According to the US Department of Commerce, the travel and tourism industry in the United States generates more than $1.3 trillion in economic output. Accommodations account for 16% of this total, and a substantial percentage of this economic output depends upon the phone call for a substantial portion of those dollars. In Las Vegas, where I’ll be attending PubCon this October, the Convention Visitor’s Association notes that 37% of hotel bookings comes from phone direct calls. When touring a major property’s call center in Las Vegas last summer, the director told me that for direct bookings, more reservations were made over the phone than through their Web site.
In the context of mobile advertising, we’ve discovered that the top scenarios for booking travel on the phone are for last minute travel, for expensive purchases (such as a honeymoon) or to discuss the particulars of a trip that are difficult to discern from a Web site or ad (more on this later). What else have we learned that can be helpful to travel marketers that receive phone calls from mobile ads, apps or the mobile web?
For starters, a marketer needs to know the average time it takes for a consumer to talk to a sales representative. We’ve found that, for mobile call advertising campaigns, the average hold time for calls that resulted in a reservation was 20% shorter than calls that did not result in a reservation. In other words, every additional second that a consumer waits to talk to a representative is a second that consumer may decide to abandon the call (hang up). If you’re paying for clicks to your Web site, you want your page to load quickly. If calls are a natural outcome of your advertising programs, the same logic applies.
(Ironically, customers that are willing to wait on the phone a very long time to talk to a representative are often very likely to book a room. The logic is that if someone is willing to wait 4-5 minutes or more to talk with someone they must be very interested. Of course, the longer hold time is not a reason why a reservation occurs, just that someone may be predisposed to waiting. To be clear, because these two factors may appear to be in conflict, having a lower hold time is always better for marketers because it maximizes the volume of conversions.)
In responding to mobile advertising for hotels, why might consumers prefer to make a phone call and talk to an agent? (Besides, of course, the convenience of a phone call as compared to a long reservation form on a mobile device). We analyzed a large set of phone calls looking for features we thought consumers might be interested in, such as “airport shuttle” or “free wireless”.
The following chart shows those features that, when discussed, led to a high conversion rate. Longer conversations are going to include richer discussions about features and those discussions will often yield reservations, but there were a few that stood out to us. Reservations were very likely when the discussion included the fitness center or view from one’s hotel room. We’ve noticed that many travel ads to not provide details on these features which are important to a segment of consumers and appear to be critical to their purchase decisions.
Questions? Please ask us at marchex-institute at marchex dot com