According to the latest research, purchasing patterns among global travelers are shifting toward mobile transactions, and social media and personalized offers could ultimately drive e-commerce for businesses in this sector. Hospitality Technology magazine and Cognizant Business Consulting collaborated on a series of global consumer surveys and released their findings in the 2014 Global Traveler Study.
One observation made was that mobile devices have indelibly changed how consumers interact with businesses. "Smartphones first began to permeate society just seven years ago, and in the last 12 months alone their use as a purchasing tool has quadrupled," the report stated. "In 2013, participants in this research used a smartphone or tablet for 4 percent of all reservations. In 2014, that number jumped to 16 percent. Among 18 to 35 year olds, mobile transactions hit 20 percent."
How are global travelers using mobile devices in travel?
While most consumers still employ desktop and laptop computers for e-commerce transactions, that number is shrinking. According to the study, the global percentage of those using such devices dropped from 95 percent in 2013 to 71 percent in 2014. And as smart mobile devices become the de-facto "personal travel aid" for many consumers, online purchases are expected to continue to migrate toward mobile.
Despite consumer mobile preferences, the hospitality industry has some catching up to do. According to the HT study, 79 percent of hotels offer mobile websites and 44 percent offer mobile apps. Yet only 54 percent of mobile websites and 24 percent of hotel-branded apps allow guests to make room reservations. Of consumers surveyed, 39 percent prefer mobile apps and 37 percent favor mobile websites to reserve and make purchases of this nature.
For restaurants, the percentages vary slightly with 71 percent offering mobile websites and 35 percent restaurant-branded mobile apps, but less than half of restaurant apps are equipped with transactional capabilities. On the positive side, 43 percent of restaurant apps feature food and/or beverage ordering functions, 43 percent offer coupons and 8 percent accept reservations.
Upon reaching their destinations, corporate travelers, in particular, favored mobile self-service, according to the HT study. Within this consumer segment, 49 percent said they would be interested in receiving mobile alerts reminding them to redeem offers based on geo-location. When asked about restaurants, 38 percent of respondents said they would welcome promotions sent via text messages or ads to their mobile devices.
How are global travelers using loyalty programs and social media?
In terms of loyalty, global travelers said programs that offer points with high redemption value, easy redemption with few restrictions, and points that retain their value for an extended period are considered most valuable. To receive the special treatment offered by these programs, travelers said they would agree to share personal preferences, birthdays and anniversaries, and contact information, as well as enable location-based communication on their mobile phones.
"With the right mix of mobile functionality, location-aware messaging, social media engagement, and personalized loyalty campaigns, hotels and restaurants have significant potential to capture share-of-wallet," HT stated in its final analysis of the survey results. To boost online visibility, the report suggested creating local profiles in directories and search engines and adding video and photo elements to make restaurants and hotels stand out among the competition.
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