’s priorities.
Mobile TechnologyToday’s expectations concerning mobile optimized website technology—best practices and modern standards.
Mobile Internet technology has evolved so quickly that the best practices forged early in the history of mobile computing have changed. Two of the more popular mobile website testers, mobiReady and w3.org, use mobile standards published in 2008—outdated by over 4 years.
The evidence that these tools have failed to adapt to the changing mobile web is that they fail to take the recent smartphone technological innovation into account, frequently giving poor test results to mobile websites optimized for smartphones instead of feature phones—including amazon.com, and zappos.com, all of which gain a substantial amount of income through mobile purchases.
Thus, buuteeq has spent a great deal of investment doing original research on mobile web technology and understanding the modern, updated set of best practices for delivering web content to mobile users. As a result, their mobile optimized websites are created with HTML5 and optimized to load quickly on smartphones.
On average, Yslow, Yahoo!’s well-respected tool that gauges the loading speed of a website, gives them a score of 87 out of 100. A short chart of popular mobile websites is listed below for comparison.
Over the past decade, it has been popular to build hotel websites with Flash, a technology first released to the public in 1996. However, Flash has never worked on iOS devices, including the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch, and recently, Flash for Android was removed from the Google Play marketplace. This makes Flash an obsolete technology that is not officially supported by mobile devices.
Instead, developers are switching to HTML5, which has much of the dynamic interactive capabilities of Flash without any of its limitations, such as poor performance on older browsers and devices, the consumption of operating system resources and battery life, and its inability to be crawled and indexed by search engine spiders (making Flash websites invisible to search engines as well).
In sum, websites made using Flash do not function well on mobile devices. It is imperative that hotels abandon Flash and instead embrace HTML5, which is the modern technology buuteeq uses to create mobile optimizetion for their clients. HTML5 loads faster, can be indexed by search engines, and fully supports rich media like images, slideshows, image animation such as transitions, and video.
buuteeq publishes mobile optimized websites within a subfolder of a hotel’s top level domain (TLD). This is in stark contrast to many other hospitality mobile website services and agencies, which instead publish the mobile website as a directory listing beneath a domain they own.
Same-domain publishing is superior to the health of a hotel’s search engine optimization (SEO), for all the domain authority of the primary website is conveyed appropriately to the mobile website. Additionally, good mobile design includes automatic mobile redirects, which give guests an optimized mobile experience every time they visit, and which help search engines understand where the mobile website is installed.
When guests visit a hotel website, it is important to automatically redirect them to the location of the mobile optimized website, whether it is installed in a subfolder or on a subdomain of the TDL. Redirecting to a 3rd-party website dilutes a TLDs domain authority, potentially reducing a TDLs SERP dominance over time.
This is important because Google indexes both mobile and regular websites, showing both in SERPs. If a mobile website is published to a 3rd-party directory or some other domain, then hotels are effectively competing with themselves for Google dominance.
Additionally, these websites are rarely discovered by actual guests, for guests go to search engines like Google first for discoverability, and not to a mobile hotel website directory. Simply, if the mobile website does not appear in Google SERPs, it will not be found. Properties that have mobile directory listing are competing with themselves on Google, and those that redirect to 3rd-party mobile directories are diluting their TLDs domain authority, passing this authority off to another website they don’t own and can’t control.
buuteeq’s mobile optimized solutions span a number of key features designed to directly address emerging data surrounding mobile use by travelers.
buuteeq’s mobile optimized websites are integrated with their Cloud DMS software, providing hotel owners and marketers with consistent marketing content published across all their major marketing channels. Any changes made from within the system’s BackOffice–including photos, articles, text, locations, and branding–are pushed to the mobile optimized website as soon as the client publishes.
This unique innovation provides guests with consistent content between web, mobile and social properties. Because guests switch between different devices and computers when planning a trip, this feature aids in the consumption of hotel marketing materials and ensures that guests are never exposed to outdated or irrelevant information.
Any changes made from within the BackOffice are pushed to all of the hotel’s online marketing channels, including mobile optimized websites, mobile apps, Facebook apps, websites and booking engines–immediately after being published, providing guests with consistent, updated and high quality marketing content.
As explained in greater detail above, buuteeq’s mobile optimized websites are crafted to perform well for mobile search queries. They are built with a mobile information architecture designed specifically for the unique way guests browse on mobile devices, incorporating swipe gestures and finger-sized buttons. buuteeq’s mobile content loads quickly to reduce bounce, improve a guest’s experience and encourage bookings through the mobile booking engine.
One-Tap Calling and Directions
Many last-minute reservations are made from mobile devices. When looking for rooms at the last minute, guests want instant information and instant communication. buuteeq accommodates this by adding one-tap-calling features to mobile optimized website homepages so guests can make instant, impulsive phone reservations. A one-tap ‘get directions’ feature is also included that allows smartphone owners to plot driving directions to hotels using Google Maps or other mapping services, right from their phone.
These features are designed to encourage more last-minute bookings and to minimize barriers that can prevent guests from booking a room, thereby increasing bookings.
Optimized Photos with Quick Load Speed
Just like with regular websites, photos are the most compelling pieces of marketing collateral to compel guests to book a room. buuteeq’s mobile optimized websites take the client’s beautiful property photography and produces fast-loading, stunning photo galleries and slideshows that are accessible on all pages of the hotel’s mobile optimized marketing content. buuteeq’s Cloud DMS automatically re-sizes all uploaded images to fit mobile screens, without losing image quality. Guests can browse room photo galleries, zoom into photos, and flip-through slideshows on even the slowest of mobile connections.
This step in particular can decrease page load time by up to 90%, decreasing bounces and encouraging further hotel marketing exploration.
Guests can find Cloud DMS-powered room details right on the front page of mobile optimized websites. Navigation is simple and fast, and guests can quickly learn everything about rooms, including photos, amenities, descriptions, views, and rates.
This gives guests detailed at-a-glance information helpful when making a last-minute booking on a mobile device, while also providing detailed hotel room information to guests engaged in ongoing trip-planning across multiple devices. With detailed room information, including overviews, details, room comparisons and photo slideshows, guests can pick up on a mobile device right where they left off on a PC.
Promotions appear as a featured box near the top of mobile optimized website content. Hotel marketers are in full control of the contents of the promotions, and can turn them on or off.
The interactive, animated homepage promotions are built with HTML5, giving similar motion and fluidity as Flash but without the SEO failures and mobile incompatibilities of Flash.
buuteeq’s commission-free booking engine is reformatted to fit mobile screens when viewed from a mobile device. For those who choose not to call, they can book reservations directly from the hotel using the mobile optimized booking engine, which features large buttons, clear fields, descriptive content and device flexibility.
buuteeq’s mobile optimized pages are not a stand-alone product, but are instead integrated with the Cloud DMS software product as an example of ongoing technological marketing innovations and adaptations, as promised to subscribers. Visit their Pricing Subscriptions page to learn more about pricing options.
buuteeq’s mobile optimized hotel solutions are built from the ground up based on a plethora of industry data and user statistics, using today’s modern, updated best practices and technology. They’re integrated with the Cloud DMS software product, giving hotel owners and operators the control necessary to create and update at their leisure. They were crafted specifically to increase hotel occupancy by predicting guest navigation behavior and optimizing hotel marketing content for the way mobile guests peruse marketing content online. Finally, buuteeq’s mobile technology is fluid and will be upgraded and adapted as mobile technology advances, so that clients never own outdated mobile marketing materials.
- For more information, buuteeq, inc. can be reached using the following contact information.
- buuteeq, inc.
- 1455 NW Leary Way
- Suite 250
- Seattle, WA, 98107
- Phone: +1 (800) 734-1769
- Email: email@example.com
- Web: http://www.buuteeq.com
Glossary of Terms
ADOBE FLASH: A software framework used to add animation, video, and interactivity to websites. It was widely used in the 200os to build websites—particularly hotel websites. Due to the mobile revolution, Flash is not a recommended software framework due to its incompatibility with mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets.
DIGITAL MARKERETING: Any marketing designed for publication on digital Internet channels. This can include social media marketing (Facebook applications, Twitter campaigns, etc.), search engine marketing (pay-per-click advertising), mobile web marketing (mobile optimized websites and apps), web marketing (websites), and more.
FEATURE PHONES – Simple mobile cellphones that may have limited internet browsing capabilities, but tend to have small screen sizes and have limited or no support for applications.
HTML5: The 5th iteration of hypertext markup language, which is a software language used to create information on the Web. In its fifth and latest incarnation, it supports multimedia like video and animation while simultaneously functioning well on smartphones and tablet computers. It is becoming the standard for mobile web development.
iOS – Apple’s operating system, found on the iPhone, iPad and iMac.
MOBILE DEVICE – Any gadget guests can use to browse the web or make phone calls while traveling, including feature phones, tablet computers and smart phones.
MOBILE OPTIMIZED BOOKING ENGINE: A booking engine or online reservation system optimized for smaller mobile screen sizes with bigger buttons, larger text, simpler architecture and support for tap and swipe gestures.
MOBILE OPTIMIZED PRESENCE: Having one’s digital marketing materials optimized for mobile devices, usually in the form of a mobile optimized website.
MOBILE OPTIMIZED PROPERTY: Any hotel with an Internet marketing presence optimized for mobile devices, which can include a mobile optimized website.
MOBILE OPTIMIZED SITE: Any website that has a separate template designed and optimized for smaller mobile screen sizes and finger tap or swipe navigation.
MOBILE SEARCH ENGINE: A search engine optimized to fit the screen size of mobile devices. Some mobile search engines, like Google, support mobile-unique features, like drawing words with your fingers on the screen. Note that the actual web results delivered by mobile search engines are the same as those delivered by traditional search engines.
MOBILE WEB – Used to describe Internet browsing from mobile devices. The mobile web has the same content as the regular web, only it is formatted to fit smaller screens.
OS – Operating system—the essential software installed on all computers, tablets and smartphones from which guests can launch applications, programs and web browsers.
SEARCH ENGINE – A website guests visit to search the Internet for information. Guests type the query into a text field, and the search engine will scan the World Wide Web, looking for websites that match the query. Google is the world’s most popular search engine, which include competitors like Bing, Baidu, Yahoo!, and Yandex.
SERP – Search engine result page. A SERP is a list of web results produced by a search engine like Google when a guest makes a search query.
SMART PHONE – An advanced mobile phone that supports applications (apps) downloaded from an app market and can browse the mobile web. iPhones include the iPhone, Samsung Galaxy series and other members of the Android OS.
SMARTPHONE APP – An application (similar to a computer program) installed to a smartphone that performs a specific function. Guests can download apps from their device’s app market. Sample apps include search engines, cameras, image sharing services, social networks, hotel details, etc.
SUBDOMAIN – An alternate domain, supporting and attached to a top level domain. A sub domain is appended to the beginning of a TLD, separated by a period. For example, this is what some subdomains look like, with the subdomain potion in bold: mobile.amazon.com; mb.amazon.com; fresh.amazon.com; and so on.
SUBFOLDER – A folder or directory beneath a top level domain. Folders are used to store website contents. Good website information architecture will organize information in a series of related and sensible subfolders. Here is an example of what subfolders may look like, with the subfolder in bold: amazon.com/mb/; amazon.com/products/shoes; amazon.com/fresh/groceries/meat/chicken.html; and so on.
TABLET COMPUTERS – Large tablets that have Wi-Fi internet access and can connect to cellular broadband connections, such as 3G, 4G and LTE. They support native applications purchased through an app market and are used as laptop replacements and e-readers. Tablets include the iPad, Kindle series, Microsoft Surface and others.
TLD – Top level domain. This is the primary domain name of a website. Examples of TLDs include Apple.com, buuteeq.com, Microsoft.com, Amazon.com and so on.