Time pressure’s effect on the mobile path to purchase of travel

Few people doubt the travel-industry maxim that consumers using mobile devices are more typically under time-pressure than those using laptops or desktops.

But how does time pressure affect consumer behavior?

That’s the question addressed in a new article by Dan Ariely, a Duke University professor who studies behavioral economics and who is a three-time New York Times bestselling author.

He was commissioned to write the article by Think with Google, the B2B marketing content arm of the search giant.

Ariely uses a travel example to explain.

“Let’s consider two scenarios of booking a hotel room. One involves Robert, who is on his mobile phone but not under any time pressure, and the other involves Tom, who is using mobile on-the-go and feeling time pressure.”

“Robert is sitting on his comfy couch at home. He knows he’s traveling on business next week and while watching TV and playing with his dog, he reaches for his phone to decide on a hotel.

“He has time while browsing to toggle back-and-forth among different hotel options, considering and contrasting the benefits of different hotels to weigh the convenience of location near his meeting versus the ability to earn hotel points at his preferred chain, with a guaranteed king-size bed, nonsmoking room—and also a gym….”

“Tom is also on his mobile phone and needs to book a hotel room, but he’s at the Denver airport. He had a late connection and just missed the last flight out for the night. He needs to book a hotel room for tonight! He’s hoping to get one of the last available hotel rooms while calling his wife to rearrange child care drop-offs for the morning, and postponing his next morning’s team meeting because he won’t be there in time.

“Tom is experiencing one of the typical impacts of time pressure—the so-called “narrowing effect,” and as a consequence he pays attention only to the hotel’s proximity to the airport. He is more likely to focus on location and choose one of the first hotels he finds that fits his criteria.”

So far, so familiar. What’s a marketer to do? Ariely says one should assume that mobile users are more likely under time-pressure than ones using other devices, and should adjust their messaging accordingly.

He points to a few relevant findings in the social science literature:

When a consumer is under time pressure, he or she tends to “ignore or filter out certain cues.” While comparison-shopping on a deadline, their typical behavior is to narrow in on product attributes they dislike, to quickly rule out options.

Large brands will want to try to have a simple clear message about what is the most valuable and relevant benefit of their (travel) product or service. They should also try to suggest what the criteria is that a consumer ought to use to direct his or her choices, such as location, price, on-site parking, on-premise restaurant.

As an example: An airport hotel that has a 10-minute, door-to-door, free shuttle might consider making that the signature consistent message, rather than talk about the property’s full array of offerings via its mobile campaigns.

For an extended moment now, Google has been alerting marketers to micro-moments — the snippets of time when consumers are in motion and look to their smartphones and tablets.

Typical mental modes are: “I want to know”, “I want to go”, “I want to book”, and “I want to do.” Time pressure’s effect will differ based on each context.

Ariely argues that brand building (meaning, at the most abstract level, omnipresent advertisement) will pay off eventually when consumers are facing a time-crunch. That’s because the brand message will be more easily recalled on the fly, helping to tip a decision.

Google obviously hopes it’s true that big ad spending pays off in such situations, as it benefits the most from such spending.

The full article “Time Pressure: Behavioral Science Considerations for Mobile Marketing” is on Think with Google.

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