There’s no denying that mobile commerce is a rapidly growing sector—45-51% of Americans use a smartphone—but it’s particularly affecting the travel industry. This past summer, 43% of all travel website traffic came from mobile devices, and one-quarter of users who booked a travel amenity did so with a tablet or smartphone. When surveyed about their choices, users mentioned convenience, flexibility, and special offers as the primary reasons for booking on the go. According to KissMetrics, 78% of mobile searches for local business information result in a purchase.
All of these numbers—and trust us, we’ve got more—add up to one very important conclusion: your website needs to be attractive and functional on mobile browsers. If you’re solely relying on desktop bookings, you’re seriously missing out; when a website’s design is tailored to a user’s device, it sees increases not only in traffic but also in revenue. At Checkfront, we’ve designed our app follow mobile booking steps, and some of our add-ons make it even easier for mobile shoppers to book online. Many payment gateways are optimized for mobile use as well, creating a seamless mobile system that is optimized for you. However, many business owners are afraid of having their customers redirected away from their websites, or of losing certain theme features on a simplified mobile browser. These concerns are understandable, but the fact is that you stand to lose many more sales from frustrated customers who can’t navigate your website on their phone.
Want to know exactly what you’re missing out on if you don’t have a mobile friendly website? A 2014 survey by marketing firm Hibu found that while the owners of small and medium-sized business (SMB) recognized that mobile was important, they felt intimidated and unsure about where to start in terms of optimization. Only 12% of respondents said they were likely to get a mobile site within the next two years. There are an estimated 24 million SMBs in the US without mobile-optimized sites, and they stand to miss out on nearly $1 trillion in revenue each year—about $42,000 each.
Mobile friendliness makes for good customer service
It should be obvious by now that mobile customers are more willing to book if the business’ website and the purchasing process are optimized for their device’s browser. Many tourists keep their phones as a travel aid, using the GPS to navigate unfamiliar territory and review apps like Yelp to discover a cafe for lunch. While big reservations like flights and hotels can be made far in advance, it can be tough to book activities and local tours from so far away. How do travellers know if the weather will be nice enough six weeks in the future to rent some kayaks? What if they discover a neighbourhood they didn’t realize they wanted to explore, and never booked your walking tour? If you run a tour or rental service and are able to process last-minute bookings, then you stand to gain customers who might be looking for some last-minute fun and whip out their phones to find it. If you’re advertising on mobile, make sure to mention that your tours can be instantly booked online, and provide a short URL that customers can easily type into their browser.
In their efforts to help users have a better mobile web experience, Google has begun experimenting with using the mobile-friendly criteria as a ranking signal; if your site isn’t providing a good mobile experience for users, you stand to lose out on traffic. Not sure if your website is mobile-ready? They’ve also created an online tool to test for mobile-friendliness.
In Checkfront, you can optimize your booking calendar for mobile by going to Manage → Layout → Booking Page, and selecting “Redirect mobile devices to booking page.” When customers visit your website, they’ll have an easy time navigating the system and will see all of the same item details as they would on your desktop site, just optimized for their device. Directing them to the booking page is also an immediate and automatic call to action; they don’t need to find the ‘Book Now’ button, because they’re already there.
The worldwide travel industry is worth about 1 trillion dollars, and the times are changing. Physical travel agencies are being phased out in favor of online bookings, and smartphones and tablets are making life easier for tourists all over the planet. By 2016, 85% of digital shoppers will buy using their phones and tablets on a regular basis. If your business website is easy to navigate and use on a mobile browser, you stand to gain tons of customers you didn’t even realize you were missing.