Cheapflights chief executive Hugo Burge has admitted he was shocked by the results of a study into how many of its partners do not have mobile-enabled websites.
The discovery came when the deals publisher decided it only wanted to send traffic from its mobile website to third parties with a fully optimised smartphone experience.
This left just ebookers and Opodo in the UK, described by Burge as a “surprisingly small subset of our partner base”.
Burge said he hoped the decision would be the nudge others needed to make sure they have a fully formed mobile strategy, something he feels is vital as the channel continues to rapidly establish itself.
“This is a call to the industry to say ‘what’s your mobile strategy?’ We feel passionately that the experience has to be a good one for the consumer otherwise it does not make sense.
“We think what we have done is offering a useful consumer experience because at the moment it’s difficult for the consumer to know who offers online booking.
“There are a lot of apps and good price comparison websites which have a good experience but the handover is messy. As least this way the consumer is getting a user experience that’s smartphone optimised.
“We think that’s a good experience for the consumer and for those partners. We are helping people navigate the industry. This may not be a sophisticated approach but we think it’s a simple system and one on which we want to build.”
Burge said mobile traffic now represents 9% of all traffic to the Cheapflights site excluding tablet traffic which represents another 7% on top of that.
“This is a growth opportunity for the industry. Mobile is now a material part of our traffic and I would urge our industry to invest in mobile websites and booking platforms.
“We want to work more closely with partners to get new customers and mobile is a great way of getting new customers for your brand. The people making the most purchases are on smartphones.”
Burge described the new strategy which coincided with the latest version of its mobile site as an evolution of Cheapflights approach to mobile.
“It was a shock, a genuine surprise, when we found out who had mobile-optimised websites and it was quite a dilemma about who we should be working with.
“Cheapflights prides itself on working with the widest number of players, so in some ways it’s quite controversial for us to limit the number we work with.
“But it’s about customer service – we saw an opportunity to give the consumer a seamless experience. Quite frankly other experiences are confusing and unhelpful.
“We think we are providing a great experience to the consumer and the travel industry because we are helping those partners who are mobile activated to gain new customers and make people aware of their product.
“It should be a win, win. Depending on how you see it, this is either a gentle nudge or a kick up the bum, but the message is there is an opportunity here, this is something we should all be working on.
“We are in challenging times in the industry and everyone is trying to prioritise limited resources into things that get the fastest payback but I think it’s a mistake to overlook mobile.
“Everyone feels they have got to do this urgently but it’s not at the top of the pile of things to do. The inclination is to hunker down but the best way to beat the downturn is to invest in the future. We can all do better in fording ourselves to do that.
“There are higher revenue generating opportunities but this is an area where we are seeing considerable growth. Consumers are platform agnostic, not only are they searching and browsing they are booking as well.”