Pandemic accelerates shift to mobile

By Katrina Blunden January 7th 2021 Benchmarking
Time to read:  4 min

Harnessing data from over 500+ hotels we are able to understand more about how consumer behaviour has adapted since the onset of the pandemic at the end of 2019 and more specifically how mobile usage is evolving.

Man holding mobile phone

Pandemic accelerates shift to mobile – now accounts for 34% of all direct revenue

With vaccination programmes underway, the hospitality industry stands quietly optimistic about a return to more regular travel patterns in early 2021. One thing we have been tracking closely since the start of the pandemic is the acceleration in the use of mobile devices. The current number of smartphone users in the world today is estimated at 3.5 billion, which means that nearly half of the world’s population owns a smartphone. Harnessing data from over 500+ hotels we are able to understand more about how consumer behaviour has adapted since the onset of the pandemic at the end of 2019 and more specifically how mobile usage is evolving.

What percentage of hotel website traffic is driven by desktop, mobile and tablet?

Across our entire data sample, mobile continues to dominate browsing. During 2020, mobile devices generated more than 53% of global hotel website traffic while tablet traffic faced continuous decline and desktop traffic hovered around the 40% mark.

Bar chart showing traffic contribution by device in 2020

Mobile's advancement was slightly hindered in March and April, presumably due to personal travel coming to a halt, but it has recovered and during Q4 of 2020 it was attacking 60% hotel website traffic contribution.

Does mobile usage vary by customer location?

People booking from Asia are leading phone adoption not only for browsing hotel websites but also for booking a hotel with their mobile phones. Over 45% of bookings made from Asia were made via a mobile phone. While in Africa, the percentage of people browsing hotel websites via their phone is comparable with Asia, the percentage of people booking is much lower, at around 34%.

The percentage of Asia's mobile bookings is equally as impressive when compared to Europe. People in Europe used a mobile device to book a hotel in 37% of transactions. This further highlights the importance of a mobile-friendly experience for hotels that have a large number of guests coming from Asia.

Chart showing mobile contribution to revenue and traffic by continent

The acceleration of mobile transactions

While the increase of mobile bookings is a long-term trend, the pandemic seems to have accelerated this trend even further, as the share of revenue from mobile has increased by 60% since the end of 2019. While mobile traffic actually saw a relative drop in the first stages of the pandemic, the trend in increased mobile revenue seems to be unaffected. In December 2020, the mobile revenue contribution reached 34%, the highest number on our record. With one in three direct hotel bookings being performed on mobile, hotels simply cannot afford to ignore their websites' mobile experience.

Chart showing average traffic contribution by device in 2020

While mobile accounts for more than half of all hotel website sessions, revenue from mobile devices still only accounts for 34% (December 2020). While travellers are increasingly mobile savvy and booking last-minute hotel stays, many are still not ready to move from their desktop or laptop.

Chart showing the much higher mobile traffic contribution than transaction contribution over time

There are a number of reasons that could be holding back the growth of transactions on mobile phones or why hotels are unable to convert those customers searching via a mobile device. We explored some of these in our previous article 'What is a good conversion rate for a hotel?'

What does this mean for hotels?

With over half of website visitors viewing your website on mobile devices, a mobile-first website design and mobile-friendly content are a must. Their mobile experience is increasingly important and needs to deliver smooth and seamless guest journeys across multiple devices. If so many of your website visitors are browsing through your channel on mobile, you need to make sure you are also converting revenue from it. Keeping mobile users front of mind with promotions that convert them on the spot (and on mobile) instead of planning to book later on a desktop will help. Mobile customers need to feel that they are getting the same information and the best price available without needing to resort to a desktop for booking. You can ease concerns by giving them the ability to cancel mobile bookings without incurring a penalty.
We visited the importance of page speed for Google ranking and converting customers in December but as well as your page loading speeds, in the current pandemic landscape with fast moving regulatory changes, it’s important to ensure you are capitalising on local searches which typically tend to happen on mobile. 

If you’re a hotelier, we’d be delighted to provide you with a free benchmark report in return for you sharing your data – anonymously and securely. Sign up to begin downloading your monthly reports.

Katrina Blunden

Katrina has been working in the hospitality industry since 1993, more recently at Hotel Benchmark, uncovering insight from a wealth of data.