The impact of mobile on hotel in-market service

Consumers have all the hotels in the world at their fingertips, but how do they weed their way through all the clutter and “find something new” when there is only so much time in the day?

NB: This is an analysis by Brian Batts, vice president of travel at HookLogic.

Mobile has shifted the way that travelers discover, book and experience their trips. This article serves to take a deep dive into what this means for hoteliers.

Is mobile for booking?

When talking about planning travel online, too many people still say: “Mobile is for last-minute booking.”

In a sense, of course, it’s true. The bookings that come through mobile are indeed last-minute – and bookings pay the bills.

But at the same time, conversion rates are low. So, what are those 90-odd people out of 100 doing on their mobile, if not booking?

Here is where the challenge lies.

Planning and booking a summer vacation is an emotional experience. And yet, when looking at mobile through the last-minute booking lens, we have the equivalent of a Spotify recommendations email, suggesting only that we may like something similar to what we just bought.

Where’s the discovery?

When I start thinking about vacation plans, I usually don’t know where I want to go. But I generally know what kind of experience I want. Usually I’m choosing among three or four options.

For quick sound bites of research, mobile is the way to go. I can run a search on Google about a destination, learn a bit more, click over to a blog, read a bit on TripAdvisor, and scan the New York Times.

google search

I may even run a few searches on Expedia or Airbnb.

airbnb search

For someone selling travel products via mobile, there’s little immediate value in getting in front of me at this point. I’m not ready to book. But what I come across during the research phase may fit into my back pocket for later use.

This common practice poses a challenge for online travel agencies and brands, both for measuring the return on ad spend, determine which merchandising campaigns are effective and for figuring out how to set the default sort order presented to me.

Were I ready to book, a brand would want to be front and center, and would want to measure the return in hours or days. As it stands in this scenario, the goal is more about getting into my “consideration set” – the short list of properties that I would consider when it comes time to book (even if that were a number of weeks off).

At some point, I’ll want to digest the information I’ve gathered on a screen larger than five inches. For one thing, my wife will want to be able to read it over my shoulder.

Once she and I agree on a destination, I can look at the areas within that destination that look promising. Pulling up the research I have done on specific properties, I’ve also learned which ones won’t work.

This is where Expedia’s Scratchpad works so well. It eases the multi-device shopping experience. Everything you note can be pulled up on any device you want – iPad, Laptop or mobile phone.


Fast-forward a week, and I’m ready to pull the trigger.

If ever there was a time to hit me with every tool in your kit – merchandising, re-targeting, targeted emails based on my search history – it’s now. As a male, I definitely fall into the “Purchaser” not the “Shopper” bucket: If I have to shop, I want to get it over with as quickly as possible.

So if you’d like to persuade me, give me everything I need, fast, before I head to the register and get back to my life.

But the transaction’s not over just because I booked it. Want to really irritate a customer? Give him or her a card key that doesn’t work after an eight-hour international flight.

Or forget to put towels in the room. Now that we can all make our voices heard on Yelp, TripAdvisor and similar sites, hotels have to follow through on their promises.

This is where I really like what I am seeing from an app called Alice. Alice takes all of those touch points that a hotelier has, and streamlines it for the guest.


Most readers know that hotel property management systems are woefully inadequate when it comes to customer service. Poor interaction between systems results in a fragmented customer experience.

Wish you could order food at your hotel, like you can at home on Seamless? Want to send a quick text to have your car pulled up from the garage? Shouldn’t the folks that give you a temporary place to stay 365 days a year be able to do as much as you can do from your home?

Hotel systems are a tough market to enter, but if my next guest experience leverages what I’ve seen, I’ll be an unpaid Alice evangelist for a long time to come.

Last-minute bookings via mobile have opened up great opportunities to match supply and demand, especially when hotels need it most desperately.

As a consumer, I’m excited to see products that make my life easier – whether that be during the inspiration/research and booking phase, or after the fact, when I finally get away on the long-anticipated holiday.

NB: This is an analysis by Brian Batts, vice president of travel at HookLogic.

NB2: Hotel mobile image via Shutterstock.

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About the Writer :: Viewpoints

A founding principle of tnooz was a diversity of viewpoints from across the spectrum. Viewpoints are articles by guest contributors from around the travel and hospitality industries. The views expressed are those of the author. and do not necessarily reflect those of the author's employer, or tnooz and its partners.



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  1. Michael Magliocchetti

    The mobile market is moving super fast, very hard a do all vendor. Alice looks like a great tool and will look into it along with Hitlist that Gillian is mentioning.

  2. Gillian Morris

    Alice sounds amazing. And what you’re talking about with the browsing and selecting possible locations but is exactly what we’re working on at Hitlist ( – we help users browse destinations that might be of interest, compare flight pricing, and save information in trips for possible booking later.

  3. Kevin Alba

    I agree with you Brian, that planning and booking a summer vacation is an emotional experience; but once actually on vacation, travellers are much more likely to unwind and want to use their mobile on smaller purchases, to buy room service for example.

    I’ve stayed at a couple of Best Western hotels in France recently on business, and saw that they’re using an app which was really smart. I ordered room service and booked my taxi for the following morning all from my iPhone, it was great! Their hotel app provider is called LoungeUp and I would thoroughly recommend it. In the future I’ll try and go back to those hotels because although the app was a small bonus for me it made a big difference.

  4. Susan

    I use ALICE and it has really transformed my hotel experience. I can now do anything I want, just with a single touch of a button. I definitely recommend it!


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