Adapt quickly for mobile or be left behind, says Expedia boss

Expedia has seen tablets overtake all other mobile devices as the biggest source of traffic, Andy Washington, UK and Ireland managing director told the recent ITT Conference.

Washington shared the stage at the annual conference in Abu Dhabi with Dan Robb, Google UK travel industry head to discuss the impact of mobile.

He told delegates they must evolve and adapt quickly to the growing influence of mobile but said the industry was, as a whole, behind the game.

“You have to be optimised for mobile web. Thomas Cook recently optimised for mobile web so its site is made for fat fingers. Thomson is in development.

“It will be interesting to see how the beach market tackles this but it has to evolve very quickly or it will be left behind.”

Washington said the urgency stemmed around the access consumers now have to mobile devices, as illustrated after Christmas when there is a spike in mobile activity.

Robb said 25% of travel searches now come from non-desktop devices. And he said the failure to grasp the opportunity was not just limited to travel.

“Sixty per cent of the top 100 consumer brands are not optimised for mobile. In travel, you have to say that mobile reach is poor.

“You must be looking at the multi-device value, the cross-device value of your customers – 39% of people purchase on desk top after researching on mobile, 24% in store.

“Multi-channel business can be glued together by mobile. Now is the time to future-proof your business.”

Washington said Expedia was working on making sure it meets demand for searches for beach holidays via tablet on Sundays, something it currently under-indexes on.

He said mobile was difficult to track unless a consumer is logged in via something like their Gmail account, but he added:

“It does not pay for itself but it’s an integral part of the [customer] journey.”

Robb advised delegates not to get too hung up conversion metrics for specific devices saying mobile traffic could be converted elsewhere.

“Do not be afraid to use proxies. Many of you have call centre-based businesses, you should be directing people there where they convert brilliantly using existing infrastructure.”

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