Armed with immediate, anytime, anywhere connectivity via their smart phones, today’s on-the-go consumers are no longer tied to their land line telephones and desktop computers.  In fact, Gartner Research predicts that mobile web access will surpass traditional PCs by 2013.  With the number of cell phone subscribers skyrocketing roughly 25% annually for nearly the past decade, just how mobile have your guests become when it comes to their travel plans?

  • The average number of Americans who used their mobile phone to browse the web grew by 61% in 2008 vs. 2007, according to EyeforTravel. 
  • PhoCusWright forecasts that mobile bookings are expected to reach $160 million in 2010; 67% of overall travelers and 77% of frequent business travelers with web-enabled mobile phones have already used their phones to find local services and attractions.
  • 71% of U.S. adults polled by Harris Interactive consider it safe to make a purchase via a mobile phone; 43% of respondents are willing to use their mobile phone to purchase hotel rooms and 40% are willing to use it to purchase tickets for travel.

It’s clear from these statistics that your guests are becoming increasingly mobile-ready and as the trend continues to escalate, the need for your marketing efforts to keep pace will be paramount to engaging them — and keeping them engaged.  From the delivery of personalized messages and promotions to expediting booking and reservations, mobile marketing unleashes a plethora of effective opportunities for connecting and interacting with your guests and prospective guests that were non-existent a handful of years ago. 

Mobile Advertising on the Rise

According eMarketer, U.S. mobile advertising spending will surge 85% to $593 million this year from $320 million in 2008, and it’s projected to hit $1.6 billion (yes…. billion) by 2013.

When you think about mobile marketing and advertising, text messaging is often the first activity that comes to mind.  And for good reason.  Optimizing message distribution via texting enables marketers to connect with consumers in a relevant, timely, and personalized manner.  And by ensuring that texting campaigns are “call-to-action” based, marketers are able to efficiently track the effectiveness of the campaign.

For instance, Mobile Marketer recently highlighted the success of the text promotion implemented by Hotel Casa Del Mar in Santa Monica, CA.  The goal of the campaign was to build an opt-in list of local consumers who would be prospective staycation guests.  Promoted by the hotel via traditional and social media advertising, the call-to-action mobile marketing campaign enticed consumers to join the hotel’s mobile loyalty club in return for a special offer (free, unlimited Bloody Mary’s or champagne during Sunday brunch).

After 10 days of outreach, the campaign generated:

  • a substantial opt-in user based, a 100% delivery rate and a 75% engagement rate
  • a 27% redemption rate which translated into increased revenue for the hotel
  • a database of local consumers the hotel can target with promotions for revenue-driving hotel services such as food and beverage, spa treatments, etc.
  • an ROI of 450% …. and still growing

In addition to text messaging, mobile applications are another form of top-of-mind mobile marketing that is proving to be value-add for travelers. Made popular by the launch of the Apple iPhone, apps are downloadable mobile application software programs designed to be used on smart phones.  As more and more travelers use their smart phones for navigation, they are looking for apps to provide location-based assistance when they arrive at their destination. In fact, research conducted on behalf of Hilton Worldwide supported consumers’ desire to use mobile technology for such travel-related needs. According to the survey, 58% of respondents said they would use a mobile device to check into hotel, 57% said they would change a booking and 42% said they would book business travel.

Armed with these findings, it’s no wonder that Hilton Hotels (including its Double Tree, Conrad, Embassy Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, Homewood Suites and Hampton Inn brands) rolled out free iPhone apps during the end of 2009.  The apps enable guests to readily manage myriad aspects of their hotel experience right from their hand-held phone: 

  • Search for hotels nearby via address, city, airport or even GPS mapping
  • Make a new hotel reservation and view, modify and cancel existing reservations and at any of Hilton Worldwide’s hotels
  • Check-in online up to 48 hours in advance for gold and diamond members of the Hilton HHonors frequent-guest program
  • Order food and/or services to be available ‘upon arrival’ at the Hilton, Doubletree Embassy Suites and brands
  • Check balances and redeem points and stays for members of the Hilton HHonors frequent-guest program

How have consumers’ responded?  A week after launch, the app was downloaded more than 6,000 times.  Choice Hotels, Starwood, Omni Hotels, Four Season and have also recently rolled out free travel apps. 

As smart phones continue to enhance the on-the-go lifestyles of your guests, it is imperative that your marketing efforts become increasingly mobile.  With eMarketer predicting that U.S. mobile phone subscribers will reach 308.7 million by 2013 — translating to a whopping 96.7% penetration — this is a consumer trend you simply cannot afford to let pass you by.

Author: Mark Johnson is President and CEO of Loyalty 360 – The Loyalty Marketer’s Association.  Loyalty 360 is the only organization that addresses the full spectrum of both customer and employee loyalty issues.  An unbiased, market driven clearinghouse and think-tank for loyalty and engagement opportunities, insights, and responses, Loyalty 360 is the source business leaders trust for industry metrics, market driven research, actionable case studies, and networking opportunities.