Road travellers in search of a last-minute place to lay their heads are still apt to scan the horizon for a hotel billboard. But these days, they are even more likely to be looking down—at their mobile phones, that is (although hopefully not while driving). With the growing adoption of smartphones in India, many of the travel bookings are influenced by or transacted via a mobile device. Not only that, browsing online pictures of destinations seems to be the biggest trigger for holiday planning among the country’s internet savvy smartphone users, a Google study reveals.
TM Ramakrishnan, CEO—Devices, S Mobility, says, “In today’s fast paced world, consumers want facilities at the click of a button. And with mobile phones virtually becoming an extension of the human anatomy, it has emerged as the device for all our needs. Travel enthusiasts and consumers these days find it that much easier to use various travel related applications on their mobile phones to plan their trips and book tickets. Most of the handset devices nowadays carry built-in travel info apps like Rail Yatra, Spice Safar, IRCTC etc.” According to him, this provides the consumer ease of access and freedom from relying on agents or physical counters. The availability of such apps has greatly contributed towards making such transactions smoother and seamless and also convenient. “Going forward, we see this trend growing further as with the complex lifestyles, people will become more and more used to such apps that make travel easier and hassle free.”
There is no doubt that a smartphone outfitted with the latest travel apps is an indispensable tool for those planning a holiday. Last week, a Google India study revealed that 76% users use both computer and mobile across the travel stages (dreaming, researching, booking, experience, sharing) while 60% users move from one device to another when they switch from researching to booking. Out of the 1,500-odd leisure travellers surveyed by IPSOS, 87% users said that they have used mobile phones to research about their trips and 66% respondents also booked a trip element on it. 60% said that the information they find while researching on their mobile phones influences their booking decision.
“We already know that smartphone users on an average spend 76 minutes on the internet through their mobile. The smartphone user base is set to explode in India to touch 70 million by end of this year. Over 1/3rd of travel related search queries on Google India are now coming from mobile and tablet devices, with queries from smartphones growing at 397% year-on-year,” says Vikas Agnihotri, director—travel & BFSI, Google India. “This study establishes that today’s hyper-connected, hyper-informed smartphone user is consuming online content across devices. This impacts the complexity in engaging users from a marketer’s standpoint. With travel being the most evolved and mature vertical, we believe that the findings from this study will help them to devise strategies to engage the users across multiple online screens/devices.”
In terms of triggers for holiday planning, online sources were rated higher than offline mediums with internet getting 5 touch points in comparison to offline which offered 2 touch points. The biggest triggers for holiday destinations/planning were online pictures—where 88% users said that online pictures trigger their holiday planning. Browsing pictures on social networks, blogs, travel sites get users to start thinking of their next vacation destination.
The Google study also looked at the booking behaviour of the smartphone and tablet users, wherein 66% respondents said that they have booked using a mobile phone and 69% on a tablet. 36% users said that they booked a flight on a mobile, while 25% have booked a hotel room and 13% have submitted a holiday lead from their mobile device. Out of 87% who researched on their mobile phones, 76% booked on mobile and 80% booked on a computer as well. Concerns around security were cited as the biggest barrier for booking on mobile.
The respondents also highlighted the convenience and preference for mobile applications over using mobile browsers for booking their trip and sharing information on the trip. For booking and sharing, mobile app usage was 12% to 15% higher in comparison to mobile sites.
It seems that the humble mobile phone is fast becoming an indispensable tool for travel planning and decision making.