As summer approaches – if it ever comes – many of you will be looking forward to the holidays you have planned to escape the hustle and bustle of life. But how many of you used mobile as part of your journey to choose a destination, a flight, and a hotel?
It’s because of the increasing amount of people handling their booking through their smartphones that Hotels.com has put so much into developing a solid mobile-first environment, according to Lorenza Pupillo, senior mobile manager at Hotels.com.
Speaking at the Mobile Marketing Travel Summit, Pupillo said: “This is the main focus this year for us. So, that’s why we tend to integrate our mobile campaigns across all different channels.
“The main objective was to drive traffic to our mobile app, not only acquiring new customers to the business overall, but also acquiring customers to the app.
“If a user hasn’t downloaded the app yet, we want them to have the app and use it as an additional source of booking and checking reservations.”
A mobile journey
The journey toward this approach started in 2015, when Hotels.com were looking at incentivised app downloads with the hope of increasing volume and moving up the app store rankings.
However, the hotel booking service quickly realised this that this did not present the value it wanted, and decided to take a new approach.
“At some point, we realised that we had to move away from this because the long-term value of these downloads was really nothing,” said Pupillo. “That’s why we moved to more direct partnerships – working with various vendors in the sector.”
Despite the initial success, Hotels.com decided to pass on this method also, and bring us to the current iteration of mobile tact. This tact came, predominantly, in the form of Facebook.
“We are really working toward a more targeted approach, basing our spend on customer segmentation. The main [partner] for us is Facebook,” Pupillo continued.
“The dynamic creative is really the key. We started working with them around creative last year, whereas before our ads were exactly the same for all the types of audiences.
“There is a carousel ad format, enabling as to show different hotels in the same ad we fit, and also enabling us to use various creative variations. So, really banging on what the customer has searched for on our mobile website. And if they didn’t move, then we will serve them an app install ad showing similar properties, destinations, star rating, and so on.”
Hear that sound?
This partnership also led to a very successful video ad campaign on the Facebook platform that featured no sound.
Pupillo stated that the silent ad, produced with Crispin Porter + Bogusky, was created based on the fact that 85 per cent of mobile ads on Facebook are played silently.
She said: “[The silent ad] increased our organic downloads, organic visits, and we also had the pleasure of having some attention from Sheryl [Sandberg] at Facebook. So, we are really proud of this kind of creative and this type of approach. This is something we are looking to replicate more and more, and really being at the forefront of whatever we are offering to our customers.”
When it comes to video advertising, Hotels.com has placed a lot of emphasis on vertical video, as well as having a connection between the video ads and those shown on TV.
“We usually come with a wider story, that we show on TV, then we do a variant specially done for mobile,” said Pupillo. “Vertical video has proved to be most successful… Vertical video works much better on mobile, and the length of the video is no more on 15 seconds.”
A combination of this video advertising, and the aforementioned app install ads and carousel ads, has led to a ‘very big’ increase in mobile penetration in terms of booking for Hotels.com, according to Pupillo.
“People tend to use the app more, so our revenue coming from mobile, as a consequence, also increased – and then the share of the customer as well,” she said.
Pupillo also addressed ad fraud – a consistently big topic in the industry. She stated that Hotels.com’s two main problems come from distribution fraud and false installs.
Due to these challenges faced, in 2016, Hotels.com decided to create a plan to prevent ad fraud occurring on its platform – as a result reducing media spend waste, and increasing reach.
“With our mobile agency, Fetch, we came up with a very defined, stringent framework for when we are talking fraud and working with new vendors,” said Pupillo.
“Our attribution tracker is Tune, and then we also work with Forensiq. We have weekly reports which are checked by us and our agency on a weekly basis. As soon as we identify any potential fraudulent activity, we repost immediately. We also try to put ourselves higher at the moment of signing any new contract – we have really stringent terms whenever we are negotiating deals with partners.
“In Q4 2016, our fraudulent activity was reimbursed about 85 per cent. Whereas, in Q1 2017, whenever we apply this methodology we have 100 per cent reimbursement. So, the publisher is really happy, there are no issues in that.”
Reaching for mobile first?
Hotels.com has also seen a decline in tablet usage, as mobiles increase in size. However, because mobile is still used as more of an accessory, the same shift hasn’t occurred from desktop to mobile – with many still using their smartphones in addition to their desktops. However, this differs in emerging markets. For example, Pupillo claimed that South Korea is almost an entirely mobile market.
Furthermore, another shift has occurred in the timing of bookings. Though there are more people booking last minute through their phones, bookings with longer windows are growing at a faster rate.
It’s due to factors like this why Pupillo believes brands need to “make sure that all your creative, everything you do, has a mobile-first approach, and you don’t just adapt whatever works on desktop for mobile, because the success is going to be even higher”.