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Understanding Mobile Conversions in Metasearch

Posted in Click, Metasearch

We already know that mobile is seeing record year-over-year growth in the travel industry.

A forecast by eMarketer expected 2016 to be a landmark year for travel booking. They predicted that 2016 would be the first year when more than half the travel bookings are made using a mobile device.

This is for travel as a whole, but the story of exploding mobile usage takes a few unexpected twists in the metasearch landscape for the hospitality industry.

Booking Data for Hospitality Metasearch

We researched data from a collective group of approximately 4,000 hotels and compared Google’s mobile click traffic year-over-year (January – November). For this study, we took into account the three popular types of devices—desktop devices (including laptops), mobile phones, and tablet devices.

The chart below shows a clear increase in doing metasearch for hotel accommodations between 2015 and 2016. The total traffic more than doubled year-over-year. While the desktops more or less kept pace with the overall trend, mobile usage exploded—mobile traffic more than tripled year-over-year. The tablet, showing a respectable 50% increase, fell way short of the trend.

MEtasearch clicks 2016 increase

When we take a look at what fractions of click traffic are handled by each of these device types, we can see the dominance of desktops. The role of tablets in metasearch traffic is seen to be small. As seen in the chart below, the tablet metasearch click market share was only 13% in 2015, and it dropped significantly to just 9% so far in 2016. Consumers have a clear tendency to either be on their phones, or utilising the full desktop experience, with very little activity in between.


A look at the market share for booking traffic in the chart below clearly shows the dominance of desktops. It is fascinating to see that the desktops increased their market share for bookings in 2016, notwithstanding their already dominant position in 2015.


Not all devices are treated the same when it’s time to pay for advertisements. The chart below of cost-per-click figures for the three device types over the two years shows an interesting trend. The CPC for mobile is less than half of either the tablet’s or the desktop’s. This is true for both the years, but CPC for mobile shows an increase year-over-year while both desktop and tablet show a year-over-year decline.


What does it all mean?

While mobile usage is rapidly growing, the majority of metasearch bookings still come from desktop. Recall that 91% of all metasearch bookings this year are coming from desktop, and only 9% from mobile. We do see that most conversion rates, and thus ROAS (Return On Ad Spend) figures place mobile bookings much lower than desktop.

This is in stark contrast to people showing an interest in doing metasearch on the mobile phone. In 2015, desktop’s metasearch traffic was thrice that of mobile, but its bookings were 8 times as much as mobile bookings. It’s even more severe in 2016—desktop traffic is only twice as much as the mobile traffic, but it garners 10 times as much bookings as mobile.

All indications point to mobile’s metasearch share increasing consistently in the coming years. Then, why are the bookings abysmally low—to the point of regressing in 2016 in the face of exploding traffic? Why are all those searchers on the mobile not booking on mobile?

Because booking is not quick and easy.

This is because of the ongoing problem with booking engines that are not optimised for mobile metasearch bookings. According to Google, building consumer-friendly forms that allow simple mobile transactions is key to generating results from mobile campaigns.

The metasearch channels already realised this several years ago, and this gave rise to the assisted booking engine models such as Instant Book (IB) and Book On Google (BOG) we see today. While these are no longer exclusive to mobile channels, they were developed to resolve the fundamental need for a better user booking experience.

Where to focus your mobile efforts

It’s clear that mobile will continue to gain market share at an exponential rate. However, we can see that metasearch traffic is still dominated by desktop bookings for several reasons, and we cannot afford to ignore this.

Even though the consumers may be booking via desktop, metasearch still tends to be a very mobile, spontaneous mentality. This must be met with technology that enables a quick and efficient purchase process.

You need a multi-pronged mobile strategy.

  • Recognising the status quo, you need to tailor your campaigns to exploit the high traffic on the desktop as well as the low CPC on mobile. Mobile CPC rates are typically ½ to ⅓ the amounts coming from desktop searches. When optimising a metasearch campaign, it is important to take this into consideration, as it can lead to an effective return, even if mobile is low on traffic.
  • Knowing where mobile is headed, you need to make sure your booking engine is ready for the deluge of mobile traffic in the years to come. Assisted booking through metasearch channels as well as direct booking from these metasearch channels depend on a mobile optimised booking engine to be effective in taking bookings.

Help from DerbySoft

Depending on your need, we have different solutions that may be suitable for you in increasing your ROAS through better mobile metasearch conversions.

Earlier in this article we mentioned assisted booking models as a possible solution for better mobile conversions. For more details you can view our webinar, Pros & Cons of Assisted Booking, part of the Learning Metasearch webinar series.

The dilemma of how to capture the mobile consumer can also be solved by utilising click to call functionality which is already available with Google. We recently wrote about this in our blog post Meta by Phone (aka Google’s Click to Call) and this presents itself as a very under-utilised opportunity.

Check out our Click product page for more details and additional help in harnessing mobile conversions on metasearch.