Google urges travel firms to step up mobile focus or risk losing business to competitors

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Google’s Elisa Kelsall

Almost a third of marketers in the travel sector have failed to build mobile-friendly websites despite the rapid rise of consumers accessing brands through phones and tablets.

Google industry manager of travel, Elisa Kelsall, said those companies are likely to be losing sales as consumers drift away to competitors who are more mobile savvy.

Speaking at the annual general meeting of the Council of Australian Tour Operators, a 100-member trade association, Kelsall advised the industry to step up its mobile presence.

She said a Google survey identified that 31 per cent of travel firms do not have a mobile optimised site.

“We have also seen in our research that 40 per cent of people turn away from one website and go to a competitor if the mobile experience is poor,” Kelsall said. “The year of mobile is not here, the year of mobile was about five years ago. It is huge.”

Kelsall said consumers are increasingly searching on their mobiles, revealing 29 per cent of Australians use their mobile devises when initially searching for terms based around the word “tour”.

“In the airline and hotel industries this is already above 35 per cent so tours are a little bit behind but it still shows that nearly a third of the searches  for tours are are coming from a mobile,” she told tour operators. “In Japan, mobile has already surpassed desktop, and we are a couple of years away from that in Australia, but it’s definitely a growing trend.”

Kelsall added that consumers are “increasingly impatient” as she warned businesses to ensure their pages load on mobile devices in under three seconds.

“That is how impatient consumers are,” she said, adding that a one second delay in mobile load time leads to seven per cent drop in conversions.

Screen Shot 2015-06-23 at 2.55.44 PMBut it is the creation of video content that also holds the key to a successful marketing strategy, the Google manager said, highlighting that searches for travel-related videos on Youtube have rocketed 118 per cent in the past 12 months.

“There has been a big increase in ‘how to’ videos. In cruising for example, a lot of first time cruises are wanting to see videos about cruise ships and what they should wear to dinner,” she explained.

“Airlines are absolutely killing it with video content….and Air New Zealand is Gold Class with their safety demos. Who would have thought five years ago we would be watching safety demos for fun?”

Kelsall also dismissed myths surrounding the age of people viewing Youtube content and the duration of videos.

She argued it was not simply a platform for “teenagers watching dogs on skateboards,”, but was popular with all demographics, while the average length of its top 10 videos now three minutes 30 seconds, 50 per cent longer the previous year.

“Only three videos in the top 1o were 30 or 60 second spots, and it highlights that consumers are willing to engage with interesting content, and are more than happy to sit there for three minutes 30, and longer.”

The comments support those made by Qantas group executive for brand, marketing and corporate affairs Olivia Wirth who told the Mumbrella Travel  Marketing Summit in April that its decision to put a two-minute TV ad on Facebook “raised eyebrows” among commentators who suggested consumers on the social platform only have a 15-second attention span.

“But it wasn’t just 15 seconds people were watching for, it was many multiples of that because we had the engagement,” she said.

Steve Jones


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