Mobile in travel ‘happening fast’ says Google

Latest data from Google has indicated that the rise of mobile for travel web browsing is happening now and is happening fast.

Revealing figures at the latest Travolution Editorial Advisory Board meeting this week Robin Frewer, the search engines director for travel, said it was seeing “huge growth” from mobile.

He said in 2010 mobile travel queries accounted for around 6% of all queries whereas for the year to date in 2011 mobile travel queries represented 20% of the total.

Frewer said an element of navigational search – people inputting a specific company name to simply find the web address – would be included in that figure but the trend was clearly there.

Last year saw growth of 169% as the use of smartphones grew in the UK where users are the most advanced in Europe with volumes around double of any other market on the continent.

Research conducted by Google, Frewer said, has also shown how users are device agnostic and are just as comfortable searching on their desktops while at work during the day and their mobile devices while commuting or event at home, shunning the home computer.

Within the travel vertical the data reveals that mobile searches for meta-search sites are growing more quickly than for OTAs as these sites offer the user all the information they need in one place, a key feature when browsing on the smaller smartphone screens.

Mobile searches also tend to be less for brands and more for generic terms, suggesting people are very much in the research phase when browsing on mobile.

Frewer said: “There is a challenge for businesses in terms of value attribution. A lot of people still do not convert on mobile but if you are not in the path then you may lose the customer.”

However Frewer warned firms not to jump on the mobile bandwagon before understanding what they want to get out of it. “People have got to ask themselves a very basic question about what they want to achieve with mobile. Do not just do it because other people are.”

Francesca Ecsery, Cheapflights Media global sales director, said the problem mobile raised for a media site was the degree to which advertisers’ sites are optimised for the technology. She said of the 350 advertisers the company deals with only 40 are mobile optimised.

Alun Williams, Tui Travel UK e-commerce director, said there was a growing argument for websites to be built for mobile first. “There is an opportunity here for user experience. You have to be incredibly disciplined about your real estate with mobile.

“Most people’s websites are sprawling but on a handset they are not allowed to be sprawling. This is an opportunity to be much more disciplined.

“Aggregation is the perfect medium for mobile where people are looking for a lot of information in one site. All they may want is a view of the market and then go to their desktop to transact.” president Ed Kamm said mobile should be seen as a publisher and a great way to get customer feedback. “There has been a focus on the transactional side of things. People are starting to do researching even if they not transactional. You have to be in multiple channels,” he said.

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