Mobile bookings: A surprising COVID-19 success story
It's clear that one of the most fundamental changes to guest behavior brought about by COVID-19 has been the shift towards booking on mobile.
In almost every country we track, mobile bookings have been less affected by the drop in demand and have recovered at a faster rate. Indeed in some countries, including the United States, Australia, Hong Kong, Vietnam and South Korea, bookings made on mobile are now exceeding their pre-COVID level.
How direct booking volumes have changed since the beginning of 2020. Desktop bookings are represented by the purple lines, mobile bookings by the orange.
But while mobile bookings have grown as a proportion of the total, volumes are still very low for many properties. For hotels, mobile has historically been under-resourced as an area of investment compared to desktop websites and booking engines; despite mobile sessions outstripping desktop even before the crisis, hotels typically only generate about 10% of their total bookings via mobile. OTAs, on the other hand, have prioritized their mobile websites and app experiences and as a result generate 39% of their bookings on mobile (for Booking.com specifically, that proportion is over 50%).
Hotels may have been able to afford to let their OTA partners handle their mobile bookings before the COVID-19 crisis, but low occupancy and squeezed margins mean that approach is increasingly harder to justify. Slow, clunky mobile experiences with low conversion rates will hold hotels back in their recovery.
To compete with OTAs in the rebound, hotels need a fast, intuitive mobile experience that makes it easy for guests to book.
Introducing the Express experience
Prior to the pandemic taking hold, Triptease was in the early stages of rolling out a radically improved mobile conversion experience to hotels on our Meta service. We'd identified that conversion rates were over three times higher on desktop than mobile for users interacting with metasearch, despite metasearch increasingly functioning as a mobile-first platform.
COVID-19 has highlighted this critical gap in the online presence of many hotels: the fact that they are not adequately equipped to convert on mobile. In response, we've accelerated the release of Meta Express to bridge that gap for as many hotels as possible.
Meta Express is a fast, intuitive experience that layers on top of the mobile booking engine, reducing friction and offering guests a seamless checkout experience.
Hotel ICON in Hong Kong was an early adopter of Meta Express, going live with the experience at the end of 2019. Between January and March 2020, ICON's conversion rate from metasearch rose 29% - and their return on ad spend (ROAS) increased from 9x to 12.5x.
We spoke to Vallois Choi, Director of Digital Marketing Strategy at ICON, about the hotel's experience with Meta Express.
"We are always looking for ways to innovate and drive our online performance. Meta Express was an easy, accessible way for us to drive higher booking volumes through metasearch by emulating the seamless experience guests already get with OTAs.
"In Meta Express, we knew we were investing in an innovative product that matched our company ethos. Meta Express is easy and user-friendly, and very quick to set up."
What sets Meta Express apart
When developing the experience, we knew that speed would be crucial to the success of Meta Express. Ordinarily, there's a significant drop-off between users clicking the direct link on a metasearch auction and actually landing on the hotel's booking engine. That's because the redirect and ensuing loading time can take 10-15 seconds or more, during which many searchers lose interest and leave the flow. With Meta Express, users are redirected from the meta auction to the booking experience in under two seconds.
Meta Express is also optimized for Google's page performance scoring (Google gives every webpage a performance score based on factors such as loading speed and user experience, using this to determine results page rankings). One early adopter of Express in Europe saw their performance score was 23 times better after going live with Meta Express, with scores for Accessibility, Best Practice and SEO increasing on average by 30 percentage points.
Find out more
Meta Express allows hotels to deliver the same seamless mobile experience across all their metasearch platforms without any new integration (it works as a smart 'layer' of content on top of the existing booking engine). You can try out the flow for yourself on our demo page or by contacting us here.
The experience is currently available for hotels on the top ten most widely-used booking engines, but we are rapidly expanding to others.