Travel firms running ad campaigns on Google will no longer be able to differentiate between tablets and desktops under changes being brought in by the search giant next month.
The move by Google to establish a single client campaign management structure comes as tablet and desktop search behaviour has been seen to converge.
This has seen CPC rates for the two types of device just about reach parity whereas smartphone data shows this to be a distinct channel and firms will be able to continue to target it specifically.
Explaining the move at the first of a series of World Travel Market roundtables in London last night, Dan Robb travel industry head at Google said it reflected an evolving view of the mobile channel.
He said it had become clear that although tablets have, from a technology point of view, been seen to have emerged from the mobile sphere, they are actually more akin to desktop.
“The behaviours have come together very quickly,” he said. “There are some variances within product type but largely the behaviours [on tablet and desktop] are not that different. With a high-end [smartphone] device it’s completely different.”
Robb said this year desktop queries were flat while all the increase was coming from smartphones, which now account for 20% of all commercial searches in travel, and tablets.
And he claimed that the assumption that tablet queries came from more affluent consumers was no longer true as the devices reach full penetration particularly among families and young people.
Round-table chairman, Steve Endacott, chief executive of On Holiday Group, remained sceptical that tablet behaviour was so similar to desktop behaviour, however.
“With tablets it’s a lean back behaviour when you’re not in the mindset to book whereas your PC is still your lean forward technology which you are still more likely to make the booking on.”
Endacott said the biggest issue is the problem of being able to track the consumer from device to device to ensure they are given a consistent experience and for marketing attribution.
And he suspected the move by Google would benefit the search engine in terms of increased revenues while not necessarily giving the advertiser greater insight into their customers.
Robb said as of the end of March the average CPC on tablet was 70 cents and 69 cents on desktop. He conceded one area that might be negatively impacted was luxury travel.
Hugo Burge, chief executive of Cheapflights parent Momondo Group, said although he was passionate about mobile there remained huge opportunities on desktop.
“I see mobile as part of the seamless experience of the brand,” he said. “But it’s harder to get an ROI building a mobile product than it is on desktop at the moment.
“You can be fantastically successful with products which work just on mobile, but on desktop there are examples, if you are ruthlessly commercial, of what’s possible. One of the top 10 internet exits was Trivago and they were not exactly known for their mobile app.”
Lastminute.com managing director Mark Maddock agreed that if Brent Hoberman was to have started the firm today he would probably have gone mobile-only.
But he said it was crucial that the brand was able to be device agnostic and Lastminute’s offering was responsive and optimised for all devices.
“People switch devices something like 23 times a day. It’s about consistency.
“When you see something on your smartphone when you come home and book on tablet it has to render the same. People are looking for a simple user experience.”
The roundtable took place as part of Travolution’s global travel technology media partnership with WTM which will this year run a parallel technology show alongside the destination exhibition.
A whitepaper of last night’s debate on the impact of mobile on the travel sector will be produced ahead of the show in November and will feature in the June edition of Travolution.