Smartphone booking has moved up another gear since I last touched on this vital subject. In the hospitality industry, a growing number of travelers now book on their mobile devices rather than via a deskbound computer.
The relentless march of the mobile continues. But if we are prepared, then smartphone booking can only be good news for independent vacation rental owners. And if we’re not prepared, the signs are that we will be left behind in the world of the ‘Book it now’ button.
Two recent reports in the influential industry blog Skift point up this significant trend. The first leaves us in no doubt from the word go about smartphone booking and is entitled ‘6 Charts That show Mobile Booking’s Gain on Desktop Around the World’.
Desktop bookings on downward slope
‘The percentage of mobile travel bookings has grown for the past six consecutive quarters while desktop bookings continue on a downward slope’, say Skift. ‘The pace of mobile’s rise, of course, varies region by region and new data show travelers from the U.S. and countries in the Asia-Pacific region are converting on mobiles more than those in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.’
The charts reveal some interesting developments on the mobile front. Asia-Pacific and the U.S., for example, have higher penetration with smartphone bookings. Tablet bookings in Europe are slightly higher than in the other two regions. Desktop bookings are more popular in Europe, the Middle East and Africa than in the U.S. or Asia-Pacific.
Significantly, rental bookings for hotels and apartments lead the way on smartphone booking with car rentals close behind and they show the most year-on-year growth. I should point out here that this smartphone booking survey did not specifically focus on vacation rentals. But it’s a safe bet that a similar trend is operating.
Smartphone booking a fast growing huge opportunity
The second Skift report is entitled ‘The State of Mobile Booking 2016’. Here again, though not looking at vacation rentals, they point out that: ‘Mobile booking hasn’t taken hold of the mainstream yet, but it’s a fast growing segment that some hoteliers believe will soon be a primary source of revenues. Since more and more consumers are taking their smartphones with them wherever they go, there is a huge opportunity.’
They rightly describe smartphone booking as a ‘huge opportunity’. But from the point of view of the independent vacation rental owner this is only true if they are prepared to ride the crest of this wave. And that means having your own website and ensuring that it is mobile friendly.
Is your site mobile friendly?
A mobile friendly website is one that has been configured to give a readable, navigable display across all platforms from the desktop computer through all mobile devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones with internet capability. If it has not been properly configured then your beautifully designed desktop pages may be compressed and scrambled when viewed on a smaller mobile device. Navigation will be difficult too. As more people access your site from a mobile device you will lose these potential smartphone booking guests. They will look elsewhere for more accessible and navigable sites.
If you’re not sure try visiting your own site via a smartphone – the acid test. And while you’re there, try a few competitor sites to see if they’ve caught up yet.
You can have your site optimized for mobile use, of course, but this can be expensive. It’s worth investigating the SaaS (software as a service) suppliers and finding one that offers an optimized site with your subscription. Some of these will supply such a website for free as part of a package which allows you to manage your vacation rental property online. Try googling ‘independent vacation rental owner’.
Time to mobilize your website for smartphone booking?