Mobile Marketing's Language Speaks to Global Travelers
Mobile has reinvented the way travelers plan and book trips. This year, around 70 million Americans will book travel through their mobile devices, representing a spend of about $75 million. Those sales will grow to nearly $95 million in just two years.
But this isn’t an American phenomenon, not by a long shot. In fact, the U.S. ranks eighth in a Top 10 list of countries with “connected travelers,” or consumers who use mobile devices to plan or book a trip. It trails behind mobile-first markets like China, Indonesia, Brazil and others.
For travel industry marketers, that’s where the real opportunity lies. Serving global travelers online is already big business. But doing so through their mobile devices can skyrocket brand awareness and sales.
Why Mobile Is Red Hot for Travelers
Why is smartphone adoption surging overseas? “[A]s people in emerging and developing economies grow richer and become better educated, technology use is likely to grow,” a Pew Research Center survey explained last year. Further, it’s often much easier and cheaper to deploy cellular networks in these markets than landline-based connections.
As a result, global smartphone adoption has blown past desktop PCs. Next year, more than one-third of global consumers — about 2.5 billion people — will own a smartphone. More than a third of all e-commerce transactions now hail from mobile devices. The travel sector is especially thriving: Mobile bookings grew by 1,700 percent between 2011 and 2015.
Serving mobile-first global markets is smart business. But which markets are worth targeting? Next year, the top five global smartphone markets will be China (with 704.1 million users), India (with 279.2 million), the U.S. (with 220 million), Indonesia (with 103 million) and Russia (with 76.4 million). In 2015, Vietnam saw nearly 25 percent growth in smartphone adoption, with nine in 10 adults now owning a smartphone.
Within the U.S., the Spanish-speaking U.S. Hispanic market is particularly compelling. Considered “power users” of mobile devices, nearly half of Hispanic smartphone owners, prefer accessing the Web via their phones and tablets. This is much higher than the non-Hispanic average of 38 percent.). And they’re booking trips with those devices. Nearly 70 percent of U.S. Hispanics say they’re more willing to book a trip through their smartphones than on a PC.
How to Prepare Your Brand: Mobile Best Practices
So how can you bolster your brand on these devices, and reach on-the-go consumers at home and abroad?
Think about these optimizations through a traveler’s lens. Imagine a customer vacationing in Greece wants to find an airline reservation, or is searching for the nearest kayak rental shop. She likely won’t have access to a desktop computer and must rely on her mobile device. If she can’t find what she’s looking for, her experience will suffer.
This means your mobile website must be in the local language. A 2014 "Common Sense Advisory" study revealed that 75 percent of global consumers prefer to buy in their native language. Another study saw 90 percent of European consumers always choose their native language on a website, when given the option.
As such, provide your customers with the option to view and complete transactions in their preferred language and currencies. They’ll appreciate it, and you’ll likely notice increased conversions.
Other best practices can help, too. Include in-language on-site search (OSS) on your mobile site so users can quickly find what they’re looking for. Make sure to consider the inefficiencies inherent to a smaller screen. If your OSS experience can anticipate users’ travel-related queries — and account for common in-language misspellings — you’ll save users’ time, and increase engagement.
Your mobile SEO efforts are also paramount. You’ll probably recall that Google made changes to its search algorithm to boost the ranking of mobile-friendly websites on searches made from mobile devices. If you’ve embraced responsive Web design, or have a mobile website, you’ve likely been rewarded with more organic traffic. If you haven’t, expect a “significant decrease in rankings in mobile search results,” Google warns.
As you approach peak travel season, remember that many markets are primed for growth. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to engage these global mobile-first consumers on their devices of choice — and in their languages of choice.
Related story: Travelers Are Mobile, So Their Marketers Should Be, Too