Consumer adoption of mobile devices and local search has impacted the hospitality industry, arguably more than any other sector.
Within the online mobile experience, local search listings, maps, and review sites are dominating the points along the customer journey, and directly impacting revenue in the travel category.
The impact of reviews on revenue within the travel category is not new, but with the increased use of mobile devices and visibility of local search on mobile devices, travel consumers are now making “in the moment” decisions while in-destination, and even modifying plans around transportation, accommodations, dining, and activities throughout their travel experience.
The mobile search experience is much different than on desktop. A search on a mobile device highlights paid search results, then maps, then local listings and reviews take top real-estate in both Google and Bing.
There is no room for “organic” rankings in a mobile search environment. This makes sense, as users accessing information on a mobile device are “mobile,” on the go – and looking for different information than when searching from a desktop or laptop.
Why this has changed the travel buying journey:
The consumer buying journey on mobile devices is local, and focused on immediate access to information such as maps, directions, contact information, and reviews to allow for “*in the moment” decisions.
The mobile effect has changed the travel buying path in numerous ways:
- The mobile user experience is different than on desktop, with consumers looking to complete an action and accomplish a task, instead of browsing.
- Local and “*near me searches” have increased year over year, with in-destination or “in the moment” decisions impacting purchases before travel and throughout the time while in-destination.
- Consumers expect a “mobile first” user experience with easy access to contact information, maps, directions, and reviews. Customers also expect accuracy in listing information, and immediate response from brands in solving problems.
- Increased Importance of reviews and social comments in gaining both reach and revenue. With reviews highlighted at the top of mobile search real estate, users are more likely to access reviews in making purchase decisions than they would be if they needed to leave the search experience and go to a review website. The number and quality of reviews are also factors in local search engine rankings.
Why local search and user reviews impact revenue:
A recent comScore study looks at the impact that online consumer-generated reviews have on offline purchase behavior:
“Nearly one out of every four Internet users (24%) report using online reviews before paying for a service delivered offline. Of those who consulted an online review, 41% of restaurant reviewers subsequently visited a restaurant, while 40% of hotel reviewers then stayed at a hotel.”
This is not a new trend in the tourism industry. What is new is that “Review us Here” has expanded to include listings on Yelp, Facebook, as well as travel booking sites, such as Expedia and Booking.com.
All have an impact on consumer perception and on search rankings – and specifically on mobile search rankings.
The *comScore report also highlighted the “consumers are likely to pay between 20% and 99% more for an excellent (5-star rating) than for a good (4-star rating), depending on the product category.”
The impact of reviews on hotels, restaurants, airline, car rental, attractions and other travel suppliers also influences consumer perception and decision to buy – or change their mind.
- “User reviews are used widely by travelers, and 59% of consumers say that review sites have the most influence on their booking decisions.”
85% of leisure travelers decide on activities only after having arrived at the destination.
Implications for travel and hospitality marketers:
- Local SEO is a must, or your business will not be found.
- Google my business listing must be claimed, and the accuracy of Google and Bing business listings is important for all brick and mortar businesses or services with a storefront.
- Google Maps Pins must be accurately situated.
- Google listings should have the Click to Call feature enabled.
- Reviews must be managed across channels and in real-time to ensure consumer confidence and service level.
- Positive reviews affect revenue. All review channels are important, with Google, Facebook and Tripadvisor being the most critical to mobile search ranking.
5 steps to win with the new consumer by optimizing and leveraging consumer mobile connectedness, local search, and social review platforms together:
It is essential to have full-circle integration and management of brand, local, mobile, and social in the travel category.
- Provide a seamless and consistent brand experience across search, social channels, listing sites, review sites, and forums; listen, respond, and deliver on value as well as consumer expectations.
- Solve problems and create value: Monitor and understand consumer user experience at a localized level to ensure a clear path to information, easy access to location details and directions, contact information – and information to make the buying experience easier, and with a clear point of transaction.
- Be accurate, transparent, and relevant: Ensure inventory is consistent across channels (e.g., Hotwire car rental example ), information is accurate (e.g., Google map pins, and listings are optimized (e.g., Google Business listings, etc.).
- Focus SEO and marketing resources around “mobile moments” – and the impact that “near me” search has had on the customer journey.
- Reviews impact ROI: Managing local reviews in widely used channels like Google, Facebook, TripAdvisor, Yelp – and even on popular travel related sites, such as Booking.com and Expedia – will help to increase your ability to reach to your target audience via higher search rankings. It should also help to drive sales due to increased customer confidence based on comparisons of your product, business location or service to others.
You requested and we listened. While we had a few hotel sites covered in the past, we’ve been hearing our partners ask for more! Adding new sites into our dashboard is no simple task. For each site, our top developers have to create a custom integration for each new provider in order to bring listings and reviews across the major hotel booking sites in the industry and enhance your offering.
Through our new hotel directories, everyone now has the capability to track social mentions, manage and respond to reviews, and improve your online reputation throughout the hospitality industry.
New hotel providers that are now live on the ICUC Local dashboard:
About the Author:
Digital and social media marketing expert, strategist, and speaker, Alicia Whalen has spent over a decade transforming brands to take a “Digital First” approach to marketing. Alicia is a recognized social media influencer on Twitter, speaker and blogger with expertise in UGC marketing strategy, social commerce, social trends, digital marketing for tourism, and the impact that technology has had on consumer behaviour. Alicia has joined ICUC.social as the Global Product Performance Strategist, launching full-service, integrated social commerce and social experience management to some of the world’s largest brands.