It wasn’t that long ago that virtually all travel transactions went through brick-and-mortar agents. But now travel dollars are increasingly being spent via digital, especially on mobile. According to the latest figures from eMarketer, 63% of digital travel ad spend goes to mobile, and that share is climbing rapidly.
I spend a lot of time identifying best practices to help travel companies get more out of mobile investments. There are many ways travel companies can get more by doing more on mobile. Building a good transaction site and app are only the first steps in what must be an ongoing commitment to mobile innovation. Here are seven musts for travel marketing in 2017:
1. “Mobile-ize” search engine optimization (SEO) strategy.
Most searches take place on mobile devices. Google takes mobile experiences very seriously as it sets site rank. There are many things brands can do to improve their mobile SEO. I’m not an SEO expert like the people at SirLinksalot who offer the best aged domains and various other services, but I have been able to drive big increases in natural search traffic for companies with four simple principles:
- Use responsive web pages. Responsive sites optimize the layout of web content to the screen size of the browser. Assets are vertically arranged for smartphone screens, for example.
- Stick to one concept per page. Search engines reward expertise. Define a particular topic for each page on your site and devote all content to that topic. Don’t try to make a page “expert” about multiple topics. Focused pages are better on mobile screens because the content is clearer and more scannable.
- Identify and use the topic language. For each topic, use Google’s AdWords “Keyword Planner” to identify the terms that are relevant to a particular topic. Google offers this tool to help people plan paid search, but it works great for SEO too. For example, input the term “crown moulding” and you back a list of 699 terms, 61 of which are quite popular. By finding natural ways to include some of the most popular terms in your page content, you’ll boost your mobile (and PC web) rankings. Don’t stuff in terms that don’t flow naturally, but use them when you can to grow your page relevance and expertise.
- Include thorough text/simple graphics. Search engines like text and lightweight pages. Designers like pictures and cool pages. By eliminating heavy applets and graphics files, you improve mobile viewing experiences. Then be succinct but thorough in your text.
2. Deliver personalized experiences.
Travel brands increase customer satisfaction and brand affinity when they personalize user experiences. The key is ensuring that you collect necessary information and build customer profiles. With Marriott’s app, for example, users record amenity preferences like extra towels and pillow firmness. That data can be retained to personalize future stays.
3. Enable location-based services and information.
A 2014 Ipsos study commissioned by Google showed that 88% of people make local searches on smartphones, while 61% want mobile search results customized to their immediate location. Location-specific offers, driving directions and maps, and localized search results all play a role here.
For example, if a person searches “Olive Garden” on mobile, chances are excellent that they are looking for a local restaurant. The brand can win more sales when it ensures that its local stores are in the mobile search results. The quickest way to do this is to buy search terms including location, i.e. “Olive Garden Birmingham AL.” Over the long run, you can boost your local SEO by claiming each location in Google and Bing, and then driving citations and ratings from users.
4. Help people avoid lines.
Mobile check-in helps hotels, airlines and car services improve guest satisfaction. The Center for Generational Kinetics conducted a study that found that 40% of millennials prefer purely online customer service, supporting the overall trend that they prefer self-service experiences offered via mobile instead of in person.
I recently had a four-day hotel experience in which I checked in, checked out, made requests and ordered room service, all via mobile and without speaking to anyone. It was simply an experiment for me, but self-service is the preferred way of doing business for many.
5. Offer local insight and options.
Innovative travel companies now replicate concierge services through their apps. Hotel and airline apps sometimes offer local area guides and activity booking tools. These tools make travel experiences richer and boost loyalty. For example, my team and I recently stayed in a hotel in Philadelphia. We arrived after 10 p.m. and wanted a good nearby restaurant that was serving at that hour. After a few clicks, we had a reservation and walking directions.
6. Anticipate chronic traveler needs.
It can be a real joy when a travel company anticipates a traveler need and offers an unexpected solution, even when that need doesn’t relate directly to their services. For example, Starwood’s mobile app offers driving directions from airports to hotels in local languages. That means no awkward five minutes of hand signals with a cab driver in Phuket. Just show the driver your screen and you are on the way.
7. Leverage social media.
Nearly 80% of total social media time now takes place on mobile, according to comScore. Social media is a great way to stay connected with customers. Travel firms can solicit and showcase user ratings, images and other content. Selfies taken in Las Vegas night clubs, for example, have significantly helped increase their luster and popularity. That’s been so important to the city because as gambling revenue has declined, such clubs have become critical to business success.
Travel companies embraced digital faster than other industries. They understood the need to bring utility to everything they do in this critical business arena. Now they must continue to innovate. By thinking carefully about how mobile experiences differ from those in other mediums, business leaders can capitalize on unique business opportunities and drive more growth.
Thanks for Forbes Commnication Council for publishing this piece first.