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Why Mobile Matters for Hotels and Hostels

By Alex Gaggioli, June 26, 2015

The world has gone mobile and your guests expect your property to have a seamless Internet experience. From desktop to phone to tablet, your website should work well on any device. Consumers do not simply want a mobile experience, they demand it. It may be overwhelming to figure out what type of mobile experience your guests actually want or expect. From mobile enhanced websites to fully optimized mobile applications, there are a myriad of mobile solutions.

Mobile Internet Usage Surges

Mobile online activity increased 125% in 2014 and is expected to grow beyond that this year. (source) Consumers are spending more time online and have become accustomed to tailored mobile experiences. Endless mobile applications, mobile websites, and social media are to blame for the influx of mobile activity. However, mobile browsing offers many touch points for hotels to reach their guests.

Hospitality Mobile Trends

Someone using a tablet to research on mobile travel websites

Leonardo, a hospitality marketing solution company, reported on the travel digital landscape earlier this year. They reported that 57% of leisure travelers started their search on mobile, while 64% of business travelers started their search on mobile. That is a lot of people. When a guest begins their search on mobile, it does not mean they will book the property via online tools. But, the discovery, research and decision steps will likely happen online.

Leonardo also reported that 61% of users abandon non-optimized websites. If a guest reaches your website only to find a miniature, hard-to-read version it is more likely than not that they will leave. This abandonment can result in a huge loss of sales for you and your property over time. Harnessing mobile means that you can capture more mobile browsing customers and increase your bookings.

Satisfying Google

On top of satisfying guests, you also need to satisfy Google and their search algorithms. According to Search Engine Land, on April 21, 2015 Google released a mobile-friendly algorithm cheekily named Mobilegeddon. Google designed the update to give precedence to mobile-friendly websites when you search on Google with a mobile device. That means if your website is not mobile optimized, it will no longer appear in Google mobile search results. Very important if you are targeting guests in 2015. If you do not know if your site is mobile friendly, use Google’s mobile tester here.

Google also bases their rankings on factors such as mobile site design, website load times, and long website downtimes. (source)

Types of Mobile Websites 

If you know your site is not mobile optimized or want to learn more about the different types of mobile solutions, check out the list below:

  • Responsive websites. These sites are the most mobile-friendly in terms of maintaining site structure and user viewing pleasure. Responsive sites automatically render and function appropriately according to the device being used. They also tend to maintain the style and branding that your desktop version uses. Responsive may also be referred to as “liquid designs.” (source) Responsive designs tend to be “future” proof, meaning any updates you make to your website will be accurately translated to mobile. We first and foremost recommend responsive websites as a mobile solution.
  • Adaptive websites or dynamic. Adaptive websites are capable of knowing what type of device is being used. They will rearrange elements in relation to the size of the window. However, the site will have fixed columns and image resolutions. While a responsive website will tailor itself to screen size, an adaptive website will simply restructure.

The differences between responsive websites and adaptive websites are small but meaningful. Check out this article from Fast Company for a graphic demonstration of each.

  • Parallel websites. This type of mobile website is completely separate from your desktop website. Each website will have their own content management system, meaning everything must be uploaded separately. Also, Google will see your guests as visiting two different websites based on what type of device they are on. Google also does not favor websites that immediately drive traffic from one site to another, as is what happens with a static website. A static website is better than no mobile website, but we suggest a responsive website or an adaptive website.
  • Mobile App. If your property has extra money to spend and wants to create an ideal mobile experience for your guests, a mobile app may be right for you. Mobile apps offer a completely tailored experience and added functionality. They can be used offline and offer a lot of information on the go. However, guests may be hesitant to download an app simply for the duration of their day. Smart apps will be designed to offer in-house functionality such as TV remote, room service, or see menus. Unless you are a large hotel chain such as Marriott or Hilton, it probably does not make sense to create your own mobile app.

In addition, your regular site will still require a mobile site because guests will not know about your app initially. Mobile applications also do not rank in google searches, so simply from a SEO standpoint, a mobile app needs to accompany a mobile-optimized website.

Our recommendation goes in order of the list. A responsive site offers the best utility and design options. Second, adaptive design offers many design options, but may be a bit clunky in utility. Third, a static mobile site is a better option than none. And lastly, a mobile app is a good add-on if you have the resources.

Contact your current web developer to help you implement one of these mobile website options. Costs will vary by the complexities of your existing site and your preferences.

Deciding which mobile solution to enable is only part of the process. We included some tips from CIO on how to implement a great mobile website:

  • Keep content short and sweet. Use as few words as possible and use pictures
  • Videos should be used sparingly, as they take longer to load and consume a lot of data
  • Use icons when possible. Replace words with icons, such as “call” or social media buttons
  • Use mobile optimized pictures to ensure fast loading times
  • Make your phone number, location, and other contact info easy to find
  • Test your site on multiple devices to make sure it works correctly
  • Good hotel sites have a “tap to call” function, as well as an optimized booking engine

Mobile marketing is much more than forging a mobile-optimized web presence using industry best practices. There are many more things you can do to supercharge your mobile marketing efforts. Additional marketing tactics include social media (see our previous blog post), content marketing, testing Facebook’s new beacons, and much more. We look forward to exploring these topics in the near future.

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