OTAs must focus on mobile or ‘cease to exist’, says Travelzoo chief

OTAs must focus on mobile or ‘cease to exist’, says Travelzoo chief

Online travel agencies must focus entirely on mobile distribution if their businesses are to survive, according to a leading industry executive.

Chris Loughlin, chief executive of global internet media firm Travelzoo, said his company now only tests development on mobile before applying results to the company’s main website.

Making the closing keynote at the Travolution Summit in London, Loughlin warned companies neglecting mobile that they would cease to exist in the next few years.

The Austin-based boss credited Groupon’s rise to prominence in 2010 as the catalyst for mobile commerce.

“They appeared on the scene and all of a sudden people were using coupons. It was perfect for mobile. As a result mobile commerce went through the roof.

“Overnight city analysts were asking everyone about mobile strategy. We looked at how our customers where behaving and realised they were buying things on their mobiles but from our main site. That had to change.”

Loughlin said one of his first moves as chief executive was to appoint a head of mobile, and revealed conversions “went through the roof” as soon as a proper strategy was put in place.

He also revealed almost half of Travelzoo customers now book using their tablet or smartphone.

“43% of our subscribers have now booked a trip on a smartphone or tablet, and 20% of those bookings were for holidays. That really surprised us. We already knew people were booking hotels, but had no idea that many people were buying holidays.”

Loughlin admitted it was not easy for established businesses to formulate and execute mobile strategies, likening it to changing the wings on a plane in mid-air.

He said he was worried for small to medium sized companies who had not already embarked on a mobile strategy, saying it would be difficult to resource, and added that larger companies would also face challenges trying to quantify the precise ROI of a mobile app.

“Gathering data from your website is straightforward. But within an app environment it’s impossible [to track customer behaviour]. How do you measure the value? It’s going to be interesting to see how marketers are going to recalibrate and decide how to market in a mobile world.”

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