Mobile Playing an Important Role in Travel Research; Apps Dominate

September 6, 2012

telmetrics-travel-content-engagement-mobile-devices-sept2012.pngJust one-quarter of smartphone and tablet users know exactly what they are looking for when they first access a travel application or website on their device, while more than 2 in 5 either have no idea or just a general idea, per results [download page] from a study released in September by Telmetrics and xAd, in partnership with Nielsen. Engaging with travel content is popular among smartphone owners, with recent data from comScore indicating that 37% of the US smartphone population accessed travel content in July. That figure, however, represents a step down from 51% of the smartphone audience who accessed travel content in the 3-month period ending in February, 2012 – a dip that may be attributable to seasonality.

Survey results released in August [download page] by Ipsos MediaCT and Google found that 38% of leisure travelers (who had traveled at least once for leisure reasons in the past 6 months) had used a mobile device to access the internet for travel information, up from 31% in 2011 and just 18% in 2010.

Price Comparisons Most Popular Mobile Activity

Details from Telmetrics’ “Mobile Path to Purchase Study” indicate that the most popular travel application or website activity for smartphone and tablet travel users is looking up pricing information and comparing prices, by 58% and 67% of respondents, respectively. Looking up flight, hotel, or rental car general information is next, followed by looking up locations of hotels and rental car services. Tablet travel users are more apt to use reviews to decide on an airline, hotel or rental car than smartphone users (26% vs. 22%), though they are less likely to look up directions to visit hotels and rental services (21% vs. 26%).

Mobile Travel Content Engagement Centers on Apps

The Telmetrics report also reveals that travel applications have a far wider reach among travel content users than mobile browsers (85% vs. 38%), and that application users spend a significantly longer average amount of time engaging with travel content than web users (1:21 vs. 0:11). This is supported by August data from Nielsen, which found that across all travel apps and sites in June 2012, Android and iOS smartphone users in the US spent 95% of their time on apps, and just 5% on the mobile web.

The Nielsen study revealed that among Android and iOS smartphone users accessing travel content on their devices, apps dominated share of time spent with airline content (61%), maps/navigation (98%), and multi-category travel (79%), although mobile web took majority (69%) share of time spent accessing hotel information. The Telmetrics report similarly found that app reach was higher than browser reach among mobile travel users for multi-category travel and maps/navigation, but lower for hotel and transportation brands. (That study found browser reach to be higher for airline brands, though.)

Biz Travelers Make Use of Mobile Devices

Further data from Ipsos and Google’s “The 2012 Traveler” indicates that 57% of business travelers (who have traveled at least 3 times on business in the past 6 months) report having used a mobile device to access internet information, flat from last year (56%), but up from 40% in 2010. This suggests that business travelers are far more likely than leisure travelers to leverage mobile devices for travel content.

An August study from Four Points by Sheraton found that business travelers aren’t only using their mobiles to conduct research – they’re also bringing them along on their trips. Among 6,000 business guests polled in 6 countries (Britain, Germany, China, India, Brazil, and the US), 74% said they bring their smartphones on their trips, while 65% carry along tablets. 36% check their smartphone first when they wake up in a hotel, making this the leading first occasion, ahead of turning on the TV (19%) and taking a shower (18%). The main reasons for traveling with mobile devices for these guests is to check email (90%).

With mobile devices playing such a key role for the business traveler, it’s not surprising that survey results released in August by Cambria Suites found that free Wi-Fi (62%) was almost as important to frequent business travelers as a comfortable bed (65%).

Other Findings

  • According to the Telmetrics study, just 37% of travel content accessed via a smartphone takes place at home. By contrast, three-quarters of travel content accessed via a tablet is at home.
  • 43% of smartphone travel users and 48% of tablet travel users have made a purchase related to a visit on a travel app or website. 37% of these completed the purchase on their device. The top 2 reasons for booking among both smartphone and tablet users were: right price; and specific brand preference.
  • According to comScore, the top 5 travel properties by unique visitors (mobile browser and app audience combined) in July were: TripAdvisor Media Group (6.7 million); Expedia (6 million); Southwest Airlines (4.1 million); (3.5 million); and Travor Media (2.5 million).
  • Per the Nielsen study, the top US travel apps in June 2012, by unique audience, were: Google Maps (77.8 million); GasBuddy (8.9 million); Street View (4.5 million); Sprint Navigation (4 million); and VZ Navigator (3 million).

About the Data: The xAd/Telmetrics Mobile Path to Purchase Study was conducted in conjunction with Nielsen. The results are based on data from an online survey of 1,500 US smartphone and tablet users, as well as and actual observed consumer behaviors from Nielsen’s Smartphone Analytics Panel of 6,000 Apple and Android users. Data from Nielsen’s Smartphone Analytics panel is included to supplement the survey results. Survey respondent totals are as follows (none of which are mutually exclusive): Smartphone owners – 1,371, tablet owners, 738; travel users – 931.

The Nielsen data is based on a panel of 5000+ U.S. smartphone owners with metered mobile app and Web usage on Android OS and iOS platforms only.

The Ipsos/Google interviews were conducted from 4/24/12 to 5/17/12 yielding a total sample of 5,000 consumers who have traveled at least once for leisure reasons (or a minimum of 3 times for business purposes) in the past 6 months.

The Cambria Suites survey was fielded online by the GBTA Foundation, and was conducted between Aug. 1-11, 2012. The survey generated a representative online sample of 407 frequent business travelers, utilizing the population samples provided by ResearchNow. To participate in the study, respondents had to be at least 18 years old, be employed full-time and have taken at least 4 business trips in the last 12 months that required travel of at least 50 miles.

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