Almost every conversation about the upcoming trends in the industry eventually converges on mobile. With the increase in dependence on mobile devices, it seems that the little rectangle is at the centre of everything. And it was at the centre of conversation recently at the Phocuswright Fast Track hosted during the inaugural BITB 2016. Vikas Bhola, Regional Manager, Indian Subcontinent at Booking.com, Parikshit Choudhury, Senior Vice President & Global Head, Lodging Partner Services, Goibibo, Ritwik Khare, Senior Vice President & Head of Business Development, Hotels, MakeMyTrip joined Tony D’Astolfo from Phocuswright to talk about mobile and its role in the accommodation space.
One common factor that emerged from the insights shared during the discussion is that travellers are now booking their stay closer to the date of travel. There is a significant rise in the number of hotel bookings even on the day of stay and these bookings are mostly carried out on mobile. This is partly driven by the discounting closer to the date of stay but the trend is there nevertheless.
Goibibo is witnessing similar patterns and Parikshit shared that close to 85 percent bookings are coming through mobile now. He also credited the developments in mobile infrastructure for the same as the increased speeds and better connectivity have helped the mobile space grow.
A very crucial factor to keep in mind to cater to mobile first customers is to account for the worst. The app should be tailored for low end devices and bad network because the entry point to the ecosystem for a large number of mobile internet users is a basic Android device coupled with slow connectivity.
In the e-tailing and online travel space, we see a lot of push towards mobile apps. However, all the OTA representatives shared the opinion that mobile web shouldn’t be ignored. With limited storage on mobile devices, people don’t want to keep multiple apps and that is why, a significant fraction of mobile users come via mobile web. Phocuswright research also indicates that mobile web continues to be popular and shouldn’t be ignored. Many travel startups invest heavily in developing apps and driving downloads but considering the trends Phocuswright and the industry leaders are observing, they should focus on providing a great experience on mobile web in the early days and start pushing app at a later stage when there is a good volume of repeat customers.
Going forward, all three brands plan to continue innovating around mobile. Booking.com is looking at the WhatsApp friendly users and recently introduced chat option to connect travellers with hoteliers. Along with that, the brand is also exploring the uses of user data to personalise the experience. Goibibo on the other hand is building a review and rating system into the booking tool to boost users’ confidence and drive more bookings. MakeMyTrip is looking beyond hotels for growth and recently introduced Right Stay to explore the alternative accommodation segment. The developments in these companies give a hint on what segments offer headroom for strong growth in travel space.
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