Travelers Look to Smartphones as Real-Time Travel Guides - eMarketer

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Travelers Look to Smartphones as Real-Time Travel Guides

Mobile travel bookers will continue to trail mobile researchers by about 1:2

August 10, 2012

A new eMarketer report finds consumers are using smartphones to guide their travels from start to finish, whether that’s for last-minute bookings, connecting to destination-related information or seeking personalized recommendations. But marketers have been slow to take advantage of smartphones as on-the-go travel guides, placing the majority of their attention on mobile booking.

The new report, “The Mobile Traveler: How Smartphones Are Changing the Customer Journey,” analyzes findings from dozens of third-party research providers and interviews with industry executives, answering key questions about the opportunities and challenges the mobile traveler presents, including:

  • How often are consumers booking travel at the last minute through smartphones?
  • How do smartphones solve travel-related customer service challenges?
  • In what ways are consumers using smartphones in transit and once they reach their destinations?

Travelers are taking their mobile devices on the road in ever-increasing numbers, using them to plan travel in real-time.

US Smartphone/Tablet Owners Who Take Their Device with Them on Vacation, March 2012 (% of respondents)

In a Prosper Mobile Insights study earlier this year, only 2.2% of respondents said they left their smartphones or tablets at home while they traveled. And nearly 80% of those surveyed said they took their mobile device with them and used it “all the time.”

Travelers’ near-constant attachment to smartphones and tablets while on the road provides a unique opportunity to marketers, one that many are neglecting. Nearly 40% of the 9,000 accommodation owners and managers that responded to a 2012 TripAdvisor survey said they didn’t even have mobile marketing in their budgets. And more than one-third of respondents said they devoted less than 5% of their budget to mobile marketing.

The travel and hospitality marketers that are paying attention to mobile tend to place the emphasis on mobile booking. While eMarketer forecasts mobile booking to grow from 11.9 million bookers in 2012 to 36.3 million in 2016, it is a long way from being fully optimized. Marketers risk missing out on unique opportunities for mobile marketing throughout the customer journey if they too narrowly focus on mobile booking.

Key Takeaways from “The Mobile Traveler: How Smartphones Are Changing the Customer Journey:”

  • Smartphone travel booking is a long way from being fully optimized.
  • Personalized mobile travel content in context will become the go-to travel guide.
  • Smartphones will be a windfall for travel marketers.

“As mobile marketing becomes more sophisticated, travel marketers will have unprecedented access to their customers,” said eMarketer. “How those customers respond to this extended relationship will shape the future of travel services and loyalty marketing.”

About eMarketer
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