HEDNA‘s mobile working group has identified and quantified “customer friction” in the context of booking hotel rooms on mobile.
The trade body for hotel distribution knows better than most that mobile bookings for hotels, via brand dotcoms or third parties, are now mainstream. The research accepts this as fact, and chooses to focus specifically on “barriers to [mobile] conversion”.
It has used a customer friction measurement tool – NTT DATA’s recently launched CFF Service – to rank 10 different suppliers according to three specific hotel booking scenarios.
The results do not name names in terms of individual results, but, for reference, it evaluated the mobile search and booking process for Wyndham, Choice, IHG, Marriott and Starwood, while the OTAs under the microscope were Hotel Tonight, Hotels.com, Expedia, Priceline and booking.com.
One of the scenarios was for a brand-agnostic, price sensitive user booking a nearby hotel for one night. Brand dotcoms came out the best in this instance – the average CFF score for all ten was 265, with all the brand.com’s better than the average.
OTAs came up short on engagement, where the evaluators felt that they were forced to spend lots of time on the mobile site looking for information, and on the ecosystem, which forced them to enter previously provided information. OTAs were also penalised for including adverts, pop-ups and cross-selling messages into the booking flow.
The results for the other two scenarios – booking a nearby hotel for a one-night stay based on established guest profile and utilizing a “click to connect” service post booking – also show that brand dotcoms came out better than OTAs.
But there is still a lot of room for improvement. The research found that the biggest gripe from the evaluators and therefore the biggest customer friction point was having to provide the same details at different stages.
Addressing customer friction is a short cut to increased conversions. One recommendation the report makes is that hotels and OTAs curate the search results so that there is less choice, which connects with comments from the evaluators that hotels and OTAs need to have a clearer insight into the intent of the trip.
Its suggestion that hotel and OTA mobile sites should focus solely on selling the room and “get guest in and out of application as quickly as possible” certainly makes sense in terms of reducing customer friction, but clashes with other research which suggests that the best time to upsell is when the booking is being made.
Suppliers have to balance streamlining the customer booking experience on mobile with maximising revenues. As the research says, hotels and OTAs need to create specific flows for mobile because many desktop functions will not translate to the smaller screen and mobile users have a different expectation and mindset.
“Mobile-first” was supposed to put an end to this, but from the HEDNA report it looks as if many OTAs and brand dotcoms still need to really look at how their mobile site works from the customer’s perspective.