Last Minute Traveller & The New Mobile World

Last minute bookings are not a new phenomenon. What is new today is that increasing numbers of travelers have the ability to search and make a booking via a mobile device. And they no longer plan the details of their trip in advance.

According to recent research by EyeforTravel, LBS expenditure is expected to near $10billion by 2016, while smart phone sales are predicted to reach 982 million units by 2015. What is more, marketers are expecting an ‘onslaught’ of mobile apps and tools within three years.

So it really is time for firms to understand the preferences of this segment of the travelling community. This means going much further in understanding a customer’s preferences – from the vehicle they choose ro rent to the type of hotel they wish to stay at. After all, every person is different.

What we now know, however, is that bookings made on a smartphone device are more likely to be same-day bookings: either somebody booking spontaneously or someone in a distressed situation. On the other hand those using a tablet are more likely to be a in a relaxed scenario, at home researching a holiday.

Focus and differentiate  

Over the past two years, suppliers and intermediaries have expanded their mobile portfolio considerably. They have created new offerings and then refined these to address this last-minute segment of the travelling community. Today mobile sites and apps are being designed to feature simple and fast search and booking tools, backed up by attractive options such as tonight-only deals and mobile exclusive promotions.

But this is a very competitive market and there are thousands of apps and tools competing for a slice of the pie. So as the mobile marketplace for travel services and the popularity of devices grows, it is time to focus and differentiate. Looking closely at some recent booking trends is a good first step.

Brand is still king 

The significance of brands in this arena cannot be underestimated, nor can how a manufacturer’s handset or a mobile operating system is shaping up in the travel planning and booking process.  In addition, the type of mobile device provides useful insights into aspects of a user’s personality, habits, likes and dislikes.

The first interesting statistic was that workers spend 14 million hours per year searching for flights. But Blackberry users are the biggest culprits; they spend 38% more time searching for flights during working hours than either iPhone or Android users.  Moreover, Blackberry users appeared to be the biggest spenders. iPhone users, on the other hand, chose destinations which implied they were bigger risk takers, more romantic and loved to shop. When it came to general adventure, however, Android users came out on top.

Behaviour of the last-minute brigade  

The mindset of such travellers is also intriguing.

Even traditional travel companies are slowly getting to grips with changes in behaviour and preferences. “As more clients take their smartphones on holiday, we find that they are researching dining and entertainment options on the go,” Shank adds.

It is important to understand and accept that people will access many channels and you should be consistent in your branding and experience.

Community-led local search site Yelp, for example, sees spikes in mobile traffic in the evenings and on weekends when people are out and about looking for entertainment or places eat, drink and shop.

Acting on impulse

As indicated by studies some decision-making pertaining to hotel bookings is being driven by spontaneity. As such hotels are increasingly being offered platforms to fill empty rooms, right up to the very last second.

So as mobile device users show signs of pushing their buy to the moment of necessity, hotels unprepared for these last-minute reservations might be missing out.

Users are now familiar enough with the tradeoffs between the personal computer, tablet, and smart phone to make intelligent decisions. It is essential for businesses to evaluate their current mobile experience for these users and to invest in improvements.

If travel firms want to differentiate in this competitive market, they must dig much deeper into the usage pattern of different mobile brands and operating systems. Then they must closely assess travel-related content consumption as well as booking behaviour. Only then will they be adequately prepared to create more meaningful initiatives.